Scoop – Anatomy of a Royal Interview

MOVIE REVIEW – Gillian Anderson and Billie Piper dive headfirst into the treacherous world of media in Philip Martin’s masterfully tense portrayal, revealing the downfall of Prince Andrew. The scandal-ridden royal’s claim of an inability to sweat will have viewers’ palms sweating as they watch this Netflix piece immortalizing that unforgettable BBC Newsnight interview.


It doesn’t detract from Scoop’s merits to say it doesn’t bring more excitement than the real-life news piece it’s based on. Nor does it deliver less; the broadcast was a sensation: the 2019 BBC Newsnight episode where Emily Maitlis grilled Prince Andrew about his association with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. This was the moment that saw the Duke of York condemned in the court of public opinion and stripped of his royal titles. However, Philip Martin’s stylish, swift Netflix movie is less concerned with aftermath or the Prince’s personal experiences, focusing instead on the media mechanisms and negotiations that made the interview possible, sharply spotlighting the women journalists, both in front of and behind the camera, who made it all happen.



Behind the Media Veil


Scoop sets the stage as the first of two projects this year inspired by the interview. The second, Amazon’s miniseries “A Very Royal Scandal,” starring Ruth Wilson and Michael Sheen, boasts Maitlis’ direct endorsement as an executive producer. Martin’s film takes a different route, crediting the less celebrated protagonist, Sam McAlister, a former Newsnight booker who tirelessly worked to secure the Prince’s participation, drawing from her memoir for Peter Moffat and Geoff Bussetil’s script. This shift in perspective refreshingly paints Scoop as the tale of an underdog battling against two towering British institutions – not just the fortress-like and prestigious House of Windsor but also the BBC, initially depicted as a rigid, almost classist entity resistant to innovators.

Casting Billie Piper was a savvy move, showcasing the former teen pop sensation who reversed her lightweight public persona to become a critically acclaimed actor. With her striking hairstyles and deliberately emphasized designer labels, Piper’s character enters with a prove-something energy, striding into the BBC to the tunes of “Don’t Rain on My Parade”—coincidentally, also her ringtone.



The Workshop of Media Secrets


McAlister, proud of her working-class roots and a single mother, confidently executes her job, securing A-list talents for Newsnight. Yet, her liberal colleagues scorn her supposed tabloid approach to journalism—in stark contrast to the well-mannered, conscientious Maitlis (Gillian Anderson, who not only offers a savvy imitation but also a portrayal filled with human determination), embodying the old-school BBC values. The screenplay simplifies certain details for the sake of a larger message, such as omitting that Maitlis is the sole Newsnight presenter from a state school.

“Why don’t they see me as one of them?” McAlister laments to her mother while simultaneously chiding her BBC peers for their principled snobbery, wishing aloud they had “half the instinct and a quarter of the contacts of the average tabloid paparazzo.” She especially thinks of New York-based photographer Jae Donnelly (Connor Swindells), who has been tracking Epstein for years — his 2010 snapshot of Prince Andrew chatting with the disgraced financier starkly features in the film’s tense prelude.

Nine years later, the men’s close friendship is hardly news, but McAlister senses another shoe about to drop, approaching the Prince’s private secretary Amanda Thirsk (Keeley Hawes) for interview access. Thirsk plays coy, while Newsnight producer Esmé Wren (Romola Garai) doubts they have a story. Epstein’s arrest for sex trafficking makes both women take McAlister’s proposition much more seriously.



Climax of the Conflict


When Piper fills the first half of Scoop with her decisive, powerful portrayal of McAlister, her job’s narrative grip loosens as the focus shifts to the public showdown between Maitlis and the Prince. Rufus Sewell embodies the Prince with just the right mix of dry, gruff aggression, his features softened believably by prosthetics, murky and evasive against Maitlis’ sharp focus but just irritated enough to inject some dramatic fizz into an encounter we’ve already seen unfold.

Martin and editor Kristina Hetherington cleverly expose the broadcast’s ultimate dynamic, interspersing rehearsals of questions and answers before diving into the simple joys of pop-culture reenactment. There’s a teasing flair to Anderson and Sewell’s faithful renditions of dialogues that have been endlessly memed, from the ludicrously mundane “Pizza Express in Woking” alibi to the absurd no-sweat defense.

At this juncture, Scoop can’t surprise anyone familiar with the media five years ago, though the simultaneous absurdity and horror of the interview—leaving its royal subject both defeated and defiant—startles anew. Condensing the aftermath into a few short scenes and title cards, plus a montage of shocked social media reactions, the screenplay finds a semblance of victory in Andrew’s subsequent royal demotion, lauding the integrity and power of the national broadcaster in holding power to account. (There’s a light irony in this celebration being housed in a Netflix production.)



The Endgame’s Paradox


In the midst of a liberating atmosphere, McAlister’s concerns about class discrimination within the BBC’s echelons momentarily step aside. Yet, the takeaway remains poignant: The Royal Family’s impervious elite status endures, with the Prince simultaneously reprimanded and shielded by his kin, untouched by criminal proceedings. The essence of Scoop also lies in its ability to frustrate: It sharply recalls the adrenaline rush and marvel of an hour of explosive television, yet it can’t bring us any closer to the complete truth or comprehensive justice.

-Gergely Herpai  (BadSector)-





Direction - 8.2
Actors - 8.2
Story - 8.4
Visuals/Music/Sounds - 7.8
Ambience - 8.4



Scoop offers a sophisticated and thrilling glimpse into the workings of the media and the depths of a royal scandal, while through its protagonists, it explores the eternal struggle for power and truth.

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BadSector is a seasoned journalist for more than twenty years. He communicates in English, Hungarian and French. He worked for several gaming magazines - including the Hungarian GameStar, where he worked 8 years as editor. (For our office address, email and phone number check out our impressum)

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