By Derek Lawrence
April 07, 2021 at 10:30 AM EDT

In 2006, Steven Spielberg tasked Aaron Sorkin with penning a movie about the true story of the Chicago Seven: antiwar activists charged with inciting a riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Over the next decade-plus, the Oscar winner (The Social Network) would complete dozens of rewrites before Netflix's The Trial of the Chicago 7 became a reality — with him unexpectedly directing it, too.

Now, ahead of Sorkin vying for another screenwriting Oscar, the filmmaker breaks down what he calls "our real first look at the defendants — and the friction between them."

Trial of the Chicago 7
Credit: Niko Tavernise/NETFLIX

1. The Great Indoors

After spending the first two weeks shooting exteriors in Chicago, the king of the walk-and-talk was thrilled to be back in his indoor element for this courthouse scene. "I'm happiest when I have four walls and I'm writing people in rooms," Sorkin says. "As soon as I type 'EXT,' I just start to get nervous."

2. Gimme Some Sugar

Sorkin figured he'd thought through every scenario — until seeing what his actors brought on the day. "There's no stage direction in the script that says Jerry [Rubin] pours a half pound of sugar into his coffee," Sorkin says with a laugh about Jeremy Strong using props at hand while telling off Eddie Redmayne's Tom Hayden.

3. Team Players

Sorkin was anxious over how his famous cast fit together. ("Most of these guys are used to starring in their own movies.") But filming this scene squashed that fear: "It was the first time I was able to say, 'God, these guys are going to be good,'" he says of a group that also included Oscar winner Mark Rylance and Sacha Baron Cohen, who is Oscar-nominated for Chicago 7. "They liked to pass as much as they liked to shoot."

For more on this scene, read Sorkin's annotated script page below.

Trial of the Chicago 7
Credit: Netflix

For more on the 2021 Oscars race, order the May issue of Entertainment Weekly — with covers featuring Chloé Zhao, Viola Davis, and Regina King — or find it on newsstands beginning April 16, and keep up with EW's Awardist online. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW. 

Related content: