When actor Hugh Grant broke down in the middle of the English countryside and a paparazzi offered him a lift to the nearest town, he saw his chance to quiz the man who blew the whistle on the UK phone-tapping scandal.
Arranging to meet with the paparazzi-turned-pub-landlord a few months later, the internationally recognized poster-child of British men went into the interview armed with a secret weapon – a recording unit. Grant transcribed his meeting for the New Statesman, which is being guest-edited by his ex-girlfriend Jemima Khan, and made the following astute observation:
“But then I thought I might possibly get more, and it might be more fun, if I secretly taped him, The bugger bugged, as it were.”
The bugee in this case was Paul McMullan, who used to work at the News of the World rag before blowing the whistle on the phone-tapping scandal of several years ago. Many celebrities, including Grant, were targeted by the paper, and it was only last week that the 24 celebrities received an apology and compensation.
The interview, which most likely wasn’t transcribed by Grant himself, is a long-winded rambling affair on the ethics of phone-tapping, where the phone-tapper shows his belief that celebrities deserve to be targeted because of their riches and fame, and the victim believes everyone is owed a little privacy at the least.
McMullan did raise one interesting question whilst being taped without his knowledge:
“So we went from a point where anyone could listen in to anything. Like you, me, journalists could listen in to corrupt politicians, and this is why we have a reasonably fair society and a not particularly corrupt or criminal prime minister, whereas other countries have Gaddafi. Do you think it’s right the only person with a decent digital scanner these days is the government? Whereas 20 years ago we all had a go? Are you comfortable that the only people who can listen in to you now are – is it MI5 or MI6?”
On a side-note, if you ever had any doubts about Grant’s acting ability, this is the transcribed part you’ll be wanting to read:
Him [McMullan] : Good question. You’re not taping, are you?
Me [Grant] : [slightly shrill voice]No.
Oh, Hugh. This is so much more satisfying a role than yet another Bridget Jones’s Diary, isn’t it? I’d work on your poker face if I were you, though. [New Statesman]
Image credit: Getty