MiNDFOOD Reviews: Scoop – a gripping dive into Prince Andrew’s infamous BBC interview

By Michele Manelis

Britain's Prince Andrew leaves after attending the Easter Sunday service at St Georges Chapel at Windsor Castle in southern England April 5, 2015. REUTERS/Neil Hall - GF10000050236
Britain's Prince Andrew leaves after attending the Easter Sunday service at St Georges Chapel at Windsor Castle in southern England April 5, 2015. REUTERS/Neil Hall - GF10000050236
Who doesn’t love a royal scandal?

The latest ripped-from-the-headlines saga brought to the screen, Scoop, chronicles how the infamous BBC ‘Newsnight’ interview came about with Prince Andrew concerning his friendship with financier and sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. 

The interview was conducted back in 2019, three months after Epstein had committed suicide in a New York prison, while he was awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. Like many prominent men, Prince Andrew was one of Epstein’s guests who visited his New York City and London homes and frequently visited his private island in the US Virgin Islands. The Prince was accused of forcibly having sex with Virginia Giuffre, whom Epstein had allegedly procured for him when she was only 17 years old. The Prince categorically denied the allegations.

The interview set-up was a cat-and-mouse scenario between an unrecognisable Rufus Sewel, who spent four hours a day in the makeup chair replete with prosthetics to believably take on the role of the disgraced prince, and Gillian Anderson, who gave a blistering performance as journalist Emily Maitlis. Maitlis never wavers from the subject at hand and doesn’t allow him any wiggle room to dodge the hard-hitting questions. To his credit, he is compliant, no matter how difficult.

Anderson said in an interview via Zoom that she didn’t see the interview on the day it aired. “I think I was too nervous to watch it because it was clear that it was cringeworthy. And I don’t know whether I just wasn’t in the mood for cringe, but eventually, I caught up with it. And obviously, I studied it intensely for the role in preparation, so I know it very well now.”

The film offers an interesting behind-the-scenes look at how such an interview comes about. Billie Piper’s relentless producer, Sam McAlister, receives her due credit for securing such a ‘get’. In fact, the Netflix film is based on her memoir, ‘Scoops: Behind the Scenes of the BBC’s Most Shocking Interviews.’

Immediately after the interview, Prince Andrew felt he had come across well, even taking Maitlis on a tour of the palace, as he assumed he would be vindicated. But the public didn’t see it that way. He agreed to the interview because he thought it would clear his name. Conversely, his life would quickly unravel immediately after it aired.

Upon meeting with his mother, the Queen, the following day when the tabloids came out, it was decided he would be ‘stepping back from public duties’. It seemed that the world at large deemed his answers lacking in empathy and compassion for the young victims, underage girls who had unwittingly become part of Epstein’s growing harem. In addition, the Prince showed no remorse over his friendship with the convicted felon, and in fact described his friendship as a ‘useful’ alliance for him. It also didn’t help his cause when he explained that it was Epstein’s partner-in-crime, Ghislaine Maxwell, who introduced them. Maxwell is currently serving 20 years in prison for conspiring with Epstein in the sexual abuse of minors.

The Prince continued to deny charges that he ever had sex with Giuffre, and in 2022 an out-of-court settlement for an undisclosed amount was agreed upon in which the prince made no admission of liability. In the same year, after Giuffre filed the civil sexual assault lawsuit, Queen Elizabeth stripped Prince Andrew of his military titles and patronages. 

The cast is rounded out by Keeley Hawes as Prince Andrew’s private secretary Amanda Thirsk and Romola Garai as Newsnight boss Esme Wren. Journalism is a traditionally male-dominated profession, which is partly what attracted Anderson to the role. She has said, “These women exist in real life. Having a story about their experience and having journalists like Emily Maitlis, who is clearly at the very top of her game, represented in the film is important—it’s important to mark that historically.” 

Considering that other infamous BBC bombshell interview with a member of the royal family, notably with Princess Diana in 1995, perhaps the royals should keep their mouth shut in future. 

READ MORE: Prince Andrew facing ‘unexploded bombs’ over Jeffrey Epstein links


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