Just last week, Landon and I discussed the risk Orson Welles and RKO took in making Citizen Kane, likening it to a major studio making a fictional movie based on Rupert Murdoch at the height of his power. According to Twitch, it won’t be made by a major studio, but an indie outlet is pushing forward with a direct biopic of the media mogul. Screen Australia is investing funds into developing a script called The News of the World, which will focus on Murdoch’s purchase of that same-titled newspaper in the 1960s as a way to tell his life story. Judging by his recent legal problems, it may not come with a Hollywood ending.
The screenplay will come from Bob Ellis (Newsfront, Man of Flowers) – who hasn’t been active in filmmaking since the mid-1990s – alongside Stephen Ramsay.
The acute danger of a project like this is that it will be far too blunt to matter. Not only is it directly taking on Murdoch’s story (as opposed to the roman á clef nature of Kane), but since it deals with a polarizing figure, it could end up being more attack job than earnest portrait. The movie won’t work narratively if every scene is in service of displaying Murdoch as a giant asshole. With any luck, Ellis and Ramsay will manage some grace and restraint in service of a human story. If it gets made, we’ll get to see if Fox News bans all mention of it or if Murdoch uses back channels to offer the filmmakers money to burn every copy. History does love repeating itself, after all.