Netflix’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 is now streaming on Netflix and while it has been getting great reviews since its arrival, there has also been a lot of appreciation for Sacha Baron Cohen’s performance. The British actor plays the role of political and social activist Abbie Hoffman and he recently admitted to being “terrified” of doing an American accent for this portrayal. The actor-comedian made this revelation at a recent virtual Q&A session that was preceded by a special screening of The Trial of the Chicago 7 by the American Film Institute.
According to Insider, Cohen said that he was “terrified to sound wrong.” Director Aaron Sorkin tried to calm his nerves by saying that portraying the character “is not an impersonation but an interpretation,” but that didn’t appear to help at all. The most complicated aspect of doing the accent, Cohen said, was the fact that Hoffman not only had a Massachusetts accent but had also gone to school at University of California, Berkeley, which gave him a unique voice.
Director Sorkin was also present on the virtual Q&A session and was all praises for the Borat actor. He said that Cohen showed a lot of dedication to the role and also revealed that he would often have his headphones on to listen to Hoffman’s speeches prior to shooting for the film. Jeremy Strong, the Succession star who plays the role of Jerry Rubin in The Trial of the Chicago 7 had also put in a lot of effort in perfecting his accent.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 is a historical legal drama focusing on a group of anti-Vietnam War protesters who were charged with conspiracy and crossing state lines with the intention of inciting riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The movie looks to highlight the questionable political decision making by Richard Nixon’s new administration, which seemingly sought to turn this trial into an intimidation tactic to the hippie, peace activist and black power movements that were rallying against the Vietnam War.
Directed by Aaron Sorkin, The Trial of the Chicago 7 is a star-studded affair. Cohen and Strong are accompanied in the cast by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Eddie Redmayne and others. The screenplay for the film is written by Sorkin himself. In fact, the writing was complete in 2007 and Steven Spielberg was originally supposed to direct the film.
However, due to the 2007 Writers Guild of America strike and budget concerns he was forced to drop out and the film went on the back burner. In October 2018, the project was revived amidst an identifiable political climate and much of the cast joined that same month. Paramount Pictures had held the distribution rights for The Trial of the Chicago 7 but the COVID-19 pandemic meant a theatrical release wasn’t going to happen on the scale the company had imagined it to. The rights were hence sold to Netflix.