Though he is now a familiar face, we have never really seen Everest actor Jason Clarke take on a role that requires a really deep dive. This may be in the process of being rectified – both literally and figuratively – as it is announced that he is in talks to star as Senator Ted Kennedy in the upcoming dramatic thriller, Chappaquiddick.
The project involves a script from as-yet untested screenwriters Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan, and centres on the 1969 car accident that left one woman dead and the reputation of politician Ted Kennedy badly damaged.
“The biographical drama takes place the eve of the moon landing when Senator Ted Kennedy becomes entangled in a tragic car accident that results in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. Over the course of the next seven days, the Senator struggles to decide between following his own moral compass or using his power and influence to protect the family legacy.”
While documentation – both official and unofficial – regarding this tragedy is vast, the nature of the accident and the statements given by Kennedy in the days that followed dictate that the detail in the film is largely speculative. However, the elements involved all lend themselves to popular storytelling.
It is known that Kennedy had been hosting a small reunion for campaign workers from Robert Kennedy’s ill-fated 1968 Presidential campaign, and guests included Mary Jo Kopechne. Kennedy testified that when he announced he was leaving the party, Kopechne requested that he drive her back to her hotel on his way. During the journey, however, the car left the Dike Bridge and landed, upturned, underwater in Poucha Pond. Kennedy left the scene and did not report the accident for nine hours – during which time, Mary Jo Kopechne died.
Senator Kennedy pleaded guilty to a charge of leaving the scene of an accident that caused injury, and received a two-month suspended sentence from Judge James Boyle. Many hearings followed, including the inquest, during which it was heard that Kopechne suffocated in an air pocket inside the car, and likely survived for two to four hours after the crash. In recent years, however, investigative journalists have touted the theory that forensic evidence suggests that Kennedy was not in the vehicle at the time of the crash at all. With Senator Kennedy having died in 2009, it is unlikely the mystery will ever be solved.
Chappaquiddick was originally set to be directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson (Fifty Shades Of Grey) but, since she stepped away from the project, it will now be helmed by John Curran (Stone, Tracks). If Jason Clarke is finally confirmed in the lead role, his casting announcement will be the first of many, since production is set to begin this summer.