‘Scoop’ Review: Prince Andrew’s Downfall Minute By Minute

This Netflix movie successfully turns Prince Andrew's disastrous 2019 BBC interview into a thriller—even though we already know the outcome.

Rufus Sewell in Scoop. PETER MOUNTAIN/NETFLIX

Give someone enough rope, they’ll hang themselves. Or so goes the adage. But that is what happened to Prince Andrew when he sat down for an ill-advised interview with the BBC’s Emily Maitlis in 2019 and took the opportunity make a complete ass of himself in the wake of his buddy Jeffrey Epstein’s arrest. The interview made for compelling, meme-able television, even to those outside of the U.K., and its impact lingers still. Prince Andrew remains disgraced, stripped of his duties as a working royal, and the British royal family continues to struggle with how to engage with the media. 

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SCOOP ★★★1/2 (3.5/4 stars)
Directed by: Philip Martin
Written by: Peter Moffat
Starring: Gillian Anderson, Rufus Sewell, Billie Piper
Running time: 105 mins.


But the chaotic, almost unbelievable interview, which featured Prince Andrew claiming he doesn’t sweat, among other gems, has a backstory that is nearly as interesting as the sit-down itself. That’s the basis of Scoop, a dramatized version of the behind-the-scenes efforts of Newsnight to convince Prince Andrew to discuss his association with Epstein on air. Directed by Philip Martin, who helmed several episodes of The Crown, and written by Peter Moffat, the film draws its primary inspiration from former Newsnight booker Sam McAlister’s 2023 tome Scoops: Behind the Scenes of the BBC’s Most Shocking Interviews. It’s McAlister, played winningly by Billie Piper, who is at the heart of the story as she struggles to prove herself to her better-educated co-workers. 

Gillian Anderson, Billie Piper, and Romola Garai in Scoop. PETER MOUNTAIN/NETFLIX

It’s by chance that Sam, a single mom from a working class background, connects with Amanda Thirsk (Keeley Hawes), the private secretary to Prince Andrew (Rufus Sewell in a fat suit). The palace is attempting to promote his entrepreneur program, Pitch@Palace, but when Epstein’s arrest takes over the airwaves everyone’s attention shifts to the claim that the prince slept with a 17-year-old trafficked by the disgraced businessman. Sam convinces Amanda that the best place for Prince Andrew to explain his side of the story is on Newsnight, in an interview with Emily (a transformed Gillian Anderson, playing yet another notable figure up against the royal family). There is a series of negotiations, which are fascinating to watch, and then 72 hours to prepare. 

The interview itself is an essential component of the film, which recreates about 20 minutes of the actual hour that aired. Anderson and Sewell are pitch-perfect as they go toe to toe in front of the cameras, with Emily dangling just enough of the aforementioned rope for the royal to tie his own noose. It’s compelling to see how Emily builds herself up to the moment, a high-pressure situation that proved her worth as a journalist, although it’s less so to see how Prince Andrew reacts when he oddly discovers the subsequent backlash while naked in the bath (if the royal family didn’t already hate Netflix they certainly will now). 

Scoop is presented as a thriller, which works. Although we know the outcome, Martin successfully immerses us in the narrative in a way where it feels precarious. Will Newsnight land the interview? Will Emily get Prince Andrew to say something incriminating? Will Sam get the credit she clearly deserves? It all plays out with a sense of momentum that keeps you on the edge of your seat—an impressive feat. It also is a tribute to journalism, like Spotlight or She Said, and American viewers may be especially interested in the machinations of the BBC, which is not quite as independent as one might assume. It’s insane to learn that the royals recorded the interview while it was being taped in case Queen Elizabeth II wanted to pull the plug. Somehow, Prince Andrew—and perhaps everyone else in the palace—thought it was a success and let it air. While the film showcases a very-near moment in history, it’s still one that resonates, reminding us that it’s important to have journalists who hold powerful men to account. Especially if those powerful men are as dumb as Sewell’s version of Andrew. 


Observer Reviews are regular assessments of new and noteworthy cinema.

 

‘Scoop’ Review: Prince Andrew’s Downfall Minute By Minute