Thursday, May 23, 2024

​Entertainment Review: Scoop

It’s a generic title, as if nobody in the production team could not be bothered about a catchy one, because the content was enough to grab the eyeballs of the film’s target audience. People who are fascinated with British Royalty and people who enjoy watching them squirm- which is what happened in the true story this Netflix movie picks up for Scoop.

Directed by Philip Martin, adapted by Geoff Bussetil and Peter Moffat from Sam McAlister’s book, Scoops, on how the team of the BBC show Newsnight, bagged an interview with Prince Andrew (in 2019), after his past association with the disgraced sex offender Jeffrey Epstein threatens to blow up again. That expose was the work of a persistent paparazzo, Jae Donnelly (Connor Swindells), in New York, nine years earlier, but the “Playboy Prince” scandal refuses to go away even when he (Rufus Sewell made to look like a dead ringer for the Prince) presents a serious and friendly side.

A newly hired PR man is all in favour of an invite the press to tea kind of cozying up to the media, but Sam McAlister (Billie Piper), the ‘booker’ for the BBC’s interview show Newsnight, anchored by Emily Maitlis  (Gillian Anderson), reaches Andrew’s beleaguered private secretary Amanda Thirsk (Keeley Hawes) and convinces her that “an hour of television could change everything.”  Epstein being arrested again for child trafficking, and then dying in prison, splashes the old muck back on the Prince.

For Sam, this professional high could change the way her snooty BBC colleagues view her, as “too Daily Mail,” because she has more of an understanding of what the public wants, and voices her disdain for the way the BBC handles the news. The once great organization, unable to keep up with the times, is losing viewership and being forced to go for job cuts.

After a lot of back and forth, the Prince agrees to do the interview, with unexpected consequences. He thought it would clean up his tarnished image somewhat, but the resulting uproar did just the opposite, though what he suffered was embarrassment and a royal slap on the wrist.  Still, the story of how a member of the royal family was brought down, has been deemed interesting enough for another screen version to be in the works, this one being developed by Emily Maitlis for Amazon, starring Michael Sheen and Ruth Wilson.

More than the interview—later called  “a car crash”—what is interesting is all the subtext to do with class, a rapidly changing society, social media leaving the yellowest of tabloids behind. Not to mention the continuing fixation with the royal family, blended with the desire to cut them to size, as the current drama involving Princess Kate shows. So vicious the media trolling gets, that Prince Henry and his wife Meghan Markle chose to give up their royal titles and move to the US.

Prince Andrews did abuse his privilege and deserved no sympathy. The one who comes off as the heroine of this film is the scrappy Sam McAlister, who wants to be respected for the work she does. The real Sam is a co-producer on the show, and the fact that she is played by Billie Piper, who was once tabloid fodder herself, is a smart bit of casting.


Directed by Philip Martin

Cast: Gillian Anderson, Billie Piper, Rufus Sewell, Keelty Hawes and others

On Netflix

Deepa Gahlot
Deepa Gahlot is one of India’s seniormost and best-known entertainment journalists. A National Award-winning fim critic and author of several books on film and theatre. She tweets at @deepagahlot

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