'Scoop': Sex And The Duke


I was drawn to “Scoop,” a new movie on Netflix, for two reasons: The first, because I love Gillian Anderson, who plays BBC interviewer Emily Maitlis as imperiously as she played Margaret Thatcher on "The Crown."

Secondly, it offers the backstory to that excruciating 2019 BBC "Newsnight" interview with Prince Andrew, when he mentioned that his only mistake was in being “too loyal a friend” to sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Nine years before, the Queen’s purported favorite son had been photographed by a paparazzo taking a walk in New York City’s Central Park with the demented “financier” who had already served time in jail for having sex with an underage girl. At the time, Andrew stayed with Epstein in his East Side mansion for five days.

In Britain, the notorious photo appeared under the headline “Prince Andy and the Paedo.”



The Scoop story is told from the point of view of the scrappy BBC junior producer, Sam McAlister, (played by Billie Piper) who ultimately nabbed the interview and went on to write a book about it. The film is adapted from her book.

She’s shown as a scrunchy-haired, thigh-high-boot-wearing “Not Our Class, Darling” underdog at the starchy network, which was undergoing major staff cuts and attempts to be more “relevant” at the time.

As such, the focus is on McCalister, the hero who gets far more screen time than the pants-suited anchor who pulled off that interview with such cool mastery.

That was disappointing, but apparently the anchor Emily Maitlis has her own movie about the interview coming out this spring.

I didn’t realize that it was an all-female group at the BBC who pulled off the interview. In the film Maitlis’ character discloses that she pursued it for Monica Lewinsky. Maitlis felt she had let Lewinsky, and all women, down by not asking Bill Clinton about his actions when she got a chance to interview him.

And the interview was in important breakthrough for the 18-year-old Virginia Giuffre, who sued Andrew for sexual assault after testifying that she’d been trafficked to the prince numerous times. He ended up giving her a settlement.

There’s little glory for journalism in such a tawdry story, but it was an important win for the young women. Overall the film is a sort of B-version of “The Crown.”  (Same director.)

As “Scoop” shows,  it started with Andrew’s cringey launch of Pitch@Palace,a platform to help young entrepreneurs get matched with funders. He saw himself as the British answer to Donald Trump’s “Apprentice” and thought his jokes about “Mummy” were charming.

The junior producer had connected with Andrew’s private secretary, Amanda Thirsk, over covering that story, which an institution as heady as the BBC wouldn’t consider touching. But it proved to be her personal in.

Then the emergency of the Epstein suicide happened, and McAlister persuaded this loyal Palace insider that talking to the BBC could put an end to all of the humiliating coverage. “An hour of TV can change anything,” she said. “It’s magic.”

The movie presents a good, behind-the-scenes look at a deluded Buckingham PR system. Last month it was hard to believe that they could create so much needless tension and disturbance for an already suffering Princess Catherine by releasing that faked family photo, with its slightly withered limbs around the edges.  The royal air seems to still be full of that same arrogance and duplicity.

“Scoop” shows that the Palace PR people operated under a similar bubble of arrogance that allowed that baffling disconnect in judgment five years ago.

After the interview, The Duke of York was apparently rather pleased with himself. He nailed it, he thought, and he was in such a generous mood that he gave a tour of the Palace to the crew.

He didn’t realize it was his personal Waterloo until it aired that night.

When confronted with victim Giuffre’s testimony that they had danced at a club and he had sweated through his shirt, the prince responded “That can’t be true because I don’t sweat,” adding some preposterous explanation involving PTSD from time served in the Falklands. When asked why he would stay at Epstein’s house once he had become a felon, he responded, “It was a convenient place to stay.”

The best post-interview description came from Charlie Proctor, editor in chief of Royal Central. He assessed the interview as "a plane crashing into an oil tanker, causing a tsunami, triggering a nuclear explosion.” 

In brilliant, face-altering makeup, Rufus Sewell plays Andrew, and at times the princely resemblance is uncanny. Sewell exudes Andrew's amazing attitude of irritation about why there’s such a fuss being made about this Epstein issue.

In the end, of course, Queen Elizabeth stripped Andrew of his military titles and patronages.

But watching “Scoop,” it became clear that the story isn't only about some mortifying interview with a disgracefully out-of-touch prince.

Rather, and correctly, it’s about the elite preying on the weak, which has become even more relevant in 2024.  

I look forward to Maitlis’ version.

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