Publishing executive James Murdoch announced on Thursday that the well-known tabloid News of the World would be shutting down amid a phone-hacking scandal.
And it involved none other than actor and tabloid regular Hugh Grant.
Grant, 50, tells the BBC that on one occasion, when News of the World features editor Paul McMullan took photos of him, he also boasted about how Grant’s phone had been hacked – allegedly by the tabloid.
“I was revolted and astonished,” says the British star, who then took matters into his own hands.
A few months later, he met McMullan at a pub, “pretended to be dropping in for a pint,” and got the editor talking once again about the hacking that went on at the newspaper and at other tabloids – one of many dubious business practices – while he secretly recorded the conversation. Grant then had a story published about it in the New Statesman.
In addition to their remote video interview with Grant, the BBC had McMullan in the studio, and the editor made light of Grant’s stealth recording.
“It was hilarious – how can Hugh Grant coming into your pub with a silly little pen trying to record you be anything other than hilarious?” he said.
“I didn’t mind being turned over [but] you can’t believe that an actor who’s very well known would lower himself such those tactics,” he joked. “I was shocked and outraged!”
But the actor was more serious, telling McMullan, “You didn’t care who got hurt so long as you were able to sell your newspaper. You’re not journalists, you have no interest in journalism, it’s just money, money, money.”
“That’s not true at all,” the editor replied. “Our interest was writing truthful stories.”
“You should try real journalism because you’re not an idiot, Paul,” Grant shot back. “You could probably do it!”