Entertainment

Succession creator wrote early script based on Rupert Murdoch before HBO series

Jesse Armstrong said it ‘felt very possible’ that Succession would only run for one season (Suzan Moore/PA)
Jesse Armstrong said it ‘felt very possible’ that Succession would only run for one season (Suzan Moore/PA) Jesse Armstrong said it ‘felt very possible’ that Succession would only run for one season (Suzan Moore/PA)

The creator of hit TV series Succession has confirmed the original script was based on Rupert Murdoch, following many years of speculation by fans and media.

Jesse Armstrong, creator, executive producer and writer of the popular series, said he wrote about the real-life media mogul and his family years before the HBO show came into fruition.

Speaking in front of an audience at the Edinburgh TV Festival, the 52-year-old writer, also known for comedy series Peep Show and Fresh Meat, said: “I wrote a script about Rupert Murdoch and his family – the real people, which was the predecessor.

Succession season 4 screening – London
Succession season 4 screening – London Jesse Armstrong and Brian Cox, pictured together at a screening of Succession season four (Suzan Moore/PA)

“A distinct entity ended up as a sort of screenplay that started at Channel 4 as a sort of docu-drama and it evolved into a sort of screenplay.”

He said he originally stopped working on the script, but added “many years later” he thought it was a “really great idea” and began working on what would eventually become Succession.

The British writer admitted it “felt very possible” that the show would only run for one season.

It became a hit, with Scottish actor Brian Cox playing foul-mouthed global media tycoon and family patriarch Logan Roy, and aired for four seasons, scooping up numerous accolades during its run, including the outstanding