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April 5, 2024 / Netflix

Starring: Gillian Anderson, Billie Piper, Rufus Sewell, Keeley Hawes, Romola Garai, Richard Goulding, Amanda Redman

Directed By: Philip Martin

Inspired by real events, this fictional dramatization gives an insider account of how the women of the BBC series Newsnight secured Prince Andrew’s infamous interview.

Written By Darren Zakus

Rating 3.5 out of 5

Scoop features a strong ensemble cast with great performances from Billie Piper, Gillian Anderson and Rufus Sewell as the story behind securing Prince Andrew’s infamous image shattering interview is told, even if the screenplay struggles to find enough material to flesh out the story beyond what we saw unfold in the media headlines.

The Royal Family has been making headlines recently between the health of King Charles III and Kate Middleton’s alleged foray into photoshop and her unfortunate cancer diagnosis. It’s apt timing for the latest Netflix original film, and no doubt one that will get the Palace press office up in arms as one of the black marks on the Royal Family’s image is being dredged up again: Prince Andrew’s involvement with Jeffrey Epstein. Prince Andrew made headlines in 2014 after his involvement with Epstein and Epstein’s sex trafficking of underaged women was alleged in legal documents, to which he has admittedly denied. The public relations disaster ultimately led to Prince Andrew stepping back from his public duties as a working Royal years later and eventually being stripped of all his patronages and influence as a member of the Royal Family. The spark was an award winning, unprecedented interview from the Newsnight team at the BBC conducted in absolute secrecy with Prince Andrew. While the interview itself is an incredible piece of journalism, Prince Andrew’s appearance in it is largely regarded as one of the biggest public relations fiascos of the Royal Family’s history, gaining him negative press worldwide. While you can watch Prince Andrew’s infamous interview in full length online, the latest Netflix original film tells the story behind the interview and how the BBC team secured the interview of a lifetime. The thematic material at play is no doubt enthralling, and with veteran actors like Gillian Anderson and Rufus Sewell in the lead roles, there is no doubt enough to draw audiences into the film. But, the screenplay itself remains rather flat and cannot create the invigorating journalism drama that it so desperately wants to be.

Adapting true stories about widely known events to the screen is challenging as the screenwriters have to balance the story audiences know with an insight that they were not previously privy to. The basis for Scoop is former Newsnight producer Sam McAllister’s book, and with McAllister being the individual at the BBC who was instrumental in securing Prince Andrew’s interview, it's a good starting point. Peter Moffat’s screenplay goes through the motions, focusing largely on McAllister’s efforts in pursuing Prince Andrew’s private secretary at the time despite being constantly told there was no story present by her superiors. During the film’s first half, Moffat captures not only McAllister’s efforts but the corporate turmoil within the BBC that made this a dangerous time for her to pursue an interview with a remote chance of success. This creates a hook to invest the audience in the story of the women behind the interview, before getting to the infamous interview itself.

However, once the interview is secured, Moffat quickly zips through the interview preparation where Anderson’s Emily Maitlis becomes more involved in the story, rushing to get to the interview and its fallout for Prince Andrew. While there is no question that audiences want to see the interview re-enacted, especially with the tease of watching Anderson and Sewell go head to head, there is little to explore thematically here and the film did not need to devote as much time to it as it did. We’ve all seen clips of the interview and know how Prince Andrew was perceived, so there is little for Moffat to add to the dialogue surrounding it, other than creating a showcase moment for the cast. The focus in the film’s latter half should have been the interview preparation, giving audiences the behind the scenes look at how Maitlis and her team laid the groundwork for the landmark piece of journalism they created. It’s not detrimental to the overall entertainment of the film, as the interview sequence is without question exhilarating to watch. But, when compared to other great journalism films we have gotten in recent years such as Bombshell and Spotlight which also both focus on egregious abuses of power and influence, Scoop does not have the lasting impact on its viewers that these films did as it does not have much new to add to the discourse.

What saves Scoop from being a run of the mill journalism drama is the film’s strong ensemble cast. Anderson is lethal as Maitlis, bringing a steely strength to the role that Anderson has displayed consistently over her career. Sewell is pitch perfect as the sniveling and arrogant Prince Andrew under layers of prosthetics. The interview scene between Anderson and Sewell is a true showcase of excellent acting, during which these two actors give it their all while recreating the legendary interview and once again making Prince Andrew out to be a privileged man with zero regard for the damage he contributed to. Keeley Hawes captures the trusting and caring nature of Amanda Thirsk, Prince Andrew’s private secretary, so blinded by her respect for the Royal Family that she cannot fathom that Prince Andrew would have actually participated in the events he was alleged to have. It’s a sympathetic performance that not only reminds the audience of the respect for the Crown and the Royal Family around the world, but reminds them of the dangers of blind faith without questioning the facts in front of you.

But, it is Billie Piper who truly stuns with her performance as Sam McAllister! Piper captures the tough as nails and determined booker for Newsnight that McAllister is, not afraid to ruffle feathers to secure what she knows to be the story worth telling, despite causing friction with her coworkers. Never for a second does Piper lose sight of the force of nature that McAllister is, while simultaneously capturing McAllister’s flashier personality that is everything that the BBC is not. In every scene, Piper captures the nuances in Moffat’s screenplay that showcases all sides of McAllister, focusing on her as a mother just as much as a seeker of truth. This ensures that this story about one of the most important interviews in recent history is grounded by individual stories of those responsible for it, not merely by the headlines we all remember.

Come for the story and stay for the excellent performances that make Scoop an entertaining journalism drama. Even though many of us saw the original interview and the public outrage as Prince Andrew’s behaviour during it, Scoop provides enough of a behind the scenes look at this landmark piece of journalism to satisfy revisiting it, even if it could have done more to create a truly great journalism drama. With a tremendous trio of lead performances from Billie Piper, Gillian Anderson and Rufus Sewell, Scoop more than satisfies the audience’s thirst for journalism drama thanks to the riveting re-staging of the interview between Emily Maitlis and Prince Andrew that ended any sort of royal duties for him, even if it could have dug deeper into the efforts of the BBC team to provide a more worthy adaptation of this true story.

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