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Gillian Anderson and Rufus Sewell & Royal Scandal

On November 16, 2019 the BBC got a “scoop” that just might have saved Britain’s premiere network for news. That is the night they aired their seemingly impossible “get” of HRH Prince Andrew actually sitting down with the BBC’s signature news show, Newsnight to talk about the raging scandal over his relationship with the notorious Jeffrey Epstein, as well as his alleged sexual encounters with Virginia Roberts. However the facts of the matter, such as they were, are not at all what the new Netflix film, Scoop, is all about.

Instead, much like She Said, The Post, Spotlight, All The President’s Men, the emphasis here is on the reporters, on the journalists who incredibly negotiated a sit-down interview with Andrew when such a thing would be unthinkable. It is also unthinkable, that in a man’s world still for this sort of thing, it was four key women who pulled it all off just at a time when facts themselves were on trial and the future of legitimate news gathering was under the microscope in an ever-changing profession that was under attack.

Scoop puts the focus squarely on the booker, Sam McAllister (Billie Piper) who was bound and determined to shoot for the stars in nailing an interview no one really thought would be possible. I mean why would a member of the Royal family submit for this kind of interrogation on a hot button story when these accusations have already done irreparable harm to his reputation, the Queen, and the family at large? Director Philip Martin working with an exceptional script from Peter Moffatt & Geoff Bussetil, slowly and methodically shows how it was done in highly suspenseful style.

It doesn’t matter that we already are well aware of how it turned out, obviously not well for a sweating Prince Andrew (Rufus Sewell) fumbling all the questions posed by the no-nonsense veteran anchor Emily Maitlis (Gillian Anderson) who played it cool as a cucumber in letting the Prince basically hang himself. Scoop is about the way it all happened, not really the main event itself even though that infamous interview is meticulously recreated and played for all it’s worth by Anderson and Sewell, both careful not to turn this all into a couple of not-credible imitations but rather two pros getting right at the essence of the real life and still living subjects they are playing.

The filmmakers present the whole situation as one of increduity. Why would he ever agree to this, even at the same time they are presenting a viable answer to that, one that massaged the ego of this once popular Royal looking to clear his name and get back in the good graces of the British public, not to mention his mother, the Queen, who always had thought of him as her favorite. It demonstrated the narcisism of those in the limelight who think they can get away with anything. Sound familiar? It also, in fascinating fashion, shows the cat and mouse game of negotiation between two behemoths, the BBC and the most admired and important news program there was (think 60 Minutes), and the Palace which never agrees to this sort of thing but…..

Sewell is superb in more than suggesting the real Prince Andrew without turning it into a exageration. The same goes for Anderson, playing a living person for the first time, and meeting the challenge of making a giant of the news business believable, even considering this woman has been on the air in people’s living rooms for four decades. But it is Piper who simply nails the tenacity and drive of McAllister who would not give up against all odds of landing this interview. The moment when she is told Andrew’s private secretary is on the phone is simply thrilling. That character, Amanda Thirsk is played brilliantly, and with admirable restraint, by Keeley Hawes, serving as sort of the key to the whole enterprise. Also excellent is veteran Romola Garai as the very sane and dedicated editor who knows this could turn around everything for her show and the BBC if they nab this interview.

If Scoop doesn’t quite reach the levels of the aforementioned film classics that have focused on what goes into bringing the truth and the goods to the public in the form of credible and reliable hardcore journalistic ethics, it certainly comes close on its own modest terms. And significantly it manages to keep up on the edge our seats even if we do indeed know how it all ends. No small task.

Producers are Hilary Salmon and Radford Neville.

Title: Scoop

Distributor: Netflix

Release Date: April 5, 2024 (Streaming)

Director: Philip Martin

Screenplay: Peter Moffatt & Geoff Bussetil

Cast: Billie Piper, Gillian Anderson, Rufus Sewell, Keeley Hawes, Romola Garai

Rating: TV-14

Running Time: 1 hour and 42 minutes

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