'The Trial of the Chicago 7' Cast': Viewers Point Out Big Casting Problem

The Trial of the Chicago 7 on Netflix has perhaps the starriest cast of any movie released in 2020, with Oscar-winners like Edde Redmayne and Mark Rylance joined by recent Emmy winner Jeremy Strong, Watchmen's Abdul Yahya-Mateen II and Borat's Sacha Baron Cohen.

The casting of the latter, however, was something that many Twitter viewers have said took them out of the film. Not because of any acting choices the Ali G star made, but because of his age difference with the character he is playing.

In The Trial of Chicago 7, Cohen is 49, playing Abbie Hoffman, who was in his early 30s during the trial—in fact, Cohen is just three years younger than the Youth International Party founder was when he died by suicide in 1989.

The reaction of many viewers were summed up by one Twitter user who wrote: "Just had to pause Trial of the Chicago 7, because I was like, [is] that Sasha Baron Cohen? Sure enough, it is. Dude is practically [my] age and they've got him playing a young Abbie Hoffman. He's too old and also too f***** tall. Very distracting."

Another tweeted: "WAIT A DAMN MINUTE why are literal 45 y/o men playing college kids in the trial of the chicago 7 butttttt women over 30 are never even cast to play 30-year-old women." While another simply wrote: "Sacha Baron Cohen is supposed to be playing a 32-year-old in THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7."

the trial of the chicago 7 netflix
Sacha Baron Cohen and Jeremy Strong are both in their 40s playing 30-somethings in 'The Trial of the Chicago 7'. Netflix

One of the reasons why Cohen is much older than the character he is playing is due to the decade-plus it has taken to make The Trial of the Chicago 7. Sorkin first wrote a script for the film in 2007, when Stephen Spielberg was linked to directing it. Per Deadline, Baron Cohen was linked to the role then. At the time, he was 36, much close to the age of the real Hoffman during the trial.

Incidentally, this Spielberg version is a great movie what-might-have-been, as many of the stars eyed for the project have since died—Deadline notes that Spielberg was due to have a meeting with Heath Ledger to play Tom Hayden (played by Eddie Redmayne in the Netflix movie), and was eyeing Philip Seymour Hoffman as lawyer William Kunstler (a role that eventually went to Rylance). Of the still-living cast members, Will Smith was also a possibility for Bobby Seale at the time.

Speaking to the Broadcast Film Critics Association about casting The Trial of Chicago 7, director Aaron Sorkin said: "The first person cast was Sacha because Steven Spielberg had cast him 12 years ago.

"Steven had started the casting process. He and I both had met with Sacha, loved him, he was perfect, 12 years went by, or 11 years to be fair, Sacha found me and made it very clear that I would not be considering any other actor for the role. That he would be playing the part."

Cohen is not the only actor much older than the role he is playing. Rylance, 60, is playing the 50-year-old Kunstler, 38-year-old Redmayne is the Tom Hayden, who was 30 in 1969, and 39-year-old Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 39 is playing a 33-year-old—though the famously baby-faced actor can certainly get away with playing younger.

Other actors playing younger are Jeremy Strong (41, playing 31) and Frank Langella (82, playing 74). At 34, however, Mateen is almost the same age as his character Bobby Seale, 33 when he was infamously bound and gagged in the courtroom.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 is streaming now on Netflix.