‘Scoop’ Review: The Story Behind That Prince Andrew Interview

‘Scoop’ Review: The Story Behind That Prince Andrew Interview

The exposés that brought public attention to Watergate, the predations of Harvey Weinstein and the abuse tolerated by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston have all been the subjects of movies. The drama revolved, in part, around the difficulty of getting people to talk.

Now comes the story of how the BBC program “Newsnight” landed its bombshell interview with Prince Andrew in 2019. Over a bizarre 49-minute segment, he unconvincingly addressed his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, the financier and convicted sex offender, and repeatedly denied accusations by Virginia Roberts Giuffre that, at 17, she had sex with the prince after being trafficked to him by Epstein. The interview was less world historic than David Frost’s conversations with an out-of-office Richard Nixon (themselves the basis for a play-turned-movie), but the fallout was real. Faced with widespread criticism, Prince Andrew resigned from public duties just days later.

How do you score an interview with a scandal-plagued royal? “Scoop,” directed by Philip Martin, chronicles the determined efforts of the producer Sam McAlister (Billie Piper), on whose book, “Scoops,” the film is based. Attending meetings at Buckingham Palace may lack the grit of shoe-leather reporting, but there is genuine psychology involved in convincing a famous figure that countering disapproval requires acknowledging it, and that the questions asked will be fair. Sam makes her case over multiple discussions with the prince’s personal secretary, Amanda Thirsk (Keeley Hawes), and eventually in a pitch to the prince himself (Rufus Sewell in significant makeup) alongside Emily Maitlis (Gillian Anderson), the journalist who hopes to interrogate him.

The film finds sufficient suspense in these negotiations and in Maitlis’s preparations for the encounter, a grilling that, in real life, she skillfully pulled off without ever registering as discourteous. Why Prince Andrew’s answers were so tone-deaf — he was panned for not expressing sympathy for Epstein’s victims — is a mystery that “Scoop” sidesteps. (McAlister and Thirsk exchange ambiguous glances as the taping concludes.)

What “Scoop” offers is the modest pleasure — to which any journalist is susceptible — of rooting for a reporting team to get a story. That, and mimicry: exceptional on Anderson’s part, less on that of Sewell, who has a raspier voice and a more passably serious manner than the prince displayed on TV.

Scoop
Not Rated. Running time: 1 hour 42 minutes. Watch on Netflix.

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