John Curran’s road to Chappaquiddick curved through continents.
He studied at Syracuse University, built a career in Australia and unleashed his talent in Los Angeles.
But it was long before all that, in Pittsford Sutherland High School, he found his passion.
“I had an art teacher Tom O’Brien … and I think he just recognized something in me while I was in 9th grade or 10th grade and I think didn’t really think about it as a career until I had him and he kind of kept me in line,” Curran said.
Curran is now the director of Chappaquiddick, a movie much of America will see this weekend.
The movie breathes new life into the 50-year-old story of Ted Kennedy’s car crash on Chappaquiddick Island that took the life of Mary Jo Kopechne.
The story would haunt and anchor Kennedy for the rest of his life.
It would also become politically fraught with those on the Right often citing it to make their case for liberal hypocrisy, which might lead one to believe Curran is a Republican, but that is not the case.
“It was a script that I was a little afraid to read because I’m a Teddy Kennedy fan and I just found it surprisingly nuanced and compelling and I liked that it wasn’t a one-dimensional hit piece and I like that it provoked more questions than it gave answers,” Curran said.
That said, Curran calls the Chappaquiddick incident a blind spot on the Left.
“You want to pick the good and ignore the bad, whether they are your heroes or political candidates. And I read this in 2016 while there were scandals on both sides of the aisle and I was kind of disgusted that I even hesitant to do it. It felt like I couldn’t accuse the other side of being blind to their candidate or hypocrites if I wasn’t willing to take a hard look at the people that I admire or would vote for,” Curran said.
For the movie, Currant cast his art teacher, Tom O’Brien, and Tom’s wife, Nancy, in bit parts; a move that brings Curran’s own story full circle.
“I’m vicariously with him all the way,” Tom O’Brien said with a big smile. “I’m overwhelmed and so proud and I keep telling him to keep on the direction he’s going.”
Curran now lives near the O’Briens in his home in Pittsford, where he moved back to more than a decade ago.
“I’m in New York a lot, I’m in LA a lot and I like the contrast. Being in LA as a filmmaker is a little bit redundant because everyone is in film, it’s nice to be here and be around people with different interests,” Curran said.