EXCLUSIVE: British Oscar- and Emmy-winning production company Rise Films is developing the first major television drama series about the phone-hacking scandal that shook the very foundations of Rupert Murdoch’s early media empire 2000s.
Rise Films, who made Oscar-winning Netflix doping documentary Icarus, will use the series to provide an insider perspective on the industry-wide illegal news gathering to the UK tabloid, the World news, after gaining exclusive access to journalists and private investigators who intercepted voicemail messages from Hollywood stars, politicians and murder victims.
The series will be written by Luke Neal, the writer of ITV’s David Tennant drama, Of, which told the story of British serial killer Dennis Nilsen and was the broadcaster’s highest rated drama of 2020. Saul Dibb, director of The poisonings of Salisbury, BBC One’s most watched drama in six years, has been tied to directing the phone hacking series. AMC Networks has taken over both Of and The poisonings of Salisbury, with the old streaming on Sundance Now.
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Rise Films will launch the series on the market in the coming weeks and the company has titled the project Thank you goodbye, which is a nod to the title of the final edition of the World news after it was brutally shut down by Murdoch in July 2011 after it was revealed that the newspaper had hacked the voicemail of Milly Dowler, a murdered British schoolgirl. The Guardian’s reporting on Dowler was a flash in the phone hacking scandal, going from a heated media controversy to a source of international outrage.
Thank you goodbye will take spectators to the World news newsroom, examining how it became acceptable for journalists and guns to tap into private messages from public figures such as Steve Coogan and Hugh Grant, who later became a major thorn in the side of Murdoch’s News International , now known as News UK. Rise Films gained access to some of the authors convicted of phone hacking to build a seamless story, which began life as a documentary about a crisis that sparked 100 arrests, the imprisonment of Downing Street communications chief , Andy Coulson, and a Public Inquiry Major. Murdoch was also dragged before British lawmakers to testify days after the World news closing, describing it as the “most humble day of my life”.
The producers felt, however, that it could be told on a larger scale through drama, and they will also take advantage of the enormous hunger in the world for real-life stories told through scripted series. Phone hacking has been the subject of countless documentaries, including last year’s BBC series The rise of the Murdoch dynasty, but a definitive drama has yet to be done on the case. Yes The wolf of Wall Street dramatized Jordan Belfort’s insider opinion on major financial fraud, then this might just be The Wolf of Fleet Street.
“The story of the phone hacking scandal is becoming more and more relevant every day,” said Rise Films CEO Teddy Leifer. “The scandal and the investigation that followed revealed just how interconnected some newspapers were with the upper echelons of the political elite. Even though the World news has been closed, the main players involved in the scandal have continued to take positions of influence and shape the media ecosystem that surrounds us today.
Neal added, “I believe in exploring – without judgment or sensationalism – the human nature of the people who contributed to this blatant abuse of power, and trying to understand how and why they did it, is the only real way to prevent that from happening. again. ”Dibb said the phone hack was one of the“ most important, gripping and richest stories of this century ”.
In addition to winning an Oscar for Icarus, Rise Films landed Emmys for The invisible war and The switches. The company is currently working with Judd Apatow to make a two-part documentary about legendary American comedian George Carlin, while his script credits include Plebs, ITV2’s Roman-era comedy, which has been running for five seasons.
Rise Films is replaced by UTA and ACK Media Law. Dibb is replaced by Casarotto Ramsay & Associates and WME, while Neal’s agent is United Agents.