When my parents split up my dad left behind a treasure trove of LPs and books. Going through them all proved to be incredibly influential on my development and my life choices; one of the books that really changed me on a serious and deep level was The Tales of Hoffman, a book that presented the transcripts of the trial of the Chicago 8, a group of hippie, yippie and black power organizers who had been arrested after the police riots at the Chicago Democratic National Convention of 1968. In those transcripts was some mind-blowing stuff, including the political theater Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin engaged in, and how Judge Julius Hoffman (no relation, although Abbie made some serious hay with the similarities in names) ordered Bobby Seale tied to his chair and gagged. It was an incredible snapshot of some of the most talented and creative political provocateurs since the Boston Tea Party, and the book helped lead me into a decade of working as an organizer and then for a public interest group.
To be honest, the story of the Chicago 8 (eventually 7 – Seale was severed from the case) is the one that I have always wanted to tell as a movie. I’m not one of those guys looking to be a filmmaker – I love just writing about them – but if I were to make a movie, this event is the one that speaks to me. I mean, the transcripts give you everything you need!
If I can’t do it, though, I’ll settle for Aaron Sorkin writing it. Sorkin has signed a three picture writing deal with Dreamworks, and The Trial of the Chicago 7 is expected to be his first. Less happy is the idea that Steven Spielberg may want to direct this; I don’t doubt that he would be able to pull it off, technically, but I don’t think he has the raging anarchic spirit required. Amistad is a Spielbergian courtroom drama, all heavy and portentous; the Chicago 8/7 would need someone who believes in the radical spirit of these revolutionaries. Spielberg is way too establishment. Give me a David Fincher, looking to show he has a sense of humor.
I’d love for this film to happen soon. I think the national mood is right for this kind of a story, for these kinds of heroes. Abbie Hoffman and his Yippies tried to run a pig, named Pigasus, in the Democratic Convention – I think that pig might be the best candidate at the 2008 Democratic Convention as well.
There’s a documentary about the trial that played at Sundance, by the way – it’s done with animation, in the style of the excellent The Kid Stays in the Picture. I haven’t seen it, but I am dying to.