The XX Factor

50 Shades of Grey Director Might Do Chappaquiddick “Thriller” (!) That Takes Ted Kennedy’s Side (?!?)

Ted Kennedy in August 1968.

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On the night of July 18, 1969, Ted Kennedy drove a car off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts. Kennedy survived but left his passenger, a political aide named Mary Jo Kopechne, behind inside the submerged vehicle. Kennedy didn’t report the incident to authorities for nine hours, by which time Kopechne had died either by drowning or suffocation. As you might imagine, there has been much speculation through the years about what exactly happened that night, but even the version of events given by Kennedy himself is not particularly flattering to him; he ended up pleading guilty to a charge of leaving the scene of an accident.

Now, if you read that first paragraph and thought “this story would make an excellent cinematic thriller that is sympathetic to Kennedy’s point of view,” you live in Crazytown. But you are also apparently a movie executive, because 50 Shades of Grey director Sam Taylor-Johnson is reportedly in talks to direct a film with that very premise. From the Hollywood Reporter:

Written by Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan, Chappaquiddick is political thriller that unveils the true story of what is described as the seven most dramatic days of Senator Ted Kennedy’s life.

On the eve of the moon landing, Senator Kennedy becomes entangled in a tragic car accident that results in the death of former Robert Kennedy campaign worker Mary Jo Kopechne. The Senator struggles to follow his own moral compass and simultaneously protect his family’s legacy, all while simply trying to keep his own political ambitions alive.

In the most startling quotation of a most startling article, producer Mark Ciardi promises, “You’ll see what [Kennedy] had to go through.”

Either the Hollywood Reporter’s writeup is off—which doesn’t seem likely, because it reads like it was supplied by the film’s producers—or this is going to be a very controversial and probably unpopular movie.