Scoop: The True Story Behind Prince Andrew’s Infamous BBC Interview


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In November 2019, the BBC aired an exclusive interview with Prince Andrew, conducted by journalist Emily Maitlis. The groundbreaking interview gave viewers unprecedented access to the Duke of York as he discussed his former friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Andrew also denounced the sexual misconduct allegations made against him by Virginia Roberts Giuffre on air.

Scoop, a new movie released by Netflix on April 5, takes us behind-the-scenes of Prince Andrew’s Newsnight interview. Here’s what you need to know about the journalists behind Scoop and the unforgettable broadcast that changed the royal family forever.

Scoop is based on a book by Newsnight’s former talent booker.

Scoops by Sam McAlister

Scoops by Sam McAlister

Scoops by Sam McAlister

While Maitlis’ interview with Prince Andrew lives on in infamy online, Netflix’s new movie Scoop is based upon a book by one of Newsnight’s former producers. During her time on the show, Sam McAlister was able to secure a plethora of exclusive interviews with everyone from Julian Assange to Stormy Daniels, leading Piers Morgan to dub her “one of the unsung heroes of television news.” Her book Scoops tells the unbelievable story of how she convinced Buckingham Palace to grant Newsnight access to Prince Andrew during one of the royal family’s most public scandals.

Discussing how she built up a relationship with Prince Andrew’s private secretary Amanda Thirsk, played by Keeley Hawes in Scoop, McAlister told Tudum, “Imagine going on a hundred first dates and only getting one second date… That is effectively my job.” The events portrayed in the film actually took place over a period of 13 months, with McAlister working hard to broker that unprecedented interview with Prince Andrew. While the interview itself plays a pivotal role in Netflix’s glossy new film, Scoop explores the hard work that went into getting the prince to sit down for the BBC. “The interview is so significant, but it’s 5 percent of the story,” McAlister told Tudum.

Accuracy was incredibly important to the filmmakers.

Not all movies based on true stories stick to the facts. However, Scoop attempts to recreate an important moment in history and, according to McAlister’s Tudum interview, does so with aplomb. “The level of detail, putting together exactly the same room, the camera angles, the lighting, the specifics of the table, the cables, the types of cameras, the carpet—everything is so ridiculously close,” she explained.

Billie Piper’s transformation as Sam was an important part of the process, with the I Hate Suzie star nailing McAlister’s “seriousness” and “the lighter side of [her] character,” along with her style. “To watch her literally transform, change her voice, [and wear] the extraordinary wig, my nails, the makeup, the roster of black clothing—it’s exactly the same,” McAlister told Tudum. “So meta and surreal.”

billie piper in scoop

Peter Mountain/Netflix

Billie Piper as Sam McAlister in Scoop.

Alongside Piper’s McAlister, Gillian Anderson portrays esteemed journalist Emily Maitlis, Rufus Sewell takes on the meaty role of Prince Andrew, and Romola Garai plays former Newsnight editor Esme Wren. For his part, Sewell “watched the interview obsessively” to nail Prince Andrew’s reactions and mannerisms, he told PA Media.

Scoop shows the events leading up to Prince Andrew’s candid interview.

Scoop culminates in the Duke of York’s shocking interview with Maitlis. But prior to the royal’s sit-down with the BBC, viewers are provided insight into the tireless work that went into organizing the interview in the first place. “It’s a really rare opportunity to see women in their forties and fifties depicted in a professional setting, going about their jobs to the best of their abilities with an extraordinary outcome,” McAlister told Tudum.

As well as showing the work that went into booking Prince Andrew, Scoop takes viewers behind-the-scenes at the BBC. From the workplace politics McAlister battled against to the confidentiality required to plan for and carry out the interview, the new Netflix film is an incredible look at the work journalists, editors, and producers do on a daily basis. McAlister’s personal life as a single mom also appears in the movie, as does the judgement she faced from her colleagues. “The thing that people say about me when they meet me is: ‘You’re not very BBC,’” McAlister told The Guardian. She continued, “The film uses a kind of shorthand to explain the experiences of someone with a different kind of background to lots of the other people at the BBC.”

Viewers also experience the sheer perseverance and professionalism exercised by both McAlister and Maitlis in the run-up to their meeting with Prince Andrew. And if you’ve ever wondered why Prince Andrew agreed to the interview in the first place, Scoop sheds light on the palace’s decision-making. “At the top, you’re surrounded by people telling you that you’re amazing, and this is a very extreme example of that,” McAlister explained to The Guardian. “My feeling was that through an accident of his birth he had a real misperception of his abilities,” she continued.

As for McAlister’s relationship with Thirsk, Prince Andrew’s private secretary, it seems that there was no bad blood following the interview. Of the tension portrayed in Scoop, McAlister told The Guardian, “We both knew that if something went wrong, one of us was going to get it; that understanding created a connection and a poignancy between us, and unfortunately it was her [who got it]. But I have nothing but good things to say about her.”

What did Prince Andrew say during the interview?

Prince Andrew’s decision to speak to Emily Maitlis on Newsnight was monumental. With the press continually hounding the royal regarding his connection to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, Andrew agreed to open up about their misguided friendship in detail. But instead of expressing any serious regret regarding the connection, the prince seemingly doubled down, saying, “The people that I met and the opportunities that I was given to learn, either by him or because of him, were actually very useful.” Despite claiming that they “weren’t that close,” Andrew alleged that he stayed at Epstein’s house in New York in 2010, where they were photographed together in Central Park, to break up the friendship. Andrew’s longstanding friendship with Epstein’s accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell was also laid bare.

Defending himself against allegations of sexual assault made by Virginia Roberts Giuffre, Andrew suggested that her account of a sweaty night dancing in a club in 2001 was inaccurate. “I didn’t sweat at the time because I had suffered what I would describe as an overdose of adrenalin in the Falklands War when I was shot at,” he told Maitlis. “It was almost impossible for me to sweat.” He also claimed to have been in Pizza Express in Woking on the date Giuffre’s allegations refer to, and suggested a widely shared photo depicting him with Giuffre and Maxwell was doctored.

What happened after Prince Andrew’s BBC interview?

Following the interview, the prince was stripped of his military titles and was no longer allowed to use his HRH title. He also settled a civil lawsuit brought against him by Giuffre in the United States in 2022.

Although Giuffre didn’t directly respond to Andrew’s interview, her own BBC interview about the scandal was broadcast in December 2019. While Giuffre’s Panorama interview was recorded in October, prior to Andrew’s, she addressed the prince’s claims that he’d never met her, saying, “He knows what happened. I know what happened. And there’s only one of us telling the truth.” Giuffre’s legal team responded to Andrew’s interview, saying on Channel 4 documentary The Problem Prince, “You couldn’t have handed me a better present.”

Newsnight took home several awards for the celebrated interview, including Scoop of the Year and Interview of the Year at the Royal Television Society Awards. At the same ceremony, Maitlis was named Network Presenter of the Year, and said in an interview with Press Gazette, “It was an extraordinary chance for us to be able to do that and we’re very grateful that Prince Andrew came and put himself through a scrutiny that, to be honest, many politicians haven’t and wouldn’t.”

As for Scoop, McAlister hopes that the film brings recognition to everyone responsible for the award-winning episode. “This movie is a homage to BBC journalism,” McAlister told The Guardian. “The team at Newsnight was sensational: a group of hardworking mavericks who every day tried to bring the powerful to account to close the democratic deficit; to ask questions that matter to the nation.”

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