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Frank Langella excels at playing the angry antagonist. Whether it’s Bob Alexander in Dave or Richard Nixon in Frost/Nixon, he’s kind of got that role down pat. So one would think that you wouldn’t need to get him any angrier for his role in The Trial of the Chicago 7. But co-star Jeremy Strong wasn’t going to settle for anything less than irate; so, he brought a fart machine on set to push Frank Langella’s limits.
In The Trial of the Chicago 7, Frank Langella plays Judge Julius Hoffman, the primary antagonist that consistently makes things harder for the defense, by consistently overruling their objections and putting them in contempt of court. Succession’s Jeremy Strong, who plays one of the Chicago 7 Jerry Rubin, admitted to Vulture that he brought “a whole bag of tricks” to set just to make Frank Langella angrier:
I wanted to have a whole bag of tricks — not in any way that was prescribed, but, you know, we’re in this courtroom for a long time. We’re in the courtroom for many, many, many months. It was a long trial, and trials are boring, and [the defendants] found ways to amuse themselves. And this, for me, was one of the ways I found to amuse myself — and to also get under the skin of Judge Hoffman [played by Frank Langella], who to Jerry and Abbie and Bobby [Seale, played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II] and the rest of the men represented everything that was despicable and odious and bigoted and authoritarian in American government.
That certainly makes sense. A good chunk of The Trial of the Chicago 7 is set in the courtroom. Being on the same set for that long would likely drive anyone crazy and bored. Unfortunately for Frank Langella, that meant being the target of Jeremy Strong and his “bag of tricks.”
To make things less boring, he said later,
So I planted a fart machine in the judge’s dais where he couldn’t find it. I would set it off sometimes before a close-up, and it would really piss him off. His face turned red. Those are the takes we used in the film. It was great — there was real, palpable tension in the room when that happened. I got in trouble sometimes with Aaron and the producers, but I kind of felt like … if I’m Jerry Rubin, and I’m not in contempt of some court, then I’m not doing my job.
Well, that’s certainly one way to get under Frank Langella’s skin. And, from the way it looks, it worked. Just by watching the movie, Frank Langella’s portrayal of the judge is nothing less than a furious, obtuse, and bigoted man doing everything he can to undercut the defense from winning the trial. Those close up shots certainly made Frank Langella look like he was going over the edge and that final scene had him so mad, I’m surprised he didn’t break his own gavel.
The Trial of the Chicago 7 was written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, and tells the story of a group of protesters that were part of the 1968 Chicago riots. Seven men were being tried for inciting the riot. Initially it was eight men, but the eighth man Bobby Seale was removed from the case. The case was a defining moment in American history that sparked more riots.
The film is getting mostly glowing reviews from critics and is available now on Netflix. For more movie news, stay tuned to CinemaBlend.