Trial of the Chicago 7s Forrest Gump Character Connection Explained

Trial of the Chicago 7’s Forrest Gump Character Connection Explained

The Trial of the Chicago 7’s Abbie Hoffman also made a brief appearance during Robert Zemeckis’s Forrest Gump more than 25 years earlier.

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Trial of the Chicago 7s Forrest Gump Character Connection Explained

In Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7, lovers of Robert Zemeckis’s Forrest Gump may have recognized a familiar figure in Abbie Hoffman. The character appears in both films, at the heart of protests in both cases, as Gump reflects a broad-strokes look at American history.

Portrayed in Aaron Sorkin’s Netflix film by Sacha Baron Cohen, Hoffman was one of the defendants in the late-’60s trial of a group of anti-Vietnam War protest leaders who were prosecuted after a demonstration occurring outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention turned into a riot. In The Trial of the Chicago 7, Baron Cohen strikes a tricky balance between sincerity and humor as Hoffman. Given his work in the likes of Borat 2, it’s no surprise that Baron Cohen can nail the comedic antics that Hoffman brought to the trial, but he is also able to shine during the more earnest moments of the film, like when Hoffman is called up as one of the Chicago 7 trial’s defendants to the witnesses stand.

In Forrest Gump, Abbie Hoffman is played by Richard D’Alessandro and meets Tom Hanks’s titular character at a peace rally held in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. As Hoffman riles up the crowd, he invites Gump onstage to make a speech, which he proceeds to do, but just as he tries to speak, his microphone is disconnected by a saboteur. Based on the timeline of each film and real life, it can be estimated that this meeting between Forrest Gump and Abbie Hoffman took place in late 1968, after the protests at Democratic National Convention, but before Hoffman was charged and placed on the subsequent trial.

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Naturally, the existence of two separate depictions of the same real-life figure in different films is destined to draw comparisons between the two portrayals. But how well do each of the performances portray the real-life figure at the heart of the Trial Of The Chicago 7? Although Baron Cohen has much more screen time as Hoffman and is clearly allowed to flesh him out more as a character, D’Alessandro is still onscreen enough during Forrest Gump to give Hoffman a distinct personality.

Comparing this to Forrest Gump, there is really only one side of Abbie Hoffman on display in the film. During the scene at the peace rally, Hoffman shows his strength as a protest leader as he commands the crowd while wearing an American flag as a shirt. His constant barrage of shouts and expletives is always greeted with cheers from the crowd. Lastly, after Forrest Gump delivers his speech, Hoffman thanks him and finishes introducing him to the crowd. In this small moment, it’s possible to see a glimmer of the empathy that is seen more broadly during Baron Cohen’s representation of the character.

While the real essence of Abbie Hoffman may have lain somewhere between these two performances, it is always interesting to see multiple depictions of the same real-life character onscreen. Given his short screen time, it’s possible that D’Alessandro was heightening certain things about Hoffman to ensure that people would quickly recognize who he was. Nevertheless, both performances in The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Forrest Gump manage to boldly bring this unique character to life.

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