LONDON — Britain’s phone hacking scandal truly is the gift that keeps on giving. On Sunday, news broke from the Cannes Film Festival that “Rebekah Brooks: The Movie” will be coming soon to a theater near you.
Most people know Rebekah Brooks as Rupert Murdoch’s erstwhile girl Friday in the British arm of his media empire, News Corp. Until July of last year, she served as chief executive at the London-based News International, before abruptly resigning over her alleged role in the phone-hacking scandal.
Brooks was charged last week on three separate counts of obstruction of justice, including conspiring to remove boxes of archive records from Murdoch’s London headquarters, concealing material from detectives, and hiding documents, computers and other electronic equipment from the police. The charge carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, although the average term served is 10 months.
There’s no question that Brooks is the perfect subject for a film. With her flowing, auburn ringlets and mysteriously cool — almost detached — demeanor, she looks like she stepped out of a Botticelli portrait.
The movie is apparently inspired by a profile by Suzanna Andrews in the February issue of Vanity Fair detailing Brooks’s meteoric rise from secretary at Murdoch-owned British tabloid News of the World to international businesswoman extraordinaire in just over 20 years. Early rumors say that producers have tapped Nicole Kidman for the role.
But make no mistake. This is no “Working Girl, Part 2.” Brooks, who is typically described as “ruthless,” “Machiavellian” and “a galaxy-class schmoozer” has — for the purposes of the film, at least — already been likened to the notorious title character in Citizen Kane as well as to Richard Nixon.
In addition to her alleged criminal misdeeds in various senior positions within the News Corp. family, Brooks’s larger-than-life social life will no doubt figure prominently in the film. There will, of course, be all sorts of references to her unusually close relationship with Murdoch himself. (She is often referred to as his “fifth daughter.”) Brooks has also been close pals with the U.K.’s past three prime ministers. This includes David Cameron, who went to Eton College with her husband, Charlie Brooks, a prominent horse trainer who has also been charged with obstruction of justice along with his wife.
Needless to say, (and because this is England), everybody around Brooks is descended from somebody important. Her husband is related to King Edward III. There’s even a horse to work into the plot, as Cameron once famously borrowed a horse that was loaned to Mrs. Brooks by the Metropolitan police. (Seriously, folks. Could you write a story about the British aristocracy and its hangers-on without the requisite horse?)
Brooks’s appearance outside her lawyer’s London office last week following the charges suggests that she will not go down without a fight. Standing next to her husband, she claimed to be “baffled” by the decision and dismissed the entire affair as an “expensive side show,” which her husband labeled a “witch hunt.”
This being a movie, we are of course required to speculate as to the other members of the cast in this juicy biopic. My money’s on Colin Firth in the role of the dashing playboy Charlie Brooks. As for the part of Rupert Murdoch, I would have bet on Jason Robards if he were still alive.
My only regret is that Brooks can’t play herself. I’m sure she’d shine.