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April 2018

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Page 19 of 43 18 POST APRIL 2018 DIRECTOR'S CHAIR powerful politician with presiden- tial ambitions. A scandal. A death. A possible cover-up and attempt to muzzle the press. The story behind Chappaquiddick, the new film from director John Curran (The Painted Veil, Stone, Tracks), sounds like the stuff of fiction, but it's a true story and recounts the tragic events of the infa- mous 1969 car accident involving U.S. sen- ator Ted Kennedy and Mary Jo Kopechne, a young, female campaign worker who died at the scene. Kennedy, the driver, left the scene of the accident and didn't alert authorities for 10 hours. What happens over the ensuing days reveals how one of the most powerful and influential political family dynasties in U.S. history orchestrated the truth behind the death of Kopechne. Their efforts to control the story in the press, run damage control and preserve the family's legacy is a story of the powerful and the untouch- able — and a timely, cautionary tale. This tension-filled war room became Kennedy's savior and nemesis, ultimately revealing his vulnerabilities, his damaged relationship with his father, Joe Kennedy Sr., all while testing his integrity and political future. As his brother John's presidential promise to land a man on the moon unfolds, Kennedy considers his own legacy. This infamous incident will become a defining moment in his career, as he wrestles with his own moral compass, and ultimately puts his future in the hands of the American people. Directed by John Curran from a screenplay by Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan, Chappaquiddick features an all-star ensemble cast, including Jason Clarke as Ted Kennedy, Kate Mara as Mary Jo Kopechne, Ed Helms, Jim Gaffigan, Clancy Brown, Taylor Nichols, Olivia Thirlby and Bruce Dern. Curran also assembled a stellar team of collab- orators behind the camera that includes his frequent director of photography Maryse Alberti, film editor Keith Fraase, visual effects supervisor Fredrik Nord and composer Garth Stevenson. Here, in an exclusive Post interview, Curran talks about making the film, and why he loves post. What do you look for in a project and what was the appeal of making this? "I'm attracted to all kinds of stories and different elements, but this one kind of scared me. I read it first back in 2015, and I'm a big Teddy Kennedy fan, but I didn't know all the details. I hadn't talked to the writers yet, and I didn't know what was factual or invented, but I was really drawn to it. It was very hard-hitting and didn't pull any punches, and the more I drilled into it with them, the more I felt I had to do it. And then there was the backdrop of reading it during the last presidential pri- maries, which also made the whole thing feel very timely." Relevance to today is always a plus when you're doing a period piece. "Yes, but it can get weird. When we screened it at Toronto, people were like, 'Why this film now?' There was a lot of head-scratching. 'It's nearly 50 years ago now, and Teddy's dead.' And then a few months later, it was almost the opposite response — it's too topical (laughs)." What sort of film did you set out to make? "It's not easy taking a cold hard look at one of your heroes, and I didn't know him, but the question was, 'Can I make him human and complex and sympathet- ic, but also not pull any punches about what happened?'Once you get into all the various accounts of the accident, it seems obvious that Mary Jo Kopechne was still alive after he left the scene. For 30 min- utes, for several hours? No one knows for sure. The diver who found her reported she was in a very specific position, and all indications are that she probably suffo- cated rather than drowning. And then the script had a lot of shifting tones, and I'd be appalled by Teddy's behavior, and then I'd feel for him, and it'd be this dark drama that turned into a farce. So dealing with all the contradictions of the man, and then juggling all the various tones through the entire shoot, then the edit and into the sound design — that was the big challenge." Casting the right actor as Ted Kennedy is obviously crucial. What did Jason Clarke bring to the role? "When I first got the script, Jason was already attached, and that was anoth- er big draw for me, as I've known him a long time. He was in my very first film, Praise, for about eight seconds, back in 1998, which I shot in Australia, and he looks enough like the young Teddy that it works. I could see him as Teddy, and I've always loved him as an actor and wanted to work with him for a long time, and he's also a bit of a chameleon. He can fade into the role whereas the idea of having a big name star who's instantly recognizable just wouldn't work the same way." What were the main challenges of the shoot? "You're dealing with these iconic locations, and there's such a specificity about where this all took place, and you can't really fake that, so I wanted the environments to be authentic. And when you go out there and see Chappaquiddick and the bridge where it all happened, you realise just how remote and dark it is, even though it's not the original bridge anymore. So we did some location work and spent two days shooting the ferry, the road and the bridge in Chappaquiddick, as well as sev- eral weeks in the North Shore of Boston. Getting all the authentic locations was invaluable, but it also forced me to make cuts elsewhere because of the limited JOHN CURRAN HELMS CHAPPAQUIDDICK BY IAIN BLAIR A A TIMELY, CAUTIONARY TALE OF THE POWERFUL AND UNTOUCHABLE Curren, on-location

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