Now that he has ditched his Borat and Ali G personas, Sacha Baron Cohen is taking on a more serious role: as 1960s counterculture icon Abbie Hoffman. Mr. Hoffman, was a “self-identified Jewish Road Warrior, communo-anarchist,” who was arrested and tried for conspiracy and inciting to riot during violent police confrontations at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
The Spielberg film is said to be closer to Munich, the director’s exploration of the morality of political assassination, based on the 1972 terrorist attack on the Olympic Games, than to his next Indiana Jones frolic, due in the summer.
The Trial of the Chicago Seven follows protesters who disrupted the 1968 Democrat party convention with an anti-Vietnam-war “carnival” that turned nasty. Demonstrators threw bricks, police responded with tear gas and the centre of Chicago was engulfed in flames. Curfews only escalated the violence.
After the clashes, independent investigators blamed eight police officers and eight protesters including Hoffman, who had already disrupted the New York Stock Exchange with showers of fake money.
The police were not charged but the protesters were accused of inciting a riot. One was jailed for contempt, leaving the seven to fight the charges.
It was, said the late writer Norman Mailer, who testified for the seven, a noisy televised clash between the old order and the burgeoning counterculture.
Hoffman went on to become an irascible celebrity who, later diagnosed with a bipolar disorder, killed himself with pills in 1989.