For his piece in The New Statesman, actor Hugh Grant played the part of journalist when he interviewed ex-News of the World tabloid writer Paul McMullan… secretly recording the entire conversation. The two met by happenstance: Grant’s car broke down, and the ever-pragmatic McMullan offered to give him a ride, if he let him take some photos for quick cash. (Once a pap, always a pap.) Their brief conversation about hacking into celebrities’ phones intrigued Grant so much that he made a pub date with McMullan for the Statesman piece.
McMullan, it turned out, was one of the whistleblowers who revealed News of the World’s practice of phone-hacking, and he had told Grant at their first meeting that the actor was one of the victims. The whole piece is a fascinating read, but here are the parts that most stood out to us.
1. Which publications, if any, are above phone-hacking.
Me And . . . it wasn’t just the News of the World. It was , you know – the Mail?
Him Oh absolutely, yeah. When I went freelance in 2004 the biggest payers – you’d have thought it would be the NoW, but actually it was the Daily Mail. If I take a good picture, the first person I go to is – such as in your case – the Mail on Sunday. Did you see that story? The picture of you, breaking down . . . I ought to thank you for that. I got £3,000. Whooo!
Me But would they [the Mail] buy a phone-hacked story?
Him For about four or five years they’ve absolutely been cleaner than clean. And before that they weren’t. They were as dirty as anyone . . . They had the most money.
2. Grant stays cool under pressure.
Him Good question. You’re not taping, are you?
Me [slightly shrill voice] No.
3. Despite the nature of his assignment, Grant doesn’t name names.
Him Yeah. There’s that . . . You also work a lot with policemen as well . . . One of the early stories was [and here he names a much-loved TV actress in her sixties] used to be a street walker – whether or not she was, but that’s the tip.
Me and Chum MLTVA?!
Me I can’t believe it. Oh no!
Him Yeah. Well, not now . . .