Always Worth Saying’s Film Review


Always Worth Saying, Going Postal
Scooped Prince Andrew.
Prince Andrew Chatham House,
Chatham House
Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

No review of Scoop, now available on Netflix, is likely to spoil the plot. The world and his country cousin can recall the 2019 Orphans’ Away Day trainwreck when BBC Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis scooped an interview with a Prince Andrew embattled by his links with convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

Although La Maitlis was lauded at the time, with hindsight one suspects the oafish Duke of York would have said something stupid while filling the silence sat in a Buckingham Palace stateroom opposite a bag of cement.

Not that Emily receives the lion’s share of the plaudits in this Philip Martin-directed drama. The script is based on the final three chapters of Samantha McAlister’s book ‘Scoops: Behind The Scenes of the BBC’s Most Shocking Interviews’. Sam McAlister being part of the Newsnight programme and here portrayed as an heroic office junior. Her book’s other chapters deal with the Newsnight grillings of the less-shocking Mel Greig, Brigitte Hoss and Steven Segal.

In reality, rather than a humble ‘booker’ as shown, Ms McAlister is a qualified barrister who left the law for a career at BBC Radio. Finding her job had disappeared when returning from maternity leave, she rattled around Broadcasting House before finding her forte as a producer on the daily current affairs flagship then presented by Jeremy Paxman.

In the film, McAlister is played by Billie Piper, Emily Maitlis by Gillian Anderson and the skewered duffer Prince Andrew by a cartoonish Rufus Sewel.

The cast is good, as are the look and feel of the production. A reminder we don’t dislike the industry because of its craft but because of the sanctimony being preached from a luvvie bubble – some of which creeps into this film.

The action opens in New York City. It is December 2010. A breathless paparazzi, Jae Donnelly (played by Connor Swindells) pedals along Manhattan avenues having been woken by an urgent phone message. His appointment is with writer colleague Annette Witheridge (Kate Fleetwood), who bundles his cycle in the back of her SUV for the drive to 9 East 71st Street – the notorious Lolita House. Why bother with the bike? Why not just pick him up from his house? As with a massage table in a Florida Keys mansion, is all not what it appears?

Prince Andrew and Epstein are spotted leaving the nine-story townhouse. The chase is on. In real life, Witheridge took up the tale in a Vanity Fair interview. ‘Oh, my God! It’s Prince Andrew!’ A race down Fifth Avenue ensued, followed by a climb over a wall into Central Park. After scaling a ‘massive mound of black Manhattan bedrock’, Donnelly happened upon the perfect lookout to capture conversing Jeffrey Epstein and Prince Andrew as they walked.

Too convenient? Perhaps. A suspicion lingers the photograph was contrived to aid the rehabilitation of Epstein. The high-flying financier had been released from prison the previous year after serving 13 months of an 18-month plea-bargained sentence on two counts of solicitation for prostitution, one involving a minor.

If so, the plan failed. The following February, The News Of The World published Donnelly’s picture beside a Prince Andy & The Paedo headline. Next weekend the Mail on Sunday printed an image of Prince Andrew with his arm around 17-year-old Virginia Giuffre (also known as Virginia Roberts) taken at the Kinnington Street, Belgravia, London home of Epsteins follie a deux Ghislaine Maxwell – currently serving 20 years in a Florida jail for sex trafficking.

Ten years later, the images and story were still embarrassing the Palace and the Prince. An embarrassment heightened following Jeffery Epstein’s arrest on further charges.

Always Worth Saying, Going Postal
La Maitlis.
Reporter Emily Maitlis,
Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

Scoop tells the tale as a straightforward and entertaining journalism procedural, playing on the tension between the newsroom and Palace as Prince Andrew’s people need positive publicity while holding to the mantra of never complaining and never explaining.

Entertaining but not a wake-free zone. Emily, Samantha, Esme Wren of the BBC, Amanda Thirsk of Andrew’s office, and other key characters are all real people and are all hideously white. Whereas Newsnight team members Eddy and Rebecca are tinged inventions. Eddy is black and enjoys some dialogue. Rebecca, the criminally underused Aoife Hands, stands in the background looking Chinese. A hint for spotting ethnics parachuted in only because they’re ethnic: more often than not, in a cast list, real people have full names, while made-up characters have only first or surnames.

Added to this come clanking references to the patriarchy, oft aimed at opera-loving BBC Director General Tony Hall. And one of the cameos suggests racial tolerance springs from the BBC demolishing toffs. Black girls will hold white boys’ hands on the front seat of double-decker buses upon hearing the news, no less.

Taking all into account, this reviewer enjoyed Scoop and recommends it to readers. Elsewhere reception is less enthusiastic. While scoring 76% from critics and 63% from other viewers on the Rotten Tomatoes review site, detractors make valid observations.

