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Rufus Sewell is too hot to play Prince Andrew (but he still won’t be sweating in new Netflix film Scoop)

Rufus Sewell will play Prince Andrew in new Netflix film Scoop – but why the casting of powerful people is always so complimentary?

Rufus Sewell and Prince Andrew

Is Rufus Sewell (left) too handsome to play Prince Andrew (right) in Netflix film Scoop? Images: James Van Alden and Andrew Parsons/Shutterstock

Rufus Sewell will play Prince Andrew alongside Gillian Anderson as Emily Maitlis in new Netflix film, Scoop, about the royal’s ill-advised Newsnight interview.

In November 2019, Prince Andrew sought to clear his name over his links to his disgraced friend Jeffrey Epstein. The Queen’s second son agreed to appear in a broadcast interview helmed by Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis. It did not go well for the Prince. 

His claim to have been eating at Pizza Express in Woking the night of an alleged non-consensual encounter with Virginia Guiffre and his detailing of a temporary inability to sweat following the Falklands War drew condemnation and ridicule.

It was a huge story. And should make a fascinating film. Alongside Sewell, Billie Piper plays Sam McAlister, the producer who set up the interview and whose book has been adapted by Peter Moffat for Scoop. Keeley Hawes plays Prince Andrew’s former Private Secretary, Amanda Thirsk.

But why is the casting so complimentary to Prince Andrew?

No one is doubting Rufus Sewell’s ability to transform. He is a fine actor and an Olivier Award winner. His screen roles range from idealistic Will Ladislaw in the popular 1994 adaptation of Middlemarch to US Nazi officer John Smith in Philip K Dick’s dystopian alternative history drama The Man In The High Castle.

But with his angular features, razor-sharp cheekbones, lithe figure and those piercing eyes, Sewell is also quite the pin-up. The same can’t be said for Prince Andrew. Seven years Sewell’s senior, the royal has rarely been described as having leading man looks.

And this is not a new problem. When powerful people are portrayed on screen, they tend to be sexed up. Complimentary casting of the rich, powerful, or royal in TV or film talks to an ingrained subservience. It helps embed class structures. And it can lead to misplaced sympathy for the undeserving.

Cummings, Johnson and The Crown

When Benedict Cumberbatch played Dominic Cummings in Channel 4’s Brexit: The Uncivil War, there was some discomfort. The outcry has only got louder since.

Did casting a renowned, beloved and widely fancied actor as the self-styled Brexit mastermind help Cummings cement the idea of himself as a maverick genius into the public consciousness? Cumberbatch brought his trademark wit and verve to the role. He was brilliant. Compelling. Strangely attractive. And this can only have helped legitimise Barnard Castle fan Cummings as a political player and aided his rise to the heart of the Government under Boris Johnson.

There was also confusion among viewers when Sewell’s Scoop co-star Gillian Anderson played Margaret Thatcher in The Crown. Left-wing fans of The X Files were particularly conflicted. Dominic West was cast as Prince Charles in The Crown, causing similarly distress among Republican fans of The Wire.

Elizabeth Debicki, Will Powell, Senan West, Dominic West in The Crown. season five.
Elizabeth Debicki, Will Powell, Senan West, Dominic West in The Crown. season five. Image: Keith Bernstein / Netflix

You talkin’ to her?

Robert De Niro – in questionable remarks at the Gotham Independent Film Awards in 2015 – explained the confusion complimentary casting can spread. “I didn’t grow up wanting to have sex with the Queen of England… She wasn’t my royal MILF,” said De Niro. “But that was before I saw her played by Helen Mirren.”

When critics told Damian Lewis he was too handsome as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall, and that the much-married royal did not have film star good looks, he jumped to Henry’s defence. “We all have this understanding that he was this womanising, syphilitic, bloated, genocidal Elvis character,” he said. “Actually the truth is that he was a sportsman and had a beautiful pale complexion.”

The jury is still out on that one.

Philip Martin, veteran of The Crown, will direct Scoop. He describes the film as: “Uptempo, immersive and cinematic.” Scoop, he says, will deal with “power, privilege and differing perspectives. And how – whether in glittering palaces or hi-tech newsrooms – we judge what’s true.”

Rufus Sewell will need some serious prosthetics for his depiction of Prince Andrew to be judged as true.

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