Photos Of The Real 'Chappaquiddick' People Vs. The Actors Who Play Them Are Truly Striking

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Ted Kennedy's career, successful as it seemed, had a long shadow hanging over it. In 1969, what was supposed to be a lighthearted social gathering turned dark when later in the evening, Kennedy's car flew off the small, unrailed Dike Bridge into the water. Kennedy swam free, but his passenger Mary Jo Kopechne remained trapped inside. The car was pulled from the water the next day, with Kopechne's body inside. A woman's life ended, multiple young women's careers were derailed, and Kennedy's presidential aspirations were permanently dashed. Few involved have ever spoken publicly about the night, and it's especially eerie to see photos of the real Chappaquiddick people vs their movie counterparts.

The movie, out now, takes a harder look at Kennedy's actions that fateful night, although what's actually known is limited. The politician organized a party to celebrate with a group of women who had worked hard on his older brother's presidential campaign, known as the Boiler Room Girls. Towards the end of the evening, time disputed, reasons unknown, Kennedy drove off with one of the women, Mary Jo Kopechne. She never returned. The next day, Kennedy's car was retrieved from the water beneath an unrailed wooden bridge leading to another island. Inside was Kopechne.

Debates go on to this day as to why she and Kennedy left the party, who had been drinking and how much, and why Kennedy didn't call for help after he came ashore from the crashed vehicle, leaving Kopechne behind. In Chappaquiddick's version, some people claim that Kopechne was alive for at least an hour after the car sank, trapped inside, and could have been rescued had Kennedy immediately phoned for help. But with the only people actually involved now both gone, everything added to the discussion is hearsay or assumption. Kennedy went on to have a long and storied Senate career, while Kopechne's death is bandied about by conspiracy theorists. Though it pushes its own point of view, Chappaquiddick at least gives some humanity to people most only know as names from a newspaper.

Mary Jo Kopechne / Kate Mara
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House Of Cards' Kate Mara brings Kopechne to life. The campaign worker left politics after the sudden and devastating assassination of Robert Kennedy; many closer to Kennedy believe the Boiler Room gathering was his excuse to get her to return.

Ted Kennedy / Jason Clarke
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After three jarring deaths — his oldest brother died in WWII, and brothers Robert and John were assassinated — the youngest Kennedy bore the additional pressure of carrying on the family political legacy. Many assumed he would seek, or feel compelled, to announce a presidential run by the end of 1969.

The Boiler Room Girls / Olivia Thirlby
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Olivia Thirlby plays "Rachel Schiff", an amalgam of the various Boiler Room girls, young women who oversaw various regions during Robert Kennedy's truncated presidential run. Most are still alive and went into law practice.

Robert McNamara / Clancy Brown
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Clancy Brown brings an imposing stature to the Secretary Of Defense under John F. Kennedy. He was considered responsible for escalating the Vietnam war, and by 1969 had left the position to become President of the World Bank. He was a family friend of the Kennedy's with a lot of political pull.

Joseph Gargan / Ed Helms
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A Kennedy cousin who grew up with Ted, Joe Gargan was a practicing lawyer. The party that night was hosted at his cottage, and he was one of two men who walked back to the scene once Ted had returned after the accident. Gargan said they attempted to rescue Kopechne but couldn't, and insisted they call the police immediately, according to the Boston Globe. Kennedy waited hours before reporting the accident.

Joe Kennedy Sr. / Bruce Dern

A powerful political figure and head of the Kennedy clan, Joe Kennedy was an intimidating man, even after a stroke left him wheelchair-bound. Chappaquiddick implies that he was the person Ted turned to when he realized his career was on the line.

Though the film is a tight drama focused on what went on behind closed doors in a short span of time, many of Chappaquiddick's characters went on to have a deep and lasting influence on American politics and policy. The film stares hard at one man's moral failing and presents the circle of influence ready to shield him, something the newspapers could never have reported.