Film Courage: Jason, from an actor’s perspective what are you looking at in terms of old footage, what are you studying?
Jason Clarke: Everything, everything I can get my hands on. One of the best things I got my hands on was this old sailing footage of Ted [Kennedy] and Joan [Kennedy], sailing the white waters of the boats that they sailed on Chappaquiddick. Just seeing them that day on the phone in the gear, young dudes, Ray-Bans, Joe was smoking a cigarette, they were sailing the boat.
You’re looking for something that captures them when they…you’re looking for both, the public ones, the unguarded ones. The little moments. The mannerisms. You know, the funeral. There is so much on these guys, the whole family. I’ve watched so much on these guys. I’ve watched a lot and read a lot on the other brothers, not just Ted. I didn’t just go for Ted, I went for the others. I went for the family. I went for pictures of Joe [Kennedy], how to behave around your father. There is so much there. And particularly the speeches. There are some of the greatest speeches ever said, ever written. Particularly by Bobby [Kennedy].
Film Courage: When did you know you wanted to be an actor?
Jason Clarke: When did I know I wanted to be an actor? I think when I decided I’d rather sit home and watch movies than go to University. “There is something in this!”
And I really wanted to be it when I couldn’t…You realize you really want to be actor when you can’t quite get there on auditions. You’re not quite getting a job, you just want it. You can feel it. I want to get in that door.
Film Courage: We hear about the character’s arc. So when you are about to go into production, how much are you thinking of that, and what was Ted Kennedy’s arc?
Jason Clarke: A lot. Ted Kennedy’s [arc] was huge. You’re thinking about that a lot, of course. The best (obviously) is when you shoot in sequence (you go from one to the other). But you never do that. So I’m having to make sure that if I’m ending here, I’m starting there. You try to give it the most that you can so you’re not just repeating it.
So you’re really plotting it. John [Director John Curran] and I did a lot of work on that, going over the other scenes. Not just rehearsing the scenes, talking over them, rewording them, discussing them.
Ted has a massive one. He starts off and he goes through literally a sausage maker. I mean he’s ground down to come out to that final thing where 3-2-1, the pressure’s on and you forget that that was a live event. He got handed a bunch of really bad cards. There’s no 15-second pause, it’s on. Here it is, your whole career, your whole life, your family, your moral judgment, everything…it’s down to this. Sitting in a room propped up on books [referring to the press conference]. Ted’s journey of his own moral choice and the choices that he made A) to walk away from the car, to not stop at Dike House and knock on the door or make a phone call at the bridge, it’s a full on journey of how he justified this to himself and worked it out. Or how he decided he wanted to live or whatever he was going to come around to.
I mean even on the phone when he goes to the police station, he called the mother [of Mary Jo Kopechne] because he does know it’s the right thing to do. To call her up and tell her rather than somebody else. So there’s just so much turmoil, up and down, before we get to the very end.
You know, and then I think that’s also reflected in society. How does society process this like it does and continue to vote him in?
Film Courage: Right, he still had to keep this public face up, which is so brilliantly portrayed by you where he walks down the streets and he’s ruminating about something.
Jason Clarke: Yeah…well I mean he was Ted Kennedy, he wasn’t used to this. Is anybody ready for the fact that you’ve gone away from a party, you’re having a good night, it’s been a year since your brother’s been shot dead in the head in front of everybody. You’re catching up with some people that worked passionately on this thing, you’ve set a sailing boat, you’re relaxed coming from Washington (D.C.) and all the sudden bang! You’re upside down on the bottom of a pond. Coming out…and then where’s the girl [Mary Jo Kopechne]? And then it’s dark and cold and wet. That’s an hour walk, that walk in the night. It’s an hour and a half back to the house. It gives you a lot of time to think.
Film Courage: Have we learned anything about this incident in terms of how we view a tragedy, how we view a scandal?
Jason Clarke: Have we as a society? No…no I don’t think so, no.
CHAPPAQUIDDICK IN THEATERS APRIL 6TH, 2018
CONNECT WITH JASON CLARKE
In the riveting suspense drama, CHAPPAQUIDDICK, the scandal and mysterious events surrounding the tragic drowning of a young woman, as Ted Kennedy drove his car off the infamous bridge, are revealed in the new movie starring Jason Clarke as Ted Kennedy and Kate Mara as Mary Jo Kopechne. Not only did this event take the life of an aspiring political strategist and Kennedy insider, but it ultimately changed the course of presidential history forever. Through true accounts, documented in the inquest from the investigation in 1969, director John Curran and writers Andrew Logan and Taylor Allen, intimately expose the broad reach of political power, the influence of America’s most celebrated family; and the vulnerability of Ted Kennedy, the youngest son, in the shadow of his family legacy.
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