“Chappaquiddick” offers details that were little known about the devastating 1969 scandal involving one of the most glorified families in American history: the Kennedys. So, it is not surprising that the cast, executive producers, and director felt some nerves taking on the project.
For Byron Allen, Entertainment Studios CEO and co-founder and executive producer of the film, the pushback to tell this story came when he first decided to produce the film. “Unfortunately, there are some very powerful people who tried to put pressure on me not to release this movie,” Allen said. “They went out of their way to try and influence me in a negative way. I made it very clear that I’m not about the right, I’m not about the left. I’m about the truth.”
The movie tells the story of what occurred in 1969 when Senator Ted Kennedy drove his car off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island in Martha’s Vineyard and the passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, was killed. At the Beverly Hills premiere and screening of the film at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater, Allen referred to Kopechne as “one of the original #MeToo victims” and said it was her time to receive justice and the truth.
Director John Curran said the film is the truth because it draws on what factually happened and the senator’s version of the events. Still, Jason Clarke, who portrays Ted Kennedy in the movie, said he was uneasy about taking on the role.
“I was nervous on a ‘can I do it’ level and I guess on a ‘should we do it’ [level],” Clarke explained. “We’re not making propaganda. Here is this amazing, incredible, traumatic event, which I think has had a massive impact, and still does, and effects the world we’re in now–20th century American history.”
Kate Mara, who plays Kopechne, said she was more concerned with showing that Kopechne was more than what the 1969 articles that Mara read depicted her to be. The actress was also worried about how Kopechne’s family would receive the film. According to Mara, it was important “to make sure we show her in a way that is respectable and that honors her in some small way.”
Ed Helms tackles the role of Joe Gargan, an attorney and Kennedy cousin. Helms talked about how the film compares to the current scandals and alleged cover-ups surrounding the Trump administration. He said “Chappaquiddick” shows how the Kennedys could shape the narrative of the accident. “Now, it just feels like such a chaotic soup of news or counter-news or fake news all the time,” Helms said. “It’s hard to kind of know what’s real and what’s not.”
When asked if politicians today are held more accountable for their actions, Helms said, “What’s interesting is that politicians are only as accountable as they allow themselves to be or to the extent that they take responsibility for things.”
He added, “What’s really unnerving about the way Trump doesn’t take responsibility for things is that [it’s] hard to hold him accountable for those things.”