Hugh Grant: Police want to talk to me about alleged tabloid hacking
Hugh Grant says police have asked him to testify at an inquiry regarding a scandal involving the UK tabloid News of the World, which has come under fire for allegedly hacking into cellphones of celebrities and a teenage schoolgirl who was murdered.
UPDATE at 12:40 p.m. ET: News Corp. has announced that News of the World will shut down amid the scandal and that its final issue will be published on Sunday, July 10.
Earlier this year, the 50-year-old British star of films such as "Four Weddings and a Funeral," whose 1995 arrest for soliciting a prostitute dominated tabloid headlines, wrote in an article published in The New Statesman magazine in April that he had secretly taped a conversation with a former New of the World editor, Paul McMullan.
McMullan has admitted that News of the World, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., employed people to hack into the phones.
"It is true that there's a new investigation," Grant recently told Sky News, which is also partially-owned by News Corp., when asked about a new police inquiry into the matter. "They've been to see me, asking me to be a witness in this case and I'm very happy to help them but I cannot put all my faith in the Metropolitan police. We need an inquiry that involves all the practices and indeed the culture, not just the News of the World but of all tabloid journalism in this country."
He said that he almost feels sorry for the News of the World" because the tabloid is, as he puts it, "taking the wrap for the malpractices of the entire industry."
Grant described how he secretly taped the former News of the World editor.
"By sheer coincidence, I broke down in the middle of Kent in my car," Grant told BBC News in a video interview, which also featured McMullan. "A guy got out of the car on the other side of the road, started taking pictures of me. He was Paul McMullan. I started swearing at him, etcetera. I finally got talking to him. He started boasting about how my phone had been hacked and all of the dirtiest tactics of the News of the World ... and I was revolted and astonished."
"Then I went back a few months later to the pub he now runs in Dover and pretended to be dropping in for a pint and I bugged him," Grant said. "It seemed like symmetry. And I got him talking again about all these things and I published them all in The New Statesman."
McMullan told the BBC he agreed with Grant's words, adding: "Two pints of spitfire cost six Quid. You owe me six Quid. He didn't pay for his beer. Apart from that, it was fine."
"It was hilarious." McMullan said. "How can Hugh Grant coming in your pub with a silly little pen trying to record you be anything other than hilarious? I didn't mind being turned over. You couldn't believe that an actor who's very well-known lower himself to such tactics. I was shocked and outraged. No, I wasn't at all."
"You said it was evil," McMullan told Grant. "It's not really evil. It's all part of the game that helps you get publicity for your latest movies. Our interest was writing truthful stories and what better source of the truth that you can find on someone's old mobile (phone)."
Grant then told McMullan he should "try real journalism."
At least five people have been arrested by detectives investigating assertions that News of the World journalists hacked the phones of members of the UK royal family, politicians, celebrities, sports stars and Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old British schoolgirl from England who was murdered several years ago, to listen to their voicemail messages, Reuters reported.
News of the World has said it will admit liability and pay compensation in eight cases, the news wire added. Murdoch himself has said allegations that News Of The World staff hacked phones and paid police were "deplorable and unacceptable". Several weeks ago, actress Sienna Miller settled a lawsuit with News of the World for 10,000 pounds ($164,500), saying her cellphone was hacked as well.