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Gillian Anderson and Rufus Sewell on Why Netflix Prince Andrew Film ‘Scoop’ Is a “Nailbiter”

Netflix is debuting its Prince Andrew film Scoop on April 5, with Rufus Sewell starring as the royal, Gillian Anderson as the BBC host whose interview got the prince in trouble and Billie Piper as a booker-producer on the news show. The stars came together in London on Wednesday for the world premiere of the movie to discuss what makes it “a nailbiter” despite its well-known fallout.

Anderson and Sewell recently shared that they initially didn’t want to play their respective parts. Anderson portrays former BBC Newsnight host Emily Maitlis in the film, which provides a behind-the-scenes look into the November 2019 Newsnight interview with Prince Andrew about his ties to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Piper plays Sam McAlister, who used to work for the show behind the scenes.

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The film is based on McAlister’s memoir, Scoops: Behind the Scenes of the BBC’s Most Shocking Interviews. It tells the inside story of the women who broke through the Buckingham Palace establishment to land the scoop of the decade, starting with the first failed approach, through to the negotiations with Prince Andrew and his team, the rehearsals, the interview itself and the aftermath. The BBC interview became a public catalyst for Prince Andrew‘s fall from grace.

After Wednesday’s world premiere, Anderson and Sewell lauded each other for doing such spot-on work. Recalling the experience of shooting the actual interview part of the film after watching and studying the original BBC interview, Anderson said: “We sit down, and so I’m doing it and doing the gestures. But at the same time, I’m seeing Rufus doing exactly what Prince Andrew did. I just wanted to go: ‘What the fuck?!’ You were so good!”

Sewell paid back the compliment, telling Anderson: “You made it very easy for me by making it very difficult for Andrew.” He shared that the interview set felt “strangely safe for me,” but “unsafe for the character.”

The actor also shared how he felt upon receiving an email offering him the role. “My initial reaction was actually, I was quite flattered. I was flattered because it was an acting challenge,” he said. “And the script was amazing and somehow managed to make something that we thought we all knew a nailbiter.”

While he really wanted to take on the role, he said he soon “couldn’t remember why I had said I wanted to do it, because it took a lot of doing” and it was challenging to play such a public figure. Sewell said part of his interest was also to “try and work out what was going on inside his head and what he was trying to achieve.”

Anderson explained her initial reservations about portraying Maitlis, saying she had watched her on TV for many years. “She is a superwoman of sorts, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to subject myself to the kind of criticism if I had got it wrong,” she said. When she had a Zoom call with director Martin and writer Peter Moffat, she outlined her concerns. But they said, “that’s exactly why you should do it,” Anderson explained. “And so they convinced me.”

Anderson also drew laughs when she was asked about walking around with a dog as Maitlis. “Painful,” she shared, explaining that her dog co-star “didn’t really want to be there.” For some scenes, the crew even shot her just holding a leash without the dog. Quipped the actress: “You couldn’t see that, right?”

Piper told the premiere audience that she wondered when being asked to be part of the cast what new takes a film about a well-known interview could offer. “Then I read it, and I was like, ‘Oh, OK, this is fascinating,’ and it is about the unsung hero” and “the four women involved, these incredible people who made this possible, and that is a story worth tackling.”

Martin explained what attracted him to the project as a director in a similar fashion. “Like everybody else, I saw the original interview, and then I heard that Andrew, as we saw in the film, was thinking that it had gone really well,” he explained. “And it felt like such interesting territory for a drama to exist in the difference between how everyone else saw it and how he saw it.” Putting the spotlight on the women who made the interview happen gave the team a chance for a “fresh and original” take on the events and “allowed you to revisit the interview” from new perspectives, Martin said.

McAlister joked about how grateful she was for being portrayed in the film based on her book. “Anyone who knows me knows I’m never speechless, but I’ll give it a shot,” she joked. “I’m profoundly moved and profoundly grateful and basically the luckiest woman alive.” She also noted that “usually people in my role behind the scenes, of whom there are many in journalism, don’t really get heard about.” In that sense, the movie is “an homage” to the many people who “tirelessly work to try and bring important journalism to the world,” McAlister said.

She also agreed with Sewell’s description of the film as a “nailbiter,” even though she was there at the original TV interview. “You still don’t think he’s going to say it,” she said about the royal. “I’ve seen it maybe 50 times, and each time I’m like, ‘He didn’t. Oh, he did!'” Addressing the stars, she said: “With the two of you, it was like being there all over again. It was completely electrifying.”

Producer Hilary Salmon introduced the film, saying it was about “one of the most consequential outcomes of any TV interview, a moment that everybody remembers.” She added: “But we felt that in many important aspects, the reasons why the interview had happened have never really been fully explored. And it quickly became clear this is the story of the three women working together on Newsnight.”

Fellow producer Sanjay Singhal described the Prince Andrew BBC appearance as “the most catastrophic high-profile interview ever conducted on British television,” maybe on TV, period. He drew laughs reminding the audience that the interview was once described as “a plane crashing into an oil tanker, causing a tsunami and triggering a nuclear explosion.”

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