Bobby Seale, who co-founded the Black Panther Party with Huey P. Newton, was one of eight people charged with violating the Rap Brown law for the Vietnam War protests surrounding the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Seale called Judge Julius Hoffman a racist for denying his request for a separate trial. The judge responded by having Seale bound and gagged in court before separating his trial and sentencing him to 48 months in prison. The remaining defendants became known as the Chicago 7. Aaron Sorkin is set to direct the upcoming political drama, The Trial of the Chicago 7, and Sacha Baron Cohen is in the running to star, according to Deadline.
Sorkin, best known for the television series The West Wing and HBO’s Newsroom, wrote the screenplay more than 10 years ago, with an eye toward having Steven Spielberg direct the film. The film will be produced by Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, and Marc Platt.
The Chicago Seven defendants were Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman of the Youth International Party also known as the Yippies); David Dellinger of the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (MOBE); Rennie Davis and Tom Hayden of MOBE and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). The group organized protest marches and rock concerts at the Democratic National Convention, which turned in riots, which the police put down with tear gas and beatings. The press sided with the youth, denouncing Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and the cops for overreacting.
The seven defendans were represented by defense attorney William Kunstler, who was also sentenced to four years for calling Hoffman’s court a “medieval torture chamber.” President Johnson’s attorney general, Ramsey Clark, refused to prosecute the case. Five of the Chicago Seven were convicted of lesser charges. The convictions and contempt charges against the Chicago Seven were overturned on appeal in 1970.
Baron Cohen, who has been working on his Showtime series Who Is America? and is currently shooting the Netflix series The Spy, is in early talks to play Hoffman.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 was nearly revived by DreamWorks in 2013 with Paul Greengrass set to direct, but went under because of the budget. Ben Stiller also considered directing the film. Spielberg thought Sorkin should direct the film after seeing his directorial debut on the film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel Molly’s Game. Sorkin’s adaptation of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird opens on Broadway in December. He wrote the screenplays for A Few Good Men, The Social Network, and The American President.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 follows Brett Morgan’s 2007 documentary Chicago 10: Speak Your Peace, and Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8, the docudrama Jeremy Kagan made in 1987.
Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.
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