We interview The Trial of the Chicago 7 star Eddie Redmayne about his research into playing Tom Hayden and the film’s parallels to modern times.
The Trial of the Chicago 7, which begins streaming on Netflix October 16, tackles the backlash anti-Vietnam War protesters faced in 1968. While it is a historical drama, Aaron Sorkin dramatizes the lives and perspectives of various protestors in his script.
One of the Seven was activist Tom Hayden, who is played by Eddie Redmayne in the film. The actor spoke with Screen Rant about the lessons he learned during his research and while on set.
You play Tom Hayden, a noted activist. What did you learn about him that most people may not know while you were researching him? What do you think people can learn from his journey during the course of this film?
Eddie Redmayne: I knew nothing about Tom before. I knew nothing about this story before I read the script, and I found is so sort of thrilling to read. I found it was this weird mixture of emotional and funny, and yet it informed me about this moment I knew nothing about. It was just a delight, really, to get to research Tom’s life.
He was an extraordinary man. Throughout his life, he fought for civil rights, for the environment, against gangs – or for the understanding and comprehension of gang culture. He did many things; he worked within the system and outside of it at moments. And what I took away from it – and this is only a moment in his life amongst an ensemble of people – but what I took away from him was integrity.
I feel like in certainly in myself, there are loads of hypocrisies is in me about how I think about things and how I act. But this was someone who really put his beliefs and let his actions mirror his beliefs. He later married Jane Fonda, and there was something that he said to her just before he died that she put on her website. He whispered to her that seeing people who were willing to die for their beliefs changed him forever, and I thought that resonated and stayed with me.
You get to lead crowds and rally the masses in many scenes. In many ways, that spirit has been reborn today. What did you learn about the sacrifice in social activism from this experience?
Eddie Redmayne: I mean, obviously, when we’re acting, we’re acting. They make it look very real, they have lots of things, but it is performance. But in the research around it, it was pretty extraordinary seeing the behavior and some of the police brutality, but also these different methods of protest.
As we’re seeing in the world now, there’s protests and then there’s policy change. In some ways the film is about this sort of discrepancy, or the difference between Abbie Hoffman’s approach and Tom Hayden’s – while there’s a great respect between the two of them, they have very different approaches.
What I love is that Aaron [Sorkin] doesn’t make a judgment on which of those approaches was right. Both actually inform each other, and I think there’s a sense that social movements need both. You need the people who can get things done, but get things done through a legislation; through the system. But then you also need the loud anarchic voices of change. Even though they’re fighting for the same team, in some senses; they’re all aspiring for the same thing, but they have very different approaches.
There was important quote to me that Robert Kennedy Jr. said, that democracy is messy, it’s hard, it’s never easy. And I feel, hopefully, this film reminds us of that; that it’s worth fighting for. [Source]