While still in the midst of controversy around his new theatrical adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird, which opens on Broadway tomorrow night, Sorkin’s next project as a writer-director filmmaker has hit a potentially fatal snag. As per The Hollywood Reporter, the period piece drama centered around protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago has been shut down, seemingly for good.
Trial of the Chicago 7, which has been in development at Amblin Partners since at least 2008 when it was first conceived as a directing project for Steven Spielberg, has been closed down just two months prior to its February 2019 start date due to apparent trepidation about interest in mid-20th century period pieces. According to the trade, those involved in the commercial element feared the film would fail to “connect with audiences,” particularly after recent underperformances by Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit and Damien Chazelle’s First Man, even though Trial of the Chicago 7 had already cast Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne, and Jonathan Majors in leading roles.
The film was supposed to be about the counterculture political movement protesting against the DNC in the year that Hubert Humphrey ascended to the Democratic ticket, and just after President Lyndon B. Johnson abdicated running for a second term. At a moment of political turmoil, with Johnson’s escalation of the Vietnam War bringing thousands of Americans home in coffins and youth culture’s favorite candidate, Robert F. Kennedy, being assassinated during the Democratic primaries, protests in Chicago eventually grew violent, more so as the Chicago police fired tear gas into crowds and four days of violence ultimately erupted. Over 600 people were arrested in the aftermath.
The film was to be Sorkin’s second as director after 2017’s incredibly underrated poker biopic Molly’s Game, which went arguably overlooked by audiences and awards voters alike. It is unclear if Trial of the Chicago 7 will find life elsewhere or if this is the end of the road for the project. Sorkin is no stranger though to courtroom intrigue. In addition to Mockingbird on stage, he previously wrote the play and then the screenplay adaptation of A Few Good Men.