Opening this weekend, in limited release, is director John Curran’s Chappaquiddick. The film is based on the true story of the Chappaquiddick incident where Ted Kennedy (Jason Clarke) was in a car accident with Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara), and the ensuing cover-up that created more questions than answers. The film dives into Kennedy wrestling with his desire to tell the truth and his need to uphold his family’s storied legacy and political ambitions. Keep in mind; the incident happened during a point in time where he was mulling over a potential run for the White House a year after the death of his brother Bobby Kennedy. Loaded with great performances and a smart script, the film does so much right including not painting Kennedy as a saint and showing the lengths to which patriarch Joseph Kennedy (Bruce Dern) would go to get his family in the White House. Chappaquiddick also stars Ed Helms and Jim Gaffigan. For more on the film, you can read Matt Goldberg’s review.
Last week I got to sit down with Jason Clarke for an exclusive interview. He talked about what he was surprised to learn about the story, how he though he made a huge mistake when the Chappaquiddick incident happened he also passed hugely important legislation in the Senate during his career, the incredible power of the Kennedy family, what it was like on set, and so much more. In addition, Clarke talked about getting to be part of Damien Chazelle’s next movie, First Man, where he plays Ed White Jr., who was the first man to walk in space. And, finally, we talked about what the next Terminator movie would have been about after Terminator Genisys, had that been more of a hit. Check out what he had to say below.
Collider: How’re you doing today?
JASON CLARKE: I’m good, man!
I have a bunch I want to ask you about. I’m going to throw you a question that I’ve wondered for a very long time and It’s not going to be what you’re expecting. I’m jumping backwards to Terminator. Did you ever know what the planned trilogy was? Did they ever say anything to you about what the overarching story would have been had it been a bigger hit? Or were they were going film by film?
CLARKE: No, they had an idea. What I remember was that second one was going to be about John’s journey after he was taken by Skynet…like going down to what he became; half machine, half man. That’s where the second one was going to start, and that’s about all I knew.
Well, it’s still more than I knew. (laughs)
CLARKE: It’s such a bummer we didn’t get to do that.
I really want to talk about this movie, but I remember that the original ending was different and that they ended up changing it because the ending leaked or something. But, I remember hearing the original ending and thought it was cooler than the one that it actually was.
CLARKE: Which one was it? I can’t remember. They changed so many things in that. They twist and changed, it was just like, ugh.
Yeah, welcome to Hollywood.
CLARKE: Welcome to Hollywood. (laughs)
I’m from New England. I thought I knew this story, but I didn’t know everything. When you first were offered this story, how much did you know about Ted and how much did you know about the Kennedy’s?
CLARKE: I thought I knew quite a bit. I prided myself on being reasonably educated and having an understanding of 20th century history, and I’ve done Brotherhood in Rhode Island, so I’ve met Ted. You know, doing research I was surprised at how much I didn’t know. When I read the script, I was very angry, very- I felt like, oh my god, this happened? Then you go, c’mon, this is not believable. She wasn’t still alive in the car, that must be a device. He didn’t really wear a neck brace, c’mon. Is that just for a bit of a laugh in there or something. Then you go, this is actually true. There’s a lot I had no idea about. I started researching it, and I read different books, and interviews, and articles from the time, and senatorial privilege- and you go, the writers have done their research, they’ve got their facts right here. There’s no made up things just for dramatic sake. Then, the things I learned about Ted- his life, his father, WWII ambassador- not just a bootlegging thing. Everyone goes, “Kennedy, racist bootlegger, he slept with what’s her name.” Are you kidding me? The guy did so much more than that. Even the racism thing is, you need to understand, you need to also go into what he did to get Jewish migrants out of Europe at that time, but couldn’t reach a deal with Churchill and FDR because they were using that to bring America into the war. Things are much more complicated and in depth than I ever realized. This story- there’s a lot going on in this world with this man, with this time, a year on from his brother being shot in the head in front of everybody- in front of the whole world.
CLARKE: You didn’t think it could happen, yet it did.
Yeah. What people don’t realize is how much amazing work he did in the Senate after this stuff. He passed hugely important legislation.
CLARKE: Hugely important.