‘Chappaquiddick’ Producer: A ‘Great Script’ Sold Hollywood on Kennedy Film

Mark Judge | April 6, 2018
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Hollywood is known as a political town, and a liberal one at that, but there is one thing that may trump politics: a great script.

That was the case for “Chappaquiddick,” the new film about the 1969 car accident that involved Sen. Ted Kennedy and took the life of a young woman, Mary Jo Kopechne (played by Kate Mara in the film.).

“The response out of Hollywood was tremendous to the script,” ‘Chappaquiddick’ producer Mark Ciardi tells MRCTV. “It was great to see all the kudos for what the script was, and we got a tremendous director and cast and went off and made it.” 

Ciardi's company Apex Entertainment financed the movie, which goes into detail the accident. On July 18, 1969, Kennedy took a late drive with his brother Robert’s campaign staffer Mary Jo Kopechne, 28. Kennedy drove off a bridge in eastern Martha’s Vineyard, the car flipped, and the senator left the site, retreating to his hotel without reporting Kopechne’s drowning for 10 hours. 

So even with the strong script by Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan, Ciardi didn’t get any blowback in leftist Hollywood for a film about the malfeasance of a Kennedy?

“Everyone loved the script,” Ciardi, 56, says. “There was no, like, ‘This is not good, You can’t do this.’ There were were some actors that responded to it but ultimately didn’t want to pursue, whether that was because they were a little nervous about portraying Ted, we don’t know.” 

In the film Kennedy is played by Australian actor Jason Clarke. Clarke makes Kennedy seem both monstrous and pathetic, both ambitious and overwhelemed by the pressures put on him by his father Joseph (Bruce Dern).The senator has flashes of conscience where he wants to do the right thing, admit his guilt and perhaps even quit politics, but the pressures of his family pulls him back in.

The overall tone of the film is understated, which adds to its power. Director John Curran presents the story with subtlety, letting the actors, cinematography and score (by Garth Stevenson) move the plot forward without melodrama or big musical cues.

“We tried to make a movie that was nuanced.,” Ciardo says. “Kennedy is not going to be sympathetic at all, but you show the family pressures before the accident, and the spotlight on him, and the father issues, and after it happens he’s kind of reduced to a child. It’s interesting to watch it unfold.”

Ciardi is known for blockbuster movies such as "Million Dollar Arm," "Secretariat," "Invincible," "The Rookie," "The Game Plan," "McFarland, USA," and "Miracle," as well as his Emmy award winning ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, “Big Shot.” Ciardi is also a former Major League Baseball pitcher who played for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1987 before retiring due to injury. After baseball he co-founded Mayhem Pictures, where he secured a first look deal with Walt Disney Studios.

“We’ve watched audiences really respond to it," Ciardi says of 'Chappaquiddick.' Obviously it’s not a huge movie, it’s not a blockbuster in any way. We want people to see it, to see it over time. The response to people from both the left and right, it’s been pretty unusual - to have something this incendiary be responded to as it has.”

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