Oscar-winner Aaron Sorkin is known for The West Wing, The Social Network, and Broadway's To Kill a Mockingbird. Fifteen years ago, Steven Spielberg asked him to write a movie about The Chicago Seven – anti-Vietnam protesters convicted and later acquitted of conspiracy and intent to incite a riot outside the 1968 Democratic Convention.
That film, The Trial of the Chicago Seven, debuted in 2020. Writer, director Aaron Sorkin joined us to talk about it.
One of the first things Sorkin wanted to establish was that the seven protesters had different ways of thinking, and there was tension between two of the protesters.
"It's easy to paint them all as hippies, but they weren't. The big difference between Abbie Hoffman played by Sacha Baron Cohen, and Tom Hayden played by Eddie Redmayne; Tom Hayden was a buttoned-downed intellectual who felt that Abbie Hoffman —who did crazy stunts like trying to levitate the pentagon and handing out daisies to soldiers—was actually doing harm to what was important to them. So, a big part of the tension underneath the movie was the tension between the two of them," said Sorkin.
Even though Sorkin wrote the script back in 2007, the film's topics are very much relevant today.
"To me, a screenplay or a play or an episode of television is never finished. I never wanted the film—even back in 2007—to be about 1968. I wanted it to be about today. I never imagined in my wildest dreams how much it would end up being about today. I have been asked if I made changes in the script to reflect events that have been going on in the world and not a one. The world kept changing to reflect the script," added Sorkin.
Similarly, Sorkin used a script that he had written for an episode of the show The West Wing and restaged it in 2020 to raise money for the When We All Vote organization. The episode "Hartsfield's Landing" initially aired in 2002, but it still resonates with the era America just lived through.
"We wanted to do something in the ramp-up to the election. We cannot choose the side, but we can make some kind of effort to get out the vote. We did a benefit to help the organization When We All Vote and raised over a million dollars for the organization. The episode I chose, "Hartfield's Landing," ends up just being an ode to voting," said Sorkin.
Sorkin has been a supporter of Vice President Kamala Harris since she was a local district attorney.
"I met Kamala Harris several years ago, and it was clear to me that she was going places. Harris is extremely bright, as you can tell. She is funny, has a sharp wit, and has great energy. So, I am thrilled, not just that a woman has finally made it on to the executive branch of government, but that she is that," added Sorkin.
Along with being a film director, Sorkin also mentors young writers. He says he was amazed by the performance of poet Amanda Gorman at the Presidential Inauguration.
"I would like Amanda Gorman to mentor me. That young woman has such game; she is a phenomenal writer, and her pen is somehow attached to her heart. That poem would have been a masterpiece coming from anyone, but the fact that it is coming from a 22-year-old shows that the best of us was certainly on display," said Sorkin.