The verdict's in: The stars of The Trial of the Chicago 7 won outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture at Sunday night's 2021 Screen Actors Guild Awards.
The cast includes Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Sacha Baron Cohen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Michael Keaton, Frank Langella, John Carroll Lynch, Eddie Redmayne, Mark Rylance, Alex Sharp and Jeremy Strong. They beat out the casts of Da 5 Bloods, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Minari and One Night in Miami… to take home the honor.
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"'God give us leaders,' said the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. before he was shot down in cold blood on this very date in 1968, a profound injustice," actor Frank Langella said in the acceptance speech for the whole cast. "The trial of the Chicago 7 began 18 months later, ruled by a corrupt judge, me. Aaron Sorkin was determined to tell their story, and his loving and respectful direction transformed a group of disparate actors into an ensemble."
"Reverend King was right, we need leaders to guide us towards hating each other less. We owe a debt of thanks to the voices of the Chicago 7, and most especially, Aaron Sorkin, our leader, whose voice is the soul of this movie," Langella added.
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The Netflix legal drama details the 1969 trial of seven defendants charged by the federal government with conspiracy and crossing state lines with the intent to riot, following the countercultural protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The trial went on for five months and illuminated the divide of the country brought about because of the Vietnam War.
"I felt the stakes were higher than any of the movies I've done before," Baron Cohen, 49, told IndieWire of the playing activist Abbie Hoffman. "I really didn't want anything I'd done to be misconstrued."
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Abdul-Mateen, 34, felt similarly about portraying Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale, the eighth and only Black defendant in the infamous trial.
"I wanted to do two things with this role: I wanted to represent for Oakland [where Abdul-Mateen II grew up and where the Black Panthers were founded] and I wanted to advocate for Bobby Seale and for his experience, the experience that he had in this trial," he told NPR. "And I knew that if I could step into those shoes and if I could go through that humiliation, that brutalization as Bobby Seale would call it, and if I could go through that and portray a victory, as opposed to a defeat, then I felt like I would be doing a good job."
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The 27th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards aired Sunday, April 4 on TNT and TBS.
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