The head of the studio releasing the new film “Chappaquiddick” about the 1969 incident involving the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and the death of a 28-year-old woman said “powerful people” tried to pressure him not to distribute it.
Entertainment Studios CEO Byron Allen told Variety he did not yield to those people, who apparently did not like seeing the Democratic icon from a political dynasty put in a bad light.
“Unfortunately, there are some very powerful people who tried to put pressure on me not to release this movie,” Allen said. “They went out of their way to try and influence me in a negative way. I made it very clear that I’m not about the right, I’m not about the left. I’m about the truth.”
He elaborated in an interview with Fox Business.
“Someone very powerful, top of the food chain, came to me,” said Allen. “Sat in my conference room with the president of my theatrical distribution and said, ‘Look, someone has come to them who is very influential and enlisted their help in what they could do to hurt the movie, stop the movie from getting distribution, and convince me not to support it.'”
“I made it very clear that was not a conversation we were willing to have, and based on that conversation we were going to increase our commitment to make sure this picture got out there in a bigger way,” Allen stated. “So at that moment, I increased the ad budget.”
Allen said Mary Jo Kopechne — who died in a car crash off near Martha’s Vineyard in July 1969 with an allegedly intoxicated Kennedy at the wheel — was one of the “original #MeToo victims.”
Kennedy reportedly drove the car off a narrow bridge on Chappaquiddick Island into the water and managed to free himself from the vehicle. However, he then left the scene and did not report the accident until the following morning.
Kennedy, 37 at the time and married, was a senator in 1969 and considered a likely candidate for the presidency, perhaps as early as 1972.
There was evidence that Kopechne — who worked as an aide on Robert Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign — likely survived the crash and could have been rescued if the senator had reported it.
“Her story has never been told,” Allen observed. “What’s done in the dark, will come to light.”
“These are very powerful people, who covered it up 49 years ago,” he added. “I was surprised when they wanted to cover it up today. This is a story they don’t want out.”
Jason Clarke, who plays Kennedy, said, “This is a seminal moment in American political history without a doubt.”
"It's understanding power and how it can be abused." The cast and crew of @ChapquiddickMov take us behind the scenes of the upcoming suspense drama. https://t.co/Q0Wc0L9Wi5 #Chappaquiddick pic.twitter.com/2X2w0keVRg
— IMDb (@IMDb) April 2, 2018
Co-producer Campbell McInnes stated the response after the Chappaquiddick incident was “really about protecting the Kennedy legacy and also protecting the potential for him to ultimately become president.” The senator faced the prospect of being charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Fellow producer Mark Ciardi said, “The story is about power and how it can be abused.”
Kennedy would run for president in 1980, but questions surrounding his actions on Chappaquiddick plagued his candidacy, even 11 years later.
“Chappaquiddick” opens in theaters nationwide on Friday.
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