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"It was a convenient place to stay."—Prince Andrew, BBC Newsnight interview, November, 2019

It seems, frankly, unbelievable that Prince Andrew would agree to be interviewed by the BBC in such an open-ended way, and it's even more incredible that he thought it went well! What kind of a bubble do you have to live in to say things like "I don't sweat" and "It was a convenient place to stay", and think afterwards, "I really nailed that"? Well, we know what kind of bubble he lived in. The royal bubble is made of iron. Still, Prince Andrew has an entire PR team working for him. The PR people live in the real world, presumably, and know how to avoid hazards. Why would they allow this? Prince Andrew and his people strolled into the interview thinking it was a good idea, and the end result was described by Charlie Proctor, editor-in-chief of Royal Central, as "a plane crashing into an oil tanker, causing a tsunami, triggering a nuclear explosion level bad." "Scoop," an entertaining movie directed by Philip Martin, based on Sam McAlister's book Scoops: Behind the Scenes of the BBC's Most Shocking Interviews, shows how it happened.

Sam McAlister (Billie Piper) is a junior producer on BBC Newsnight, whose main job is booking the guests. She has a reputation for getting guests who were thought un-gettable. She's different from the serious-minded journalists surrounding her at the BBC. Her hair is bleached blonde, she dresses in tight leather clothes, and she's constantly dashing in and out of the office. The other journalists look down on her. She's not "one of them". "Erin Brockovich" covered identical territory.

Sam gets a crazy idea. Prince Andrew, steeped in rumors and scandals for almost a decade due to his "friendship" with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein (still alive at this point), starts an "initiative" called Pitch Palace, to encourage "young entrepreneurs". There's an email address, an entryway to the notoriously close-mouthed "palace". Sam gives it a shot. She eventually makes contact with Amanda Thirsk (Keeley Hawes), Prince Andrew's closest aide. Amanda, surprisingly, is intrigued by the idea of the interview. But how to convince Andrew? How to convince Andrew's mum? Sam and Amanda circle each other warily, never agreeing to anything, keeping cards close to their chest. Everything changes when the news breaks of Epstein's suicide in August 2019.

The scoop, when it comes, is Sam's. She asks specifically for Emily Maitlis (Gillian Anderson) to do the interview. Maitlis is a BBC newsreader and journalist, who sweeps through the offices, holding a whippet on a leash, far above the lowly concerns of her colleagues. She and Sam could not be more different from one another, but as the interview becomes a real possibility, the two women lean on each other. Emily has skills Sam does not, and vice versa. They make a powerful team.

In between the frenzied behind-the-scenes action at the BBC, we watch Prince Andrew in his natural habitat, and it is not a pretty picture. Rufus Sewell plays Andrew as a bully and a little bit of a loser, a "mummy's boy" who vastly over-rates his own charisma. He may be able to "work" a room, but he is dense as fog in other respects. Palace staff have horror stories about "working for" Andrew, and there's a painful scene where he berates a terrified maid. Sewell's resemblance to Andrew is at times uncanny, particularly the voice. Andrew's is such a tinny royal voice, like air doesn't flow freely over the vocal cords. Sewell exudes Andrew's sense of confusion and irritation coming from his sense of superiority, his entire attitude an impatient "When will people stop making such a fuss about this whole Epstein business?"

There's a propulsive force to every scene in "Scoop," with Sam propelling us forward as she stalks across lobbies and down hallways in her thigh-high boots. Presenting the entire BBC news organization as a bunch of bores without any good ideas is probably very unfair, but this is, essentially, an underdog story. Sam, the booking agent, the one nobody takes seriously, arranged the interview of the century. (In its own sly way, the film is a tribute to producers.)

The interview is shown almost in full, with Anderson and Sewell perfectly capturing the extremely strange and tense atmosphere of the original. This time, though, we get to see the people behind the camera, the expressions on everyone's faces when they realize how poorly this is going. McAlister writers in her book that she was looking around at everybody else, shocked at the words coming out of the Prince's mouth. He can't have just said "I don't sweat", can he? Did that just happen?

The events in "Scoop" are from the extremely recent past, and we've all seen the interview, so there may be no surprises here. The interest comes in the details. There's a small moment when Sam takes the bus home, exhausted, and looks at a group of teenage girls sitting at the front, laughing and chattering loudly. A look comes over Sam's face—thoughtful, sad, worried. It's obvious what she's thinking. Epstein's victims were that age. "Scoop" is so focused on "getting the story" that sometimes it's easy to forget what the story actually is. The real story isn't about some embarrassing interview given by a disgraced Prince. It's about the elite preying on the weak. "Scoop" doesn't use dialogue to get this across. It's all on Piper's face as she looks at those carefree teenage girls.

Sheila O'Malley

Sheila O'Malley received a BFA in Theatre from the University of Rhode Island and a Master's in Acting from the Actors Studio MFA Program. Read her answers to our Movie Love Questionnaire here.

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Film Credits

Scoop movie poster

Scoop (2024)

102 minutes


Gillian Anderson as Emily Maitlis

Billie Piper as Sam McAlister

Rufus Sewell as Prince Andrew

Keeley Hawes as Amanda Thirsk

Romola Garai as Esme Wren

Richard Goulding as Stewart Maclean

Amanda Redman as Sam's Mother

Connor Swindells as Jae Donnelly

Lia Williams as Fran Unsworth

Charity Wakefield as Princess Beatrice



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