At the San Sebastian Film Festival, American screenwriter and director Aaron Sorkin talked about the making of his upcoming Netflix original film, “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” how he always sees himself first and foremost as a playwright and why he is just like a puppy.
Speaking via a video link in the Conversations section of the Basque festival’s industry program, Sorkin called himself, “A playwright faking my way through screenplays and teleplays.”
He argues that his background in theatre is the reason why he writes so many scenes inside rooms. He stated, “I’m not an outdoors guy.” Sorkin then made a rather amusing analogy between himself and a new puppy. “When you bring home a puppy, it’s said you should get a crate that is big just about big enough for the puppy to move around. That confined space will make the puppy feel secure. It’s the same with me. I like the four walls of the court and the office.”
For this reason, he argues that writing and directing “Chicago 7” is in some ways the most challenging thing he has had to do in his career. “It was scary directing ‘Chicago 7.’ I only have one movie under my belt, ‘Molly’s Game,’ which had three principal characters. This film has 11 stars, most of whom are leads in their own movies and it has riots and teargas scenes. That’s not part of the puppy crate. Just writing the words exterior scene on a screenplay makes me dizzy.”
When Steven Spielberg invited him to his house in 2006 and told him he wanted to make a film about the Chicago ’68 riots and a conspiracy trial, Sorkin immediately said yes. “When I left his house, I called my father because I didn’t know about the events Steven was referring to,” Sorkin admits. “I said yes because it was Steven and he said there was a trial, so I thought courtroom and that was enough.”
In the intervening period, many directors have come and gone on the project. Spielberg decided he wanted to produce the project and then Paul Greengrass and Ben Stiller were attached at various stages. At one time Sorkin even tried to write the script as a play. In contrast to all of Sorkin’s other screenplays, “Chicago 7” didn’t immediately go into production.
Two things happened to change that. Sorkin says, “Spielberg saw ‘Molly’s Game’ and was sufficiently pleased to suggest I direct ‘Chicago 7’ and Trump was elected. At his rallies, Trump started being nostalgic about the good old days beating up protestors and the movie became relevant again. At that time, I had no idea how relevant it would come with the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.”
Sorkin, whose films often deal with the ethics of power, ended the conversation by revealing how he would write election night, 2020. “Trump does what we all assume he will do, which is not concede defeat, claiming the election’s rigged and the Democrats cheated. For the first time, his Republican enablers march up to the White House and say Donald it’s time to go. I would write the ending where everyone does the right thing. I don’t think Trump will do the right thing, except by accident.”