‘Scoop’ Is a Retelling of Prince Andrew’s ‘Newsnight’ Debacle—But It’s Also a Fascinating Account of Palace PR

All hail newsroom dramas

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Flash back to the end of Prince Andrew’s royal career in November 2019: Following his disastrous interview on the BBC’s Newsnight program about his ties with Jeffrey Epstein—the disgraced financier accused of sex trafficking—there was simply no path forward for the Duke of York. (He resigned from royal duties just days after it aired.) But how that interview came to be in the first place is the subject of a brand-new Netflix movie, Scoop—and I’d argue that it’s the most fascinating part of the entire film.

First, for anyone who lives on the edge of their seat during a newsroom drama—think Spotlight and She Said—this movie is for you. Rufus Sewell plays Prince Andrew; Gillian Anderson is Emily Maitlis, the BBC journalist and host of Newsnight whose line of questioning led the prince to seal his own fate. Based on the book Scoops by Sam McAlister, the BBC producer whose negotiating skills helped clinch the sit-down chat, the film offers a thrilling account of a first-rate reporting team on the cusp of landing an earth-shattering exclusive.

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Peter Mountain/Netflix

But that’s just it: The negotiations are what make this film so riveting to watch. Led by McAlister (played by Billie Piper), we see her quite literally pounding the pavement up to Buckingham Palace, patiently pitching and persuading Andrew’s then-personal secretary Amanda Thirsk (Keeley Hawes) and drawing “red lines” about the fact that no topic was off-limits if Andrew were to say yes. Front and center is the psychology and “dance” of landing a major, well, scoop. And this wasn’t just any scoop. It was a royal one.

This is where the fascination continues. As a royal reporter, I’m quite familiar with the mystery (and occasional mess) that is modern-day palace PR. In Scoop, we get a dramatized glimpse of what may—or may not have—been going on behind the scenes as Andrew’s communications team, plus the prince himself, weigh the pros and cons of a TV sit-down. In one scene, Andrew, appearing quite dumbfounded, laments the fact that he just can’t seem to shake his affiliation with Epstein. A press person brought in for damage control tells him, “There’s no quick fix to a story like this.” Andrew’s rude retort: “So you people keep telling me.”

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We also see scenes with Andrew being coached by Thirsk, who is desperate to help her boss come across in a good light, about what to say ahead of the interview. (At one point he refers to one of his accusers as “that woman” and gets an immediate reprimand: “Please don’t ever say, ‘that woman,’” Thirsk demands.)

Finally, there’s the conclusion of the sit-down chat with Maitlis—when Andrew (this part is true) gives the BBC journalist an impromptu personal tour of Buckingham Palace due to the fact that he felt their conversation went so well. (As a reminder, in the interview, Andrew notably expressed zero sympathies for Epstein’s victims, made tepid denials of sexual misconduct and bizarre claims like how he has been medically unable to perspire since the Falklands War. The public outcry was swift.)

gillian anderson rufus sewell scoop movie
Peter Mountain/Netflix

All in all, watching Scoop made me think back to an interview my co-host Roberta Fiorito and I conducted on the Royally Obsessed podcast with crisis PR expert Niki Christoff. Her take on Andrew: “A fish rots from the head down,” she said citing a common British expression.

In Christoff’s case, she was citing the fact that, back in 2019, the queen—who famously had a blind spot for Andrew over the years—didn’t stop him from sitting down with Newsnight. The film addresses this in a scene in which Sewell tells Thirsk that his mother trusts his judgment when it comes to whether or not to agree to the interview. That places Andrew in charge of any decision-making.

Does the palace comms team ultimately get the final say? As Scoop depicts, the aforementioned PR person brought in to help Andrew navigate the bad press he received over his ties to Epstein resigned due to his belief that the choice to appear on Newsnight (which Thirsk encourages) was absolutely the wrong move. I’d say that’s the most illuminating—and compelling—part of the film: There are too many cooks in the royal kitchen and potentially not enough people who have the authority to say no to the boss.

To be clear, this isn’t a defense of palace communications. But I like that Scoop, in its retelling of events, manages to shed light on the chaos behind the scenes of a royal crisis and how a royal PR strategy is only as good as those willing to see it through.

PureWow Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Scoop is a must-watch if you like the suspense of a newsroom chasing down a major story. But also if you’re a royal watcher curious about the behind-the-scenes of palace communications—the good, the bad and the ugly. I do wish Scoop editorialized a bit more on the ramifications of Newsnight’s exclusive and why Prince Andrew came across as so flip and unremorseful when speaking with Maitlis. Still, if you’re looking to relive that fateful night that ended Andrew’s royal career, this film is it.

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Royal family expert, a cappella alum, mom

Rachel Bowie is Senior Director of Special Projects & Royals at PureWow, where she covers parenting, fashion, wellness and money in addition to overseeing initiatives within...