The true story behind Chappaquiddick is just as unbelievable now as it was then.

The film is a riveting account of the night the late Ted Kennedy drove his car off a bridge resulting in the drowning of young political strategist Mary Jo Kopechne. Not only did the promising 28-year-old tragically lose her life that fateful night due to Kennedy’s negligence, but history was forever altered.

Director John Curran and screenwriters Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan successfully dissect the 1969 investigation into what exactly took place on Martha’s Vineyard that summer night and the extensive and chaotic cover-up that followed the week after.

While Curran perfectly illustrates and exposes the broad reach of the political power of one of America’s most influential families, the sheer amount of research that went into this film is a testament to its authenticity.

Luckily for the filmmakers, Kennedy’s accident was well covered. The brilliant minds behind Chappaquiddick present the story in such a way that it will have even the most cynical viewer asking, “Wait, did this really happen? Does this still happen?”

Of course, it helps that the suspenseful screenplay is accompanied by a rock star ensemble consisting of Jason Clarke as Ted Kennedy, Kate Mara as Mary Jo Kopechne, Jim Gaffigan as Paul Markham and an unrecognizable Bruce Dern, as Ted’s father, Joe Kennedy Sr.

ScreenPicks had the pleasure of speaking with the director, writers and actors and here is what we learned about Chappaquiddick.

On whether they researched further than the inquest transcripts in order to establish as much authenticity as possible:

Taylor Allen: Yeah, we were really lucky that Chappaquiddick was the most well-documented car accident of all time, so we had a lot of material to draw from. Even limiting the scope of the movie to just seven days, there was still a lot of stuff to comb through. I am also really glad that, besides the thousands of pages of inquest testimonies, there are also books and journalism about it. In the end, we still didn’t have to come down too hard on suggesting that this is the definitive version of the way things really went down. Just like with the inquest transcripts, there are many perspectives, and I like to think the movie has some of those same elements. Like, it presents different versions of what happened and then it lets the audience decide what they think happened.

On their motivation for making the film and what they want audiences to take away:

Allen: I really wanted to tell a story about Ted Kennedy the man and what inspired me to write this story was why hadn’t I seen a movie about Ted Kennedy before. I had never seen an actor play him even though I have seen like six JFK’s and a few Bobby’s. When thinking about telling this story about the black sheep of the Kennedy family who has the legacy thrust on him, you’re going to narrow it down to what happens to be the most dramatic week of his life. Decisions were made at the highest level with the greatest stakes for his career long-term. All roads led back to Chappaquiddick.

On how Kennedy’s accident changed history:

John Curran: It is important to remember that If this accident didn’t happen, it is very likely that he [Ted Kennedy] would have skated into the nomination in 1972. It is very likely that he would have beaten Nixon. It is very likely that the Vietnam war would have ended earlier. We wouldn’t have Watergate. It’s a pivotal weekend in American history.

On writing the screenplay:

Andrew Logan: When we started writing it we never expected it to get made. We fell in love with the story and the character. We just wanted to write a good story and hoped that people would read it and think that we are decent at it. This is the first script that Taylor and I wrote together so we were just trying to hone in on something we were very passionate about.

Allen: We are really lucky that this is a story that fascinated us and other people, but we are also very lucky that Andrew’s father happens to be a lawyer and so with that sort of rigor to the truth and justice built into him as a writer, we didn’t skate loose on the facts. But largely the draft only changed because of production reasons. Our starting point was let’s stick to the facts and the truth as much as possible and let themes be the creative part.

On whether they have heard any feedback from the Kennedy family about the film:

Curran: Second hand, Yeah. But not directly. They’re not going to watch it. They know it’s being made. But it is understandable that they don’t want to have any connection to it or comment on it. The comment that came back to me, from a Kennedy was, “just remember they were humans.” And that really stuck with me. I think as a filmmaker we would be foolish to not approach the story as if they weren’t human beings and just a one-dimensional hit piece.

Allen: I was really happy that as we went down the path of making this movie we encountered no pressure from the Kennedy family.

On how they feel about the power of the press and the timing of the film given the film’s portrayal of how those at high levels can use the press to distract the public and spin stories in their favor:

Curran: The film couldn’t be more relevant. It is certainly a time of reckoning for powerful, entitled men. It became hyper-relevant mid-fall.

