Did You Know: Hugh Grant Leaked One Of The UK’s Biggest Scandals

By Nathan Kamal | 2 months ago

Hugh Grant The Undoing

For many years, Hugh Grant was thought of by the public as the bashful, soft-spoke, ever-so-English lead of romantic comedies like Love Actually and Four Weddings and a Funeral. After breaking through to American audiences and a widely-publicized public arrest, he pivoted his persona to a nearly the opposite, a sarcastic, yet appealing cad in films like Two Weeks’ Notice and Bridget Jones’ Diary. These days, he is a respected character actor and well-known grumpy person, but you might not know one of the more incredible parts of his life: being a central player in the single biggest media and political scandal in the United Kingdom in decades. 

That incident is known as the “News International phone-hacking scandal” and profoundly affected UK national politics, the police service, and global media. So how was Hugh Grant involved? Basically, it started with his car breaking down. Not the most standard beginning to a real-life thriller novel, but so it goes. According to Grant, his car broke down in a remote area of Kent around Christmas of 2010. While he was stranded, a van pulled up and began taking pictures of him (which aside from not being very helpful, added to Grant’s well-known dislike of paparazzi). It turned out the driver of the van was Paul McMullan, a former journalist/paparazzo for News of the World, a tabloid paper owned by Australian media mogul/ Bond villain inspiration Rupert Murdoch. While giving Grant a lift, he mentioned that the actor had been one of the victims of a vast illegal phone-tapping conspiracy orchestrated by the British press and condoned by the police and government. Needless to say, Grant was intrigued. 

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A few months later, Hugh Grant sat down with Paul McMullan for a longer conversation on the subject of phone-tapping, and secretly recorded it. He then wrote an expose in The New Statesman that brought enormously greater public interest to the scheme, which eventually was confirmed to involve literally dozens of high-ranking government and police employees and some of the oldest and most-read newspapers in the United Kingdom. The public interest turned to public outrage when it was alleged that News of the World had orchestrated hacking into the voicemail of Milly Dowler, a 13-year old whose disappearance and murder had recently horrified Great Britain. Eventually, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced a formal inquiry into the scandal. Dozens of individuals were fired and/or convicted of various related crimes, including the highest-ranking police officer in the United Kingdom at the time. News of the World was shut down later in 2011, after 168 years of publication. 

The after-effects of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal are still being felt in the media industry, and doubtless will continue for decades more. Simply put, it was a generational event in the politics and media structure of an entire nation and the larger global news cycle, that eventually involved heads of state and billionaires. And one of the primary motivators behind it was Hugh Grant’s car breaking down. It’s a strange world, even for the star of Paddington 2.