If you’ve already read Hugh Grant’s article for the New Statesman in which he secretly tape-recorded a conversation with ex-News of the World investigative journalist and paparazzo Paul McMullan, chances are you’re still talking about how awesome it is. If you haven’t read it, do so here.
Grant had met McMullan in December, when his “midlife crisis car” broke down and McMullan stopped to photograph him and then offered him a lift. After some swearing, Grant had to accept the ride, and during the drive, McMullan — someone who’d outed News of the World‘s alleged penchant for phone-hacking, which is back in the headlines again — claimed that Grant himself had been a victim. McMullan invited Grant to someday stop by the pub he owns, and when the New Statesman asked Grant to write a piece for them, he decided to pay McMullan a visit to learn more about tabloid journalism. “You’re not taping, are you?” McMullan asked when their chat started to get juicy. “No,” Grant lies in an admittedly “slightly shrill voice.”
On tape, McMullan not only shares his thoughts on how much former editor Andy Coulson and owner Rupert Murdoch knew about what was allegedly going on at News of the World, but also on how some police allegedly aid the tabloids (and may even phone them to make some money for a tip, like how a much-loved TV actress now in her 60s used to be a street-walker). Grant comes off as sharp and well-researched, but also frank. He and McMullan debate when, if ever, phone-hacking is permissible.
Me But celebrities you would justify because they’re rich?
Him Yeah. I mean, if you don’t like it, you’ve just got to get off the stage. It’ll do wonders.
Me So I should have given up acting?
Him If you live off your image, you can’t really complain about someone …
Me I live off my acting. Which is different to living off your image.
Him Yeah, but you’re still presenting yourself to the public. And if the public didn’t know you —
Me They don’t give a s—. I got arrested with a hooker and they still came to my films. They don’t give a f— about your public image. They just care about whether you’re in an entertaining film or not.
I have to agree with Grant there — at least in his case. What’s your take? Grant writes that he finds it interesting that even though the two men hate what the other stands for, they got along well enough that he actually felt a bit guilty for recording McMullan. But since Grant gives a nice plug to McMullan’s pub at the end of the piece — “The Castle Inn, Dover, for the record. There are rooms available, too. He asked me if I’d like to sample the honeymoon suite some time: ‘I can guarantee your privacy'” — I’m thinking the encounter was a win-win.