Does the idea of Steven Spielberg directing a movie about the Chicago 7 sound like a synch-up to anyone? Spielberg isn’t Costa-Gavras, Oliver Stone, Steven Soderbergh or Bryan Singer. He’s never had an up-the-establishment attitude about anything. His personality is essentially that of a kid looking at something exotic and glowing with his nose pressed against a window pane. Maybe he’ll bring something fresh to this dusty counter-culture saga, but it feels like a very strange fit. Like Todd Solondz looking to direct a live-action Snow White movie.
(l. to r.) Steven Spielberg, Abbie Hoffman, Sacha Baron Cohen, Will Smith
What’s happened to Spielberg’s Abraham Lincoln biopic? Why does he keep pushing this project back? Poor Liam Neeson must be going nuts.
Spielberg is essentially an aging geek who became a liberal political contributor- slash-dilletante late in life. He’s not one to grasp the political altogether except when it comes to creative control and getting paid. If Spielberg was any kind of politically astute fellow he would have thought twice about the Darfur aspect of his alliance with the Beijing Olympic Games organizers on his own without Mia Farrow having to give him pause with the “Leni Reifenstahl of the Beijing Games” taunt.
His interest in the Chicago 7 saga is perhaps an attempt to atone for being off on his own nascent-filmmaker beam and pretty much disinterested in revolutionary ’60s politics when he was in his early 20s. The whole world was on fire back then and Spielberg probably feels he missed out on some level, so the film could serve as a dialogue with the ghosts of Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and William Kunstler with Spielberg saying, “Hey, guys…I’m 62 and I get it! Forty years after the trial, okay, but I get what you were doing back then with all the political theatre and I’m with you now. Brothers at last! Wait until you see how I portray Judge Julius Hoffman! Rest assured that subtlety will not play a part.”
The only aspect of the Chicago 7 story that Spielberg might understand is Abbie Hoffman, the street prankster, personality and revolutionary Borscht-belt comic who was one of the defendants. Spielberg might have a feeling for Hoffman’s impish sense of humor, but a voice is telling me that if Hoffman (who committed suicide in ’89) was around today he might say about Spielberg what Woody Allen reportedly once said about Harvey Weinstein in the mid ’90s, which was that “he’s not my kind of Jew.”
Spielberg allegedly wants Sacha Baron Cohen to play Hoffman, but he’s about a foot too tall. Hoffman might have been 5’6″ with boots on. If you were looking for someone to play Abraham Lincoln would you cast an actor who’s just over five feet tall? Of course not, so why cast a guy who could be a basketball player to play a ’60s activist who was built much more compactly?
The only semi-interesting casting news so far says that Spielberg wants Philip Seymour Hoffman to play Kuntsler. (No resemblance whatsover, but Hoffman can nail anything.) Taye Diggs as Bobby Seale? Maybe, but please, God….not Will Smith. Kevin Spacey and Adam Arkin are said to be in consideration for other roles.