Phone Hacking Goes Hollywood With Clooney Film, West End Play

Phone hacking is going Hollywood.

The U.K. media scandal that led to police probes, public inquiries and the closure of News Corp.’s News of the World newspaper will be the subject of a George Clooney film and a separate play on London’s West End.

Clooney will direct and produce an adaptation of the book “Hack Attack’ by Nick Davies, the Guardian journalist whose reporting uncovered much of the wrongdoing at News Corp. tabloids.

‘‘This has all the elements -- lying, corruption, blackmail -- at the highest levels of government by the biggest newspaper in London,’’ Clooney said in a statement yesterday. ‘‘And the fact that it’s true is the best part.’’

An eight-month criminal trial was the climax of the scandal that erupted more than three years ago amid the discovery that News of the World reporters hacked the phone of a murdered teenager, Milly Dowler. Andy Coulson, the News of the World’s former editor and aide to Prime Minister David Cameron, was sentenced to 18-months in prison for participating in a conspiracy to listen in to voice-mail messages.

Prosecutors failed to win convictions of any of the other defendants in the case who went to trial. Rebekah Brooks, the former head of News Corp.’s U.K. unit, was acquitted of hacking, bribery and perverting the course of justice charges.

Three News of the World journalists and a private detective pleaded guilty before the trial started last year. Cases involving News Corp. journalists are scheduled well into 2015 as the scandal refuses to die down.

Clooney Accent?

‘‘I’m sure it will make a great factual drama of the story,” Mark Lewis, one of the first lawyers to represent victims of phone hacking including the Dowler family, said in an e-mail from his home in Los Angeles. “I’ve no idea who would play me. Can George Clooney do an English accent?”

The film may be filled with opportunities for celebrities to make cameo appearances. Actors Sienna Miller and her former boyfriend Jude Law testified at the criminal trial. Hugh Grant helped form a group that protested media practices and was a witness at a judicial inquiry into media ethics.

London’s West End is set to stage a satirical play, “Great Britain,” that pokes fun at the intersection of the media, police and politics. The play, which started at London’s National Theatre shortly after the trial ended, is scheduled to begin a run Sept. 9 at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.

In the initial National Theatre run, Billie Piper, best known as an assistant on the BBC’s “Dr. Who,” played the lead role of a newspaper editor that bore a strong resemblance to Brooks.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.
LEARN MORE