Sacha Baron Cohen is unrecognisable in first look at 'The Trial of the Chicago 7'

Tom Beasley
Contributor
Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman in Aaron Sorkin drama 'The Trial of the Chicago 7'. (Credit: Niko Tavernise/Netflix)

Sacha Baron Cohen is a specialist at turning himself into outlandish characters, but he’s unrecognisable in a more serious way for Aaron Sorkin’s political drama The Trial of the Chicago 7.

The 48-year-old comedian is playing anarchist Abbie Hoffman, who took part in a notorious protest against the Vietnam War at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

Cohen told Vanity Fair he “fell in love” with Hoffman, who “used absurdist methods” to get his political points across.

Read more: Cohen pranked Rudy Giuliani in pink bikini

The actor is one of the few members of Sorkin’s terrific ensemble who has been attached to the project since its earliest stages, when Steven Spielberg wanted to direct it prior to the 2008 presidential election.

Sacha Baron Cohen is playing activist Abbie Hoffman. (Credit: Niko Tavernise/Netflix/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Spielberg was keen to make a movie about the shocking aftermath of the protest, which sparked a six-month trial in the heat of a media circus.

The project never came to fruition and Sorkin was ultimately offered the chance to direct his own script, having made his debut behind the camera with 2017 drama Molly’s Game.

Read more: Sorkin reveals Facebook tried to change The Social Network

As depicted in Sorkin’s movie, the initially peaceful ‘68 demonstration turned violent, with tear gas deployed by police and National Guard troops, as shown in a newly released image of Jeremy Strong as protester Jerry Rubin.

Jeremy Strong as Jerry Rubin as protesters are tear-gassed in 'The Trial of the Chicago 7'. (Credit: Niko Tavernise/Netflix)

Strong, who once worked under noted Method actor Daniel Day-Lewis, was the most devoted to his character on set.

Sorkin revealed that Strong “begged me to spray him with real tear gas” during the protest scenes — a request that was not carried out.

Read more: Will Smith reveals racist abuse from police

Sorkin noted that the scenes of police violence in the movie, as well as the treatment of Black activists, have only become more powerful since he shot the film.

“The movie was relevant when we were making it,” said Sorkin. “We didn’t need it to get more relevant, but it did.”

Sacha Baron Cohen, Danny Flaherty, Eddie Redmayne, Jeremy Strong and Mark Rylance in 'The Trial of the Chicago 7'. (Credit: Niko Tavernise/Netflix)

The film features a blockbuster ensemble of A-list talent, including Eddie Redmayne, Mark Rylance, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Frank Langella and Kelvin Harrison Jr.

Cohen, in particular, is delighted to be working with Sorkin, stating: “He’s as talented as Shakespeare. And a lot more consistent—he hasn’t had a Titus Andronicus.

Read more: Kelvin Harrison Jr. on working with Sorkin

The Trial of the Chicago 7 will debut on Netflix in October — prior to November’s presidential election — after the streamer acquired the movie from Paramount Pictures.

With Sorkin behind the camera and a heavyweight cast tackling hefty political material, the film is expected to be a major awards season player in 2021.