Culture, Global

Whoa: Hoffman/Cohen? Separated at birth?

abbie-hoffman.jpg sbc2
Okay, no one really thinks so. For one thing, Hoffman’s been dead a while, and Sacha Baron Cohen is still alive and kicking. Also he appears, as a general rule to be adequately groomed. But this just in:
In Spielberg’s new movie on the trial of the Chicago seven, Baron Cohen will play Abbie Hoffman. A rather more serious film than Baron Cohen’s incredibly strange, and disputedly funny (some say yes, others not so much) Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, The Trial of the Chicago Seven is about the famous dust-ups resulting from protesters of the 1968 Democratic party convention (not “Democrat party convention,” as the TimesOnline refers to it, incorrectly)

The Trial of the Chicago Seven follows protesters who disrupted the 1968 Democrat party convention with an anti-Vietnam-war “carnival” that turned nasty. Demonstrators threw bricks, police responded with tear gas and the centre of Chicago was engulfed in flames. Curfews only escalated the violence.
After the clashes, independent investigators blamed eight police officers and eight protesters including Hoffman, who had already disrupted the New York Stock Exchange with showers of fake money.
The police were not charged but the protesters were accused of inciting a riot. One was jailed for contempt, leaving the seven to fight the charges.
It was, said the late writer Norman Mailer, who testified for the seven, a noisy televised clash between the old order and the burgeoning counterculture.

Hoffman and four others were found guilty of attempting to incite a riot while crossing state lines, but the convictions were overturned and none served any jail time.
Hoffman, of course, was well-known as a prankster who used his somewhat outre pranks as a form of protest against the Vietnam war. That, I’m sure is the attraction for Baron Cohen, but he also had a much longer history as well. He had been active in the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and later a leader of the Yippie movement. Hoffman was also somewhat of a tragic figure, as he committed suicide at 52 , having somewhat earlier been diagnosed as bipolar.
I think it will be very interesting to see Baron Cohen’s take on Hoffman. Note to Baron Cohen: What could you change with your comedy if you put your mind to it?

4 thoughts on “Whoa: Hoffman/Cohen? Separated at birth?

  1. He was ridiculous in Sweeney Todd. Fun, don’t get me wrong, but his character completely took me out of the movie. Everyone in the theater was tittering and whispering “That’s Borat!!!”

  2. Excuse me, but how exactly did the protesters disrupt the convention? They were demonstrating in Grant Park; I don’t think they ever came near the convention hall. Abe Ribicoff, then Senator from Connecticut, did make a speech in the convention in which he accused the city of using “Gestapo tactics” in suppressing demonstrations, but that speech doesn’t qualify as a disruption.

  3. i think to paint baron-cohen with a small brush like you have is not giving the man his due.
    he does (very ribald) comedy, but he does it in the vein of geniuses like andy kaufman. like his jokes or not, one must admire his outstanding dedication to never breaking character when he was performing, which was often for more than 12 hours of a single day.
    i think this casting is perfect. hoffman himself never made a secret about his position of the jester, the only person in the court that could tell the truth (both historically, as in a court jester, and in his own trial).

  4. Baron-Cohen is an idea casting choice for playing Hoffman, agreed.
    Tarfon is also correct: the convention was not disrupted by the protesters, in fact the convention went on as planned. However, Mayor Daley’s authorization and encouragement of excessive police violence against demonstrators and grassroots activists (many of whom were aligned with specific candiates for the nomination) placed a dark shadow on the proceedings.

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