(Photo: cast of ‘The Chicago 8.’ Source: IMDb)
It’s a busy week for Aaron Sorkin. His remake of a classic episode of The West Wing debuted yesterday on HBO Max, and his latest writing/directorial effort, The Trial of the Chicago 7, premieres today, October 16, on Netflix.
The Chicago 7 were seven protesters charged with conspiracy to incite a riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The resulting trial was, as Netflix points out, one of the most notorious in history.
Netflix’s cast is impressive. Playing the seven defendants are Sacha Baron Cohen (Abbie Hoffman), Jeremy Strong (Jerry Rubin), Eddie Redmayne (Tom Hayden), Alex Sharp (Rennie Davis), John Carroll Lynch (David Dellinger), Danny Flaherty (John Froines) and Noah Robbins (Lee Weiner).
Mark Rylance plays defense attorney William Kunstler, Frank Langella is Judge Julius Hoffman (no relation to Abbie), Joseph Gordon-Levitt is prosecutor Richard Schultz, Michael Keaton is former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, and Ben Shenkman is another defense attorney, Leonard Weinglass.
Oh yes, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II plays the eighth defendant, Bobby Seale.
You see, at one point, the accused were the Chicago 8. But, after Seale was bound and gagged and then sentenced by Judge Hoffman on contempt charges, the trial went on with only seven defendants. Here, Graham Nash explains more, and sings his song “Chicago.”
That also explains the title of HBO’s 1987 movie, Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8. The script came mostly from the original trial transcripts, and the cast had their real-life counterparts pop up now and then to provide commentary.
Here’s the film in its entirety, thanks to writer/director Jeremy Kagan on Vimeo (you can also stream it on Amazon Prime):
Playing the eight defendants were Michael Lembeck (Abbie Hoffman), Barry Miller (Jerry Rubin), Brian Benben (Tom Hayden), Robert Carradine (Rennie Davis), Peter Boyle (David Dellinger), David Kagen (John Froines), Robert Fieldsteel (Lee Weiner) and Carl Lumbly (Bobby Seale).
Robert Loggia played William Kunstler and Elliott Gould was Leonard Weinglass.
But wait. We discovered another film about the Chicago 8…and one about the Chicago 10?
The Chicago 8, a 2011 film written and directed by Pinchas Perry, starred Thomas Ian Nicholas (Abbie Hoffman), Danny Masterson (Jerry Rubin), David Julian Hirsh (Tom Hayden), Bret Harrison (Rennie Davis), Peter Mackenzie (David Dellinger), Jamie Elman (John Froines), Aaron Abrams (Lee Weiner) and Orlando Jones (Bobby Seale).
Gary Cole played William Kunstler, Philip Baker Hall was Judge Hoffman and Steven Culp was chief prosecutor Tom Foran. Wikipedia points out that all three played recurring roles on The West Wing!
The Chicago 8 is not currently streaming.
But who were the Chicago 10?
“Anyone who calls us the Chicago Seven is a racist [Take that, Aaron Sorkin! — the editors],” said Jerry Rubin, again per Wikipedia. “Because you’re discrediting Bobby Seale. You can call us the Chicago Eight, but really we’re the Chicago Ten, because our two lawyers went down with us.”
Rubin also called the trial a “cartoon show.” So perhaps it’s apt that 2010’s Chicago 10, written and directed by Brett Morgan, was an animated film.
Chicago 10 starred Hank Azaria (Abbie Hoffman), Mark Ruffalo (Jerry Rubin), Reg Rogers (Tom Hayden), James Urbaniak (Rennie Davis), Dylan Baker (David Dellinger), John Froines as himself from archive footage, Chuck Montgomery (Lee Weiner), Jeffrey Wright (Bobby Seale), Liev Schreiber (William Kunstler) and Leonard Weinglass as himself from archive footage.
Roy Scheider voiced Judge Hoffman and Nick Nolte was Tom Foran.
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