Allen: And to add to that, Andrew and I are from a different generation and did not live through these events at all. I do think in starting 2014, our north star from a character point of view was to make sure that the tragedy of Mary Jo Kopechne’s death was felt. She was a very promising young woman who was incredibly intelligent and capable as a campaign worker, but at the time, the press covered it as “blonde drowns.” You know, “floozy” and a lot of innuendoes and that added the compounded the tragedy of everything that occurred. And that is one thing we wanted people to come away with was that one of the biggest injustices was how a powerful man silenced a young and promising woman.

On finding funding for the script given the iconic status of the Kennedy family in Hollywood:

Allen: We wrote the script in our bedrooms in with nobody wanting to see it. Then when we turned in a very long draft, it was embarrassing that no one would want to read a story on this topic. Then we revised to the point it is now, we knew the best we could hope for was that it was an interesting story well told. We never expected it get made. In fact, I can’t tell you how many general meetings I’ve had with people who were like, “love the script, the greatest thing we’ve read all year, could never make it. My wife worked for Ted Kennedy.” And that was true at 10-12 different companies where someone had a connection to the family and did not want to make it. But that’s fine because one person did say yes and it only takes one yes to make a movie.

On whether he approached the project with an angle:

Curran: We could have gone a lot harder on Ted and we could have gone a lot softer. Two people could watch this film and one could love Ted Kennedy and other could hate Ted Kennedy and they are going to see two different films. No matter what you do this is a political film because it is about a politician.

On what led him to say yes to the role of tackling one of the most iconic political figures in U.S. history given he wasn’t born in the U.S. or alive when the incident happened:

Jason Clarke: It was a long process for me. A: to know that I wanted to do. B: Can I do it? And then, C, should I do it? I love the time and the history. I love politics. But I read the script on a plane about this conundrum where this man gets into this car accident then gives this speech and gets elected to the Senate again. I just thought, “Holy shit! How does this happen?” Then I read it again off the plane and I was like, “this isn’t real, this didn’t happen.” Then I went down the rabbit hole when I started thinking about how the young girl died, asking myself “how do I play a guy who does this to a girl?” “How does anyone even want to watch that?” It just never let me go. More I looked into this event and what came after it, to where we are now, it made sense to me where we are now. Nothing has changed. Just before the incident, Martin Luther King was shot and Kennedy had also seen both his brothers die. This gives more insight into the likely state of depression Ted was in at the time of the incident.

On meeting the late Ted Kennedy:

Clarke: I’m sure he was a fascinating man. I met him briefly at a boat race years ago. I was playing a Democratic politician for a Showtime series. A friend of mine said, “Ted Kennedy is over there, would you like to meet him?” And me, being a little boy from Australia, playing a politician I said of course and I shook his hand. I mean, he’s Ted Kennedy. His father was the U.S. ambassador during WWII, he negotiated with Nazi’s. There are so many fascinating things about this family.

On how he embodied Ted Kennedy and the accent:

Clarke: I like to look at pictures. There was this one picture of Kennedy leaning on a pole with one leg up. There are also a lot of great pictures of Ted working the phones. There was a great sailing video we got our hands on where he and Joe Grogan are sailing on the Ventura. The one scene where I call Mary Jo’s parents, I hold the phone the same way he did in the photographs. And accent wise it just took months because it’s so specific. There were also a lot of speeches. I listened to a lot of Bobby’s speeches.

On playing the serious role of former U.S. Attorney of Massachusetts, Paul Markham.

Jim Gaffigan: I come from an Irish Catholic family so all the Kennedy stories are alive and well. I have a large head and Kennedy’s have large heads (Laughs). But I think it is understanding the historical significance of Chappaquiddick and him getting the nomination. I remember there was an SNL sketch where one of the characters just said, “Chappaquiddick” every time Ted Kennedy opened his mouth and he couldn’t say anything. I also had a lot of interest in this because of the man Ted Kennedy because. For example, his influence in picking John Kerry. It was definitely a script I wanted to read.

On the research that he did for the role:

Gaffigan: The conversations I had with John was that I was to convey that Markham was unlike his cousin Joe Gargan. Paul wanted to get in the Kennedy circle, but you have to be careful what you wish for. He was excited that he was hanging out with Ted that weekend and had a bright career ahead of him. But then Ted pulled him into this that night and who knows, maybe he could have gone to the Supreme Court. Because after this incident people wondered if he contributed to the cover-up and if so, how?