It feels like it has been forever since Netflix's Scoop, a film about Prince Andrew’s infamous Newsnight interview, entered development. That isn’t to say that the story hasn’t had other coverage though with former TV producer Sam McAlister regularly doing the daytime telly circuit talking about how she managed to get the royal to open up about his relationship with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

When the trailer finally dropped for Scoop, I for one was intrigued to see how this story would translate on film – because its not actually the only drama about the story with Ruth Wilson (His Dark Materials) and Michael Sheen set to star in an upcoming TV series. But today’s a day to talk about Scoop.

The cast of Scoop, which is based on the book of the same name by McAlister, is strong. Billie Piper takes centre stage as the woman who made it all happen, with Rufus Sewell as ‘Randy Andy’, Gillian Anderson as Emily Maitlis and Keeley Hawes as Amanda Thirsk, the Prince’s devoted private secretary. Support award-winning journalism with WalesOnline’s Premium app on Apple or Android.

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The film opens with a photographer capturing Prince Andrew walking in Central Park, New York, with Jeffrey Epstein – which was ultimately one of the catalysts for the interview itself. What follows are a set of events that are very ‘journo-heavy’.

It’s quite clear what director Philip Martin and screenwriter Peter Moffat are trying to achieve. You get the sense that Scoop is trying to be a high-octane and fast-paced journalism film in the vein of The Post or Spotlight, but I’m not quite sure it works as well as these other examples. At times it feels a little self-congratulatory, which is interesting considering how McAlister is an executive producer on the film.

The majority of the film’s cast are perfect. Particular credit should be given to Piper, who plays McAlister exactly as her real counterpart has presented herself in numerous TV interviews – steely, determined and persuasive.

Rufus Sewell as Prince Andrew
Rufus Sewell as Prince Andrew

Sewell’s performance as the Prince is eerily accurate – but it would have been nice for him to have a little bit more screen time. He presents Andrew as a man who is blissfully ignorant to the impact of his friendship with Epstein. Personally, I feel really uncomfortable when he calls the late Queen ‘mummy’.

During a scene in which McAlister is convincing the Prince to do the interview, she tells him about names people are calling him in the press (‘Randy Andy’ etc.) and he laughs, and the way Sewell does this is quite off-putting. He’s laughing through the awkwardness of what’s unfolding around him — and that’s something you can certainly imagine the real Prince doing. He also says, “I don’t know why everyone’s so obsessed with my friendship with Jeffrey Epstein. I knew Jimmy Savile so much better!” which is particularly telling.

Gillian Anderson stars in Netflix's Scoop as veteran journalist and presenter Emily Maitlisin
Gillian Anderson as Emily Maitlis in Scoop

One cast member who didn’t quite do it for me was Gillian Anderson as Emily Maitlis. It didn’t feel like I was watching the Sex Education star give a performance as the former BBC presenter but instead, an extension of her role as Margaret Thatcher in The Crown, with a similar husky voice. She did capture the mannerisms of Maitlis though, such as the way she sits and holds a pen.

Throughout the film, you’re waiting for the final act: the interview itself. When it finally comes to that moment, Prince Andrew — who is remarkably chill given the circumstances — breaks the ice with a joke, and while I won’t reveal what exactly he said, it’ll make your skin crawl.

Prince Andrew
The real Prince Andrew

It’s really interesting as a viewer to compare the real interview with the dramatised one. The actors have clearly spent a huge amount of time studying the now world-famous exchange between Maitlis and Prince Andrew — be that the mannerisms, tone or posture of the real people. In the film, after being told how the interview would be set up , Maitlis says it feel s like a “western”, and Scoop’s director plays on this — utilising Clint Eastwood-style shots of the eyes of Maitlis and the Prince. The interview is interspersed with shots of the production team and you can clearly see how nervous everyone was about what was unfolding. Much like the real one, it is an incredibly uneasy watch and as expected, a highlight of the whole film.

“I think that all went really well,” Prince Andrew says following the interview. Then, in the immediate aftermath of the interview’s transmission, viewers are shown something that would make anyone avert their eyes – which again, I’ll leave you to squirm at your own leisure.

Princess Beatrice alongside Prince Andrew and Amanda Thirsk in the movie
All in all, Scoop is a bit of a mess

All in all, Scoop is a messy film. It doesn’t quite succeed in portraying the seriousness of Jeffrey Epstein’s crimes and there’s far too much going on, with perhaps too much focus on McAlister, rather than the bigger issues going on. “Why do you think you’re so important?” one of the other journalists asked her – and while I am not disputing McAlister’s role in the story, there are bigger things at play.

Scoop is available to watch on Netflix. You can keep up to date with the latest TV and showbiz news by signing up to the newsletter here.