“I would never suggest that anyone see this movie and write a thesis,” he says about the events surrounding the conspiracy trial in Chicago that resulted after anti-war riots broke out at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
During a recent phone conversation, Morgen, best known for directing the 2002 film “The Kid Stays in the Picture,” based on movie producer Robert Evans’ memoir, was passionate about his new take on an old subject in “Chicago 10,” which opens Friday.
“I don’t think there’s a need for another movie about 1968,” he says. His unusual documentary, which combines extensive archival footage from the period with motion-capture animation and famous actors doing the voices, is meant to be viewed “as mythology.”
Speaking a mile a minute, he says, “History should be vibrant, alive, organic. At some strange point, history became about facts.”
His goal was to capture the spirit and feeling of the world-changing era: “If you want the experience, this film is uniquely qualified to provide it.”
When the movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007, Morgen said he received positive feedback, including comments from Tom Hayden, one of the key characters in the movie, who told him, “I don’t know how a guy who wasn’t around at the time could have got it so right.”
Morgen, 39, who says, “I was a fetus in my mother’s belly” when the events in the movie transpired, finds the fact that he wasn’t there “refreshing.”
It’s not as if he abandoned facts entirely, though, in making the movie. He researched for three years and ultimately whittled 12,000 hours of film archives and 23,000 pages of court transcripts into the 100-minute documentary.
He decided to go with animation not only because there was no visual record of the court proceedings, but also in an effort to capture the circus-like atmosphere of the trial.
Some other folks thought it was a good idea, too. Lending their voice talent to the project are Hank Azaria as activists Abbie Hoffman and Allen Ginsberg, Nick Nolte as prosecutor Thomas Foran, Mark Ruffalo as yippie Jerry Rubin, Roy Scheider as Judge Julius Hoffman, Liev Schreiber as defense attorney William Kunstler and Jeffrey Wright as Black Panther Bobby Seale.
“It was a dream list,” says Morgen. “We had no money, no budget, and we asked people to donate. We pretty much got everyone we wanted.”