The Trial of the Chicago 7: See How the Movie's Cast Compares to the Real People
Netflix's upcoming movie The Trial of the Chicago 7 depicts a famous 1968 legal case against a group of protestors, and the cast alone has us impressed. Writer and director Aaron Sorkin (who you probably know from writing The Social Network and The West Wing) has put together a cast that includes Oscar and Emmy winners alongside lesser-known actors to portray the anti-war activists who were arrested and charged with intending to cross state lines and incite riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Ahead of the movie's Sept. 25 theatrical release (Netflix subscribers can start streaming it on Oct. 16), take a look at the movie's main cast, then compare them with the real people they're playing and find out what the real Chicago 7 has been doing in the decades since.
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Bobby Seale
Bobby Seale in Real Life
Along with fellow activist Huey P. Newton, Seale founded the Black Panther Party, and that was just the beginning of his activism, which focused on service to and freedom for the Black community. He was initially charged as the "eighth" member of the Chicago Seven and underwent horrifying treatment in the courtroom, despite evidence showing he had not been involved in planning the protests. In the decades since, he has continued his activism work, appearing in several documentaries and traveling around the country to give talks on his experiences.
Sacha Baron Cohen (Far Right) as Abbie Hoffman
Abbie Hoffman in Real Life
Hoffman was a leading figure in the counterculture movement of the 1960s and '70s, founding the Youth International Party and being active in the "flower power" movement. He was also an antiwar activist during the Vietnam War era, with a particular knack for performance. In the years following the Chicago Seven trial, Hoffman became an even more controversial figure, writing books and continuing to protest — at one point, he was even arrested protesting the CIA's actions alongside President Carter's daughter Amy! He died by suicide in 1989.
Jeremy Strong as Jerry Rubin
Jerry Rubin in Real Life
Rubin cofounded the Youth International Party with Hoffman, with the theory that they could garner more attention for their causes by making their "stunts" more interesting to the media. He famously appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee in a variety of costumes, treating the proceedings like a joke and getting tons of attention in the process. Eventually, he left the world of activism for entrepreneurship and, reportedly, became one of the earliest investors in Apple! He died two weeks after being struck in a pedestrian-car accident in 1994.
Eddie Redmayne as Tom Hayden
Tom Hayden in Real Life
Hayden became one of the more "famous" members of the Chicago Seven in large part due to his love life: he was married to Jane Fonda from 1973 to 1990. After being imprisoned for taking part in the Freedom Rides, he wrote the manifesto for the Students For a Democratic Society, a student leftist activist group. He was a vocal antiwar activist and a prolific author as well, and later served in both houses of the California state legislature: in the State Assembly from 1982 to 1992, and in the State Senate from 1992 to 2000. He died in 2016.
Frank Langella as Judge Julius Hoffman
Judge Julius Hoffman in Real Life
The Chicago Seven case was far from Hoffman's only high-profile case: he also presided over a tax evasion case against mobster Tony Accardo and an obscenity case against comedian Lenny Bruce. His brutal and biased actions in the Chicago Seven case, however, made him a household name, and an unpopular one at that. In 1982, the year before his death, he was ordered to not take any more new cases due to his behavior. He died of natural causes in 1983.
Alex Sharp as Rennie Davis
Rennie Davis in Real Life
Davis was a member of the Students For a Democratic Society and an antiwar activist in the time leading up to the 1968 DNC and the subsequent trial. He later became a follower of of Guru Maharaj Ji (also known as Prem Rawat) and his "Divine Light Mission," most notably speaking at the organization's "Millennium '73" event. In more recent years, he has gone into business consulting, and he appeared at the 1996 Democratic National Convention — its first return to Chicago since 1968 — to speak alongside Tom Hayden about politics and the idea of forming a progressive "counterbalance" to the rising religious right wing.
John Carroll Lynch as David Dellinger
David Dellinger in Real Life
Dellinger was notable for being a pacifist and an advocate for nonviolent social change, to the point where he was imprisoned during World War II as a conscientious objector. He joined many social movements of the 1950s and '60s, including civil-rights marches in the South. Later in life, he continued his activism, up until the very last few years before his death in 2004. In fact, in 1996, when the Democratic National Convention returned to Chicago for the first time, he was arrested again for a sit-in protest.
Daniel Flaherty as John Froines
John Froines in Real Life
Unlike some of the other members of the Chicago Seven, Froines's background was not in social causes, but in chemistry! He spent most of his career, before and after the trial, working in the chemistry field, teaching at Goddard College in Vermont, and then as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's director of toxic substances. For decades, he was the chair of the California Scientific Review Panel on Toxic Air Contaminants, and in 2011, he retired from UCLA's School of Public Health.
Noah Robbins as Lee Weiner
Lee Weiner in Real Life
Weiner was a doctoral candidate at the time of the trial, and, after the trial's end, went on to a career in academia. He went on to work in the sociology department at Rutgers University, but he has continued his activism, working with the Anti-Defamation League and AmeriCares, among other organizations. In August 2020, he published his memoir, Conspiracy to Riot: The Life and Times of One of the Chicago 7.