Is the interview film with Prince Andrew accurate?



All the excitement surrounding the British royal family lately has centered around the medical trials being undertaken by King Charles III. and Princess Kate, both of whom are dealing with unknown types of cancer.

Their private struggles have forced other royals to step up their public duties. But not Prince Andrew, the so-called favorite son of Queen Elizabeth II, who withdrew from royal life several years ago after becoming involved in the sordid life of his former friend, convicted sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.

If you can't remember the details of this crash, “Scoop” is here to remind you. The new Netflix film (now streaming) is based on the book “Scoops: The BBC's Most Shocking Interviews, from Steven Seagal to Prince Andrew” by BBC producer Sam McAlister. The film stars Billie Piper as McAlister, Gillian Anderson (“The Crown”) as BBC interviewer Emily Maitlis and Rufus Sewell (“The Diplomat”) as Prince Andrew.

“Scoop” focuses on the prince’s decision to speak to the media about his past association with Epstein and allegations that he was linked to one of the teenagers trafficked by the financier. Andrew was sure the open conversation would clear his name, but the opposite happened.

McAlister tells USA TODAY which parts of her infamous scoop were spot on and where “Scoop” had to take creative liberties to keep the story moving.

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Did Prince Andrew agree to the BBC interview as quickly as the film suggests?

In “Scoop,” McAlister works the phone tirelessly to secure her famous subject in what seems like a matter of weeks. But in reality, “we’re talking about 13 months of work to get that interview,” she says.

It all started with an email McAlister received in the fall of 2018 from publicists who worked with the prince, asking whether “BBC Newsnight,” the “60 Minutes” show she worked for, might talk to Andrew about his nonprofit want to talk about work. McAlister declined, but said the BBC would be interested if the prince – who was known at the time to have been friends with Epstein for more than a decade – wanted to have a broader conversation.

“Most people never call back,” McAlister says. But seven months later, McAlister was invited to Buckingham Palace to meet Andrew's chief of staff, Amanda Thirsk (Keeley Hawes).

Did BBC producer Sam McAlister actually suggest that Prince Andrew's chief of staff go out for a drink?

McAlister, in “Scoop” and in real life, comes across as a brash, straight shooter who doesn't mince her words, as evident in a scene where she insists that Thirsk skip formal tea at a local bar eats a martini. There the two women develop a mutual respect that will shape the delicate negotiations to win the prince for the interview.

“We didn’t drink a martini, we just drank tea in the palace,” McAlister says with a laugh. “I don’t know if she drinks, but I do.”

McAlister says Thirsk remained a “woman of integrity” throughout her performance. She was cool, calm, smart and direct. It is Thirsk who ultimately overrides a hired consultant who advises Andrew against going on television.

Did Princess Beatrice take part in the negotiations to get Prince Andrew to join the BBC?

In a turning point in Scoop, three BBC representatives, including McAlister and presenter Maitlis, are invited by Thirsk to meet with Andrew to discuss the parameters of a possible interview. But there was an unexpected guest: Princess Beatrice, his adult daughter with ex-wife Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York.

McAlister tells the prince that he is known as “Randy Andy,” a reference to his womanizing and much worse on social media. Andrew replies that he doesn't pay attention to social media, but Beatrice speaks up to confirm McAlister's point, which stiffens Andrew.

“I don’t remember exactly what she said, but having her in the room was absolutely crucial,” McAlister says. Andrew then announced that he would be speaking to his mother, Queen Elizabeth II. “At first I thought, you are 59, why are you checking with your mother? But when you imagine him doing that, it’s pretty amazing.”

Did Prince Andrew really think the BBC interview that sealed his fate had gone well?

The subsequent hour-long interview at Buckingham Palace resulted in a series of shocking statements: Andrew said he didn't sweat, he didn't know where the bar was at a nightclub he visited and he couldn't have been with a child trafficking victim his because he was in a pizzeria with his daughter. The world turned against the king and a few days later Andrew announced that he was resigning from his public duties.

But when the interview ended, Andrew thought everything went well. “He looked pleased and offered (interviewer) Emily a tour,” McAlister says. “But I was shocked. He had told us some of these things in a meeting days before the interview, but I never thought he would say these things on camera.”

Previously: Prince Andrew “steps back from public duties” following Jeffrey Epstein controversy.

McAlister knew intuitively that she had helped the BBC get the scoop of a lifetime. “I was 15 feet behind him during the interview and both parts of my brain responded immediately,” she says. “The former defense attorney thought that even though he denied the allegations (of sex with minors), it was a prosecutor’s dream. And the journalist in me thinks, 'Oh my God, every one of his answers is a new news line.' My brain exploded.

Will Prince Andrew ever be able to witness the BBC interview retold in Scoop?

In the BBC interview, which took place in November 2019, Prince Andrew is confronted not only about his ill-advised friendship with Epstein, but also his decision to continue their relationship despite Epstein's sex trafficking convictions and his sordid connections.

Andrew also denied ever knowing one of Epstein's victims, Virginia Giuffre, despite photographic evidence showing him in a room with his then-teenage accuser and Epstein's friend and go-between, Ghislaine Maxwell, who is currently imprisoned in the United States located

Scoop contains an avalanche of tweeted comments that followed the BBC interview, all suggesting there will be no forgiveness.

“I am not surprised that Andrew is not returning to public duties despite the current difficulties facing the royal family,” McAlister said. “There is the royal court and there is the court of public opinion and although he may deny all allegations, on the day of this interview the court of public opinion reached its conclusions. His return is unimaginable to the British public.”