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Scoop tells the story of the women behind the Prince Andrew interview

Scoop tells the story of the women behind the Prince Andrew interview

Netflix's new film is not only bloody brilliant, it's all about the power of women.

There’s a moment in Scoop where Billie Piper’s character, Sam McAlister, is on the phone to her mother, who is yet again helping her daughter with childcare while Sam juggles the pressures of being a single mum with being a top news producer on the BBC’s toughest show: Newsnight. It’s November 2019 and Sam has just secured the world-exclusive interview with Prince Andrew, at the height of the sex trafficking scandal surrounding his late friend, Jeffrey Epstein.

It is the first time the Duke (played by a heavily prosthetic-ed Rufus Sewell) will address his own involvement in the scandal, having (remarkably) agreed to be grilled by Emily Maitlis (played by Gillian Anderson). (Prince Andrew has always strenuously denied any wrongdoing.)

With the top secret, high-stakes interview just a matter of hours away, Sam has found herself staying late at work, but is being sidelined by internal BBC politics at Newsnight. Sam’s mum asks her frustrated daughter one question: “Does this interview matter?” to which Sam, of course, responds “Yes Mum, it really matters.”

Scoop tells the story of the women behind the Prince Andrew interview

© 2023 Netflix, Inc.

Scoop is most certainly a film that matters. On the surface it could seem a niche subject (we already know the real life story) for Netflix to bank on as one of its biggest hitters of 2024, but by god, it’s bloody great TV. It made me laugh and it made me cry and it also delivers some exceptional performances.

But it’s the topics that this pacey, almost thriller-like film tackles that really give Scoop its gravitas and also its relevance today, nearly five years after said ‘scoop’. Topics including the blindness and abuse of privilege and its toxic, devastating consequences; the problematic British class system and the monarchy and the power of great journalism, which in the fake-news-saturated, A.I-encroaching times we’re living in has never felt more crucial. But it’s also about the power of women.

Last week when I interviewed Billie Piper, I also asked her why the film matters and she too pointed to the power of the women at the heart of it.

“I think the women behind this story, the inner workings of Newsnight and journalism, we have to shine a light on that, especially with a subject like this. I think it is an incredible feat,” she said. “I think it's hard work being a journalist, and I think it can be very dog eat dog, and they're all [the women] bringing something very different to the story, but they're integral as a three/four piece, and it's their power combined that make getting this interview on our screens. I feel like if there was one missing woman, one missing component, it wouldn't have been as successful as it was.”

And while the film’s main focus is not the appalling sex crimes of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, their young female victims are referenced throughout. Something His Royal Highness of course pointedly failed to do at any point during the entire interview, despite Emily giving him ample opportunity to. In fact, it’s very pointed that at the end of his film, when Andrew’s resignation from royal duties (a direct consequence of the interview) comes through the wires in the Newsnight newsroom that his statement finally, very deliberately refers to Epstein’s victims. “His [Epstein's] suicide has left many unanswered questions, particularly for his victims, and I deeply sympathise with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure. I can only hope that, in time, they will be able to rebuild their lives.”

Scoop tells the story of the women behind the Prince Andrew interview

© 2023 Netflix, Inc.

Critics may well argue that the victims’ experiences are being sidelined for a story that focuses on the drama surrounding the downfall of a Prince, but as Billie points out:

“It's very much the story of the women behind the interview, the journalism, and not so much a story about the victims or about Epstein or Maxwell, and I hope that's covered elsewhere. But I think we felt a responsibility to take a line on it and not dip in and out of the harder parts of this. And so the focus from the get-go was really Sam's story and account of real life events.”

Scoop is also a blistering attack on the royal family and all those in their orbit. It’s fair to say that neither the director, Philip Martin, nor the writers (the film is based on Sam McCalister’s original book, Scoops) are raving monarchists. And I was left thinking that it was a good thing the Queen is no longer with us, for although she does not feature in the film, she is often referenced and she does not get off lightly. The portrayal of Her Majesty’s judgement – or rather lack of it – when it came to her “favourite son” could not have been more damning. For it is “Mummy” who gives the Duke permission to participate in the Newsnight interview. “She says she always trusts my judgement,” says Sewell’s self-satisfied Andrew. The Prince is cast as a pathetic, almost grotesque figure, crass and guffawing as he remarks to the Newsnight team and in front of his daughter, Princess Beatrice, “I don’t know why everyone is so bothered about my friendship with Epstein, I knew Jimmy Saville much better!

His greeting to Emily when she enters the south drawing room at Buckingham Palace for the interview is simply to bark “trousers” while looking her outfit up and down. He also comes across – weirdly – as a figure of pathos, obsessing over his teddy bear collection (reprimanding a maid who doesn’t know his stuffed kangaroo’s name) and lamenting his childhood days being sent off to boarding school after Mummy combed his hair. It’s really tragic, but also adds to the grotesque.

Rufus Sewell is beyond brilliant and has said that he repeatedly watched and rewatched the interview to get every nuance of Andrew exactly right. And he succeeded. Gillian Anderson’s equally forensic analysis of Emily Maitlis’ masterclass in the art of interview is also tremendous. Keeley Hawes turn as Andrew’s Private Secretary, Amanda Thirsk, a woman who appears to be in awe of the Prince’s perceived charms is also a crucial woman in the story and offers an insight into the blindness of privilege to those in the periphery of power.

Scoop tells the story of the women behind the Prince Andrew interview

© 2023 Netflix, Inc.

The film is also disarmingly funny, which given the gravity of the allegations at the heart of the interview, could seem in poor taste, but also given the ludicrous nature of the now infamous, astonishing and meme-ified excuses that the Prince spewed to Emily: “I actually don’t sweat” “ I was at Pizza Express” it would have been impossible for the scriptwriters to not have added humour. At first it seems a little too glib, but by the end, they find the right balance between the light and dark.

At times, due to the fast pace of the story, I was left confused by the timeline of events. It darts about from 2010 and the now infamous pap shots of the Duke with Epstein in Central Park to Epstein’s house being raided by the FBI in July 2019, via his death by suicide a month later to the days leading up to the interview, in November 2019. If you weren’t up to speed on the Epstein story, you may well be a bit bamboozled by what’s going on.

But, as a journalist and one who worked briefly in the fast-paced, cut-throat world of TV news, it all comes back to THAT scoop. And what an incredible, shocking and history-making feat it was. Or as Billie said to me: “When I watched the interview, I was shocked. When I acted through the interview, I was shocked, and I'm still open-mouthed at how that got made, how it got through, how it cut across, how it fell apart. I just feel like the whole thing is one big why? How?”

Scoop is released on Netflix on Friday 5 April.

For more from GLAMOUR's Assistant Editor and Entertainment Director, Emily Maddick, follow her on Instagram on @emilymaddick