It took some doing but I’ve finally scored a draft of Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan‘s Chappaquiddick (dated 5.11.16, 131 pages), the Ted Kennedy implosion melodrama that will begin filming just after Labor Day. The script is blistering, damning. A nightmarish atmosphere prevails. I was shaking my head as I read it last night, going “Jesus” and “Jesus H. Christ” over and over.
In the somewhat similar manner of Oliver Stone‘s Nixon or W., the script doesn’t strictly adhere to 100% verified fact (certain behaviors may have been exaggerated or invented and surely some of the dialogue has been imagined to varying degrees) but it does seem to follow the generally understood history of this wretched affair.
Chappaquiddick pulls no punches and hits hard. Just about every page exudes the stench of an extremely odious situation being suppressed and re-narrated by professional fixers, some of whom are appalled at Ted’s behavior and character but who do what’s necessary all the same. Protect and maintain the family’s power and mythology at all costs, by any means.
Kennedy and Mary Jo Kopechne smooch (on-camera) and actually do the deed (off-camera). And I’m not exaggerating when I emphasize that the depiction of Kopechne’s slow, agonizing death from suffocation inside Kennedy’s submerged, upside-down 1967 Oldsmobile is agonizing to read. I don’t want to imagine what it’ll be like to watch.
The reputation of the late Massachusetts Senator (1932-2009) was sullied, to say the least, by this horrific 1969 episode, but he quickly recovered, of course, and the honor and the lustre were gradually restored. For nearly four decades after the tragedy Ted was a fully respected and renowned legislator, an ally of President Barack Obama and vice versa, a health care advocate, a godfather, a diplomat and an operator who knew how to play the game and get things done.
But after Chappaquiddick is seen a year from now (starting, I’m guessing, with the early fall festivals) his name will be sullied again, trust me.
As previously noted John Curran (Tracks, Stone) will direct with Jason Clarke and Kate Mara as Ted and Mary Jo. Ed Helms is portraying Kennedy confidante/advisor/attorney Joe Gargan; Bruce Dern will mutter three or four words in his portrayal of the stroke-afflicted Joseph P. Kennedy. I don’t know who’s playing Paul Markham or Robert McNamara or Joan Kennedy. There are many, many speaking parts.
The producers are the British-based Apex Entertainment, run by Mark Ciardi and Campbell McInnes.
Here’s a piece I wrote about the project on 7.21.16.
I’m guessing that some industry players may be concerned about the possible political consequences of distributing Chappaquiddick, but maybe not. The Kennedy family is not the great cultural and political powerhouse it once was. The brand has been dissipated over the last couple of decades.