We’ve seen it all before. The full interview is available on YouTube. Insider politicking at the BBC dirty linen washing not drama. We all know what’s going to happen, no matter how often we guffaw at Prince Andrew going to Pizza Hut in Woking and never sweating after an overdose of adrenaline in the Falklands War.

No longer a Scoop, this is well-trodden ground. More importantly, a firewall beyond Prince Andrew continues to protect others. One hour and forty-one minutes of investigative airtime should have been more illuminating. The naysayers have a point.

As Jane Doe 102, Virginia Giuffre stated she had been ‘sexually exploited by Epstein’s adult male peers including royalty.’ According to the Associated Press, Virginia’s lawsuits claim, starting when she was 17, Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell set up sexual encounters with politicians, academicians, businessmen and other rich and influential men.

There is more to point the camera towards, both in terms of perpetrators and the jet-setters’ omerta that surrounds them.


In a fawning 2003 Vanity Fair piece entitled ‘The Talented Mr Epstein’, Vicky Ward oohs and aahs over the high-flying bachelor financier. One of Ms Ward’s sources is Rosa Monckton, wife of journalist Dominic Lawson, and a friend of Princess Diana who was godmother to Domenica, one of Rosa and Dominic’s two daughters.

Monckton appears in Epstein’s notorious black book as being of Asprey and Gerard Ltd, jewellers to royalty and the elite. Monckton was a senior executive there. Eleven entries begin with her home phone number in Dallington, East Sussex, from where Rosa took the title for the peerage handed to her by Rishi Sunack. Additionally, the Epstein-Maxwells included Rosa’s email address, husband Dominic’s number, her portable, car and emergency numbers and her Asprey’s fax details.

Always Worth Saying, Going Postal
Left, old Asprey’s at Trump Tower – now a Gucci’s.
© Always Worth Saying 2024, Going Postal

Later in the same year, Asprey’s opened two New York stores. The first, to a Norman Foster and Partners Design, sits at 56th Street. Still on Fifth Avenue but closer to uptown, this is the base of Trump Tower. Built on three floors, the store is now a Gucci outlet. At the Asprey opening, Prince Andrew’s wife Sarah Ferguson is pictured here with Ghislaine Maxwell.

Within Asprey’s demographic, Jeffrey Epstein is gushed over by Monckton in the Vanity Fair article. Described as her close friend since the 1980s, Rosa confided, ‘He’s very enigmatic. You think you know him and then you peel off another ring of the onion skin and there’s something extraordinary underneath. He never reveals his hand … He’s a class iceberg. What you see is not what you get.’
Rosa also recalls Epstein telling her that daughter Domenica, who has Down syndrome, needed the sun and she should feel free to bring her to his house in Florida anytime.

Despite red flags waving over a layered union iceberg of not what you get, herself and husband Dominic were happy to take up the offer on behalf of themselves, Domenica and their other daughter.

Following the publication of the Central Park and Belgravia photographs, Mr Lawson addressed the matter in his Sunday Times column. He began by informing his readers of the error of assuming guilt by association. Prince Andrew being photographed with Epstein was a ‘mild scandal.’ Subsequent newspaper coverage, a ‘cross country pursuit in hunt of the royal fox.’

A Daily Mirror story of Epstein mingling with princesses Eugenie and Beatrice in the Bahamas in 1998 was an ‘outrageous contrivance’ from the ‘read it and weep’ school of journalism best greeted with laughter.

Mr Lawson went on to tell of a ‘brief’ family holiday at Epstein’s Palm Beach home, a waterfront property at 358 El Brillo Way. The hub of Epstein’s global sex-trafficking web, this is the 14,000 sq ft property where scores of young women, some as young as 13, were sexually assaulted and raped.

‘The place was empty, apart from us and the housekeeper; but, yes, I did notice a photograph in it of the householder and his then girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell with Prince Andrew.’

Mr Lawson enlightens us that Mr Epstein, who died in jail awaiting trial on those further charges, was not a paedophile. None of the girls (victims, Dominic?) were pre-pubescent. Instead, the convicted paedophile had ‘involvement with teenage girls.’

Mr Lawson did confess to spotting a picture of Prince Andrew and Maxwell.

Two months ago, following legal action taken by the Miami Herald, documents in the Guffrie/Epstein case were made public. These show witnesses testified there were photos of Epstein with VIPs on display as well as nude pictures of Maxwell and partially clothed young girls in what the Atlantic magazine described as a ‘Porno-bedecked South Florida mansion.’

The Lawsons, like Scoop and many others, chose to look the other way.

© Always Worth Saying 2024