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'The Trial of the Chicago 7' cast says events of 2020 'mirror' 1968 protest

Kevin Polowy
·Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment

Watch: The cast of The Trial of the Chicago 7 discuss the film’s relevant themes

As Eddie Redmayne points out, the Vietnam War protest drama The Trial of the Chicago 7 is a story that Hollywood has been trying to tell for 15 years.

Bold-faced names like Steven Spielberg, Will Smith, Ben Stiller and Heath Ledger were all at points involved, approached or rumoured. Finally, writer-director Aaron Sorkin, whose first script was completed in 2007, set court in session in 2019 with a cast that ultimately included Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jeremy Strong, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Mark Rylance.

Between the film’s start of production in October 2019 and its release on Netflix, however, the U.S. encountered its biggest protests since the anti-war demonstrations of the ’60s and ’70s as widespread civil unrest and Black Lives Matter rallies erupted following the police killing of George Floyd.

Sorkin’s film, which traces the arrests and highly publicised court case of Vietnam protestors who clashed with police during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, is now impossible to watch without relating its story to what we’ve seen on the streets of America in 2020.

Read more: Netflix highlights for October

“What we’ve seen this summer is its own uprising rooted in systemic racism, but God, it feels like there are so many images that mirror or reflect what happened in ’68,” Redmayne tells Yahoo Entertainment in a new interview (watch above).

THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7 (L to R) SACHA BARON COHEN as Abbie Hoffman, DANNY FLAHERTY as John Froines, EDDIE REDMAYNE as Tom Hayden, JEREMY STRONG as Jerry Rubin, MARK RYLANCE as William Kuntsler in THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7. Cr. NIKO TAVERNISE/NETFLIX © 2020
THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7 (L to R) SACHA BARON COHEN as Abbie Hoffman, DANNY FLAHERTY as John Froines, EDDIE REDMAYNE as Tom Hayden, JEREMY STRONG as Jerry Rubin, MARK RYLANCE as William Kuntsler in THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7. Cr. NIKO TAVERNISE/NETFLIX © 2020

The Theory of Everything Oscar winner, who plays activist-turned-politician Tom Hayden, notes other similarities as well, like the story’s election year setting and the fact the 1968 flu pandemic was also wreaking havoc on the world at the time.

“There were clear parallels to now, which have just become daily more clear since we made the movie and I think it proves the urgency of the film and the importance of our history.”

'The Trial of the Chicago 7' (Netflix)
'The Trial of the Chicago 7' (Netflix)

Abdul-Mateen plays Bobby Seale, the Black Panther Party co-founder originally charged with conspiracy and inciting a riot alongside the Chicago 7 despite not being a participant at the protests and having no ties to the other activists. In one of the film’s most shocking moments, an agitated Seale is bound and gagged by Judge Julius Hoffman (Frank Langella).

“The message that I hope people get from this film is that the whole world is watching,” says Abdul-Mateen, who recently won an Emmy for his role HBO’s Watchmen. “And with that we have the opportunity to find our place toward the betterment and toward the positive change of the world, and everyone has a role to play.

Jerry Rubin, one of the defendants in the Chicago 8 conspiracy trial, holds up a note that he said was written by Bobby Seale while he was gagged and manacled during trial session in Chicago on Thursday, Oct. 30, 1969. Rubin displayed the note during a news conference after a morning recess. (AP Photo/Jim Palmer)
Jerry Rubin, one of the defendants in the Chicago 8 conspiracy trial, holds up a note that he said was written by Bobby Seale while he was gagged and manacled during trial session in Chicago on Thursday, Oct. 30, 1969. (AP Photo/Jim Palmer)

“I’m really proud of what I’m seeing in the world and in our country right now with people standing up for what they believe in and demanding change, and just showing up night after night after night. I think this film lands in a really good time.”

The Trial of the Chicago 7 premieres 16 October on Netflix.

Watch the trailer:

-Video produced by Jon San