Tim Jackson’s “Chappaquiddick”

Tim Jackson is a man of many talents. And many stories.

He sat behind the Nixon daughters when the Beatles appeared on “Ed Sullivan” in 1964 — an event that launched his musical career.

He got kicked out of the Staples High School orchestra for “not being serious.” His band, The Loved Ones, opened for the Rascals at Staples.

Jackson majored in drama at Ithaca College. He went on to play drums in several bands (and open for Bruce Springsteen).

He toured with Tom Rush and LaVern Baker, and recorded often. His ’60s band — The Band That Time Forgot — has performed for over 30 years.

Jackson earned a master’s in education, and taught film history and production. He’s making a film about Westport poet and author Joan Walsh Anglund.

Joan Walsh Anglund and Tim Jackson. (Photo/Ted Horowitz)

He’s acted in enough plays, films and commercials to get — and keep — his SAG and AFTRA cards. “I’ve been in nothing you’ve ever heard of,” he says.

But you’ve heard of his latest gig. “Chappaquiddick” opened a couple of days ago. The movie explores the 1969 story of Ted Kennedy. The Massachusetts senator drove his car off a narrow bridge on an island off Martha’s Vineyard, killing Mary Jo Kopechne, a 28-year-old former campaign worker of his slain brother Bobby, with whom he had been partying all night.

Jackson plays Kopechne’s father, Joe. He’s seen at her funeral; dismissing Kennedy’s cousin and confidante Joe Gargan, in order to talk to the senator; and watching Kennedy’s nationally televised speech a few days after the accident.

Tim Jackson (center) and his screen wife at their daughter Mary Jo Kopechne’s funeral, in “Chappaquiddick.” He says he got the role because of his “mournful countenance.” (Photo courtesy of Dennis Jackson)

“I spent all day watching a fake TV, looking depressed with the woman who plays my wife,” Jackson says about that scene.

All afternoon he puffed on a cigarette that emitted plenty of smoke (but had no tobacco). He prepared by channeling his mother, a chain smoker. The cameraman wore a gas mask.

Director John Curran’s former art teacher was cast as Kopechne’s neighbor. He and his screen “wife” deliver a casserole to the Kopechnes, who shoo them away. The teacher was nervous, but Jackson — a longtime drama teacher — reassured him: “Don’t act. Just be the neighbors.”

Tim Jackson (2nd from right), and (right) his movie wife, Gwen Kopechne. The couple on the left play the Kopechnes’ neighbors in “Chappaquiddick.”

Jackson calls the film “a dark comedy of manners. It’s not absolutely accusatory about Kennedy’s criminal act. It just shows him in a situation that raises a lot of questions, in a family with a lot of questionable dealings. It doesn’t go for the jugular. It’s ambivalent.”

One of Jackson’s previous roles was in “Unsolved Mysteries.”

Sounds like a perfect description of “Chappaquiddick” — the movie, and the real life story.

(Jackson shares many more insights about the film on the Arts Fuse blog. Hat tip: Peter Gambaccini)

12 responses to “Tim Jackson’s “Chappaquiddick”

  1. Fred Cantor

    Tim’s article in ArtsFuse is a fascinating piece from the actor’s perspective.

    Also, if you love discovering obscure songs that, after hearing them, you wonder: “how was this not a hit?”–check out “When Things Go Wrong” by Tim’s band in the early 80s, Robin Lane & The Chartbusters.

  2. Here’s a link to the song Fred mentions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmal44ODYjE

  3. Variety offers a different view of the movie than that which is presented here. I would suggest we see the movie and make our own minds with respect to its nature, but why bother. We all know what happened; Teddy Killed Mary Jo and used his family’s influence to get away virtually without a scratch..


    • Dave Stalling

      Good, thought-provoking piece; thanks for sharing.

    • Kathryn Sirico

      Said exactly as I believe it happened. They have been getting away with people dying on their watch for years. Everyone is worried about Stormy Daniels. None beat the Kennnedy cheats snd liars starting with the father. They also have paid dearly.

      • Not to take sides, but many of the Kennedys died tragically.

      • Dave Stalling

        I don’t understand the connection between Stormy Daniels and the Kennedys? Are you suggesting nobody should care or worry about possible current wrong doings because the Kennedys May have done bad things in the past?

  4. Seth Goltzer

    Teddy left Mary Jo to suffocate……period. No mystery or alternate facts.
    Fortunately he’s where he belongs, a very hot place….

    • Dave Stalling

      You might be correct, but unless you were there, it’s conjecture and speculative. The facts remain a mystery on which numerous opinions exist.

  5. Congrats to Tim! Always loved him. 🙂

    • Peter Gambaccini

      Congratulations to Tim for all he’s accomplished. He’s also one of the more eloquent film reviewers whose work is available online.

  6. Loved seeing the photo of Joan Walsh Anglund and Tim. She was an important part of my life growing up in Westport. I was best friends with her son Todd and she used to give me rides to Staples most mornings. I lost touch with her when I moved away. I got a message from her husband that Todd had passed away and then he also passed. She moved away and I never heard from her again. Glad to see she is still around!