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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.
Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne is back with a new film — The Trial of The Chicago 7 — whose tagline reads ‘In 1968 democracy refused’. Little wonder its release coincides with this year’s U.S. presidential election. As Eddie Redmayne tells Tom Chamberlin, it is an urgent movement.
Have you met Eddie?” I was asked several times before I met Eddie Redmayne. It would be easier to relay the meaning behind that question in person rather than on paper, but the gist of it was this: when going through the standard operating procedure of setting up a cover shoot, questions like “Does he need a car?”, “Does he have any catering needs?”, or “Can we shoot behind-the-scenes content?” all elicited the response, “Have you met Eddie?” He took the tube, by the way.
This being my 36th issue of The Rake, with no fewer than 30 of those covers being handled by publicists who represent the great and good of the big screen, it is difficult to elucidate just how unusual it is to get a response like that. That is not to say that any of the actors we have featured on our cover have been swallowed up by their own image or seek to make life difficult for us Earth-dwelling normies, but to witness an actor voluntarily eschewing the trappings to save others the hassle is mindblowingly refreshing. So it was safe to say I was interested in meeting Eddie, and I was not disappointed.
Eddie Redmayne has the kind of social skills I am particularly fond of: he appears to be interested, if not actually interested, in what the person he is talking to is saying; he is affable and kind and self-deprecating; and he doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously, which, given he is an Oscar winner, you might forgive him for doing. He undermines the theory that fame changes and ultimately blemishes character.
Our interview, a week or so later, got off to a good start. “Oh my God, you bastard,” he said, though in every way I deserved it. I had dialled in over Zoom from my holiday in France, and I wasn’t going to keep the view to myself. Once the smugness faded, and I had to remember to try to be professional, I got on with the questions.
Award-winning actor Eddie Redmayne, who gave us unforgettable performances as Marius Pontmercy in “Les Miserables” and as physicist Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything,” is back with another memorable portrayal of American social and political activist, author and politician Tom Hayden in the Aaron Sorkin-helmed drama “The Trial of the Chicago 7.”
The 38-year-old British actor talked to us recently about his new film and what he learned from the pandemic as he isolates in London with his wife Hannah Bagshawe and their two kids — Iris, 4, and Luke, 2.
Where are you right now?
I am in the U.K. I am back to work, which is interesting and it’s lovely to be back to work actually, albeit in a sort of new normal really. But it’s exciting to be back and acting again.
Did portraying Tom Hayden make you more determined to be more of an activist?
I think, it’s an incredibly complicated question that, and one that I still honestly battle with on a daily basis. Because of the world we live in now, people in the public eye who may have no association with anything political, are given a voice that is perhaps unbalanced.
I believe that, of course we all have our own thoughts, we all have our own causes and beliefs that we are deeply passionate about, and I think that one of the great gifts about being an actor and people getting to see your films is that your voice can be amplified. So with that comes a wonderful thing in the sense that when there are things that you believe don’t have enough attention, you can try and amplify it.
At the same point, you have to be careful, because of course you come from a place of great privilege and there is this kind of, we are very lucky if you are a working actor, you live a good life and you have to be careful that you don’t end up playing through your own, you end up basically looking elitist and for basically sort of undermining the cause that you are passionate about. So my question to myself continuously is what are the things that are important to me?
I try and be an activist in my own personal way, for example here during lockdown in the United Kingdom, people with motor neuron disease, like ALS, weren’t put on the extremely vulnerable list, which was a list that allowed various special treatment I suppose with regards to care and with regards to getting food. And I found that quite shocking.
So the way that was for me, was writing our local constituency politician, and I threw the motor neuron organization that I work with, I am a patron there and I was getting on cross party Zoom calls to discuss why this was happening. So I try to do it at a place that is I suppose a grassroots level.
That being said, there are times when communities don’t have a voice that is as amplified as yours and I feel it is important in those moments just to speak up. I am still trying to work out on a daily basis what my role is. And it gets confused for people in the public eye because our voice is often louder than most people’s because of that amplification.
For Issue 72 of The Rake Magazine, we were delighted to have the brilliant Eddie Redmayne grace the cover. Eddie sets the tone with good nature, kindness and great style. Shot in London, take a look at the behind the scenes footage from the day.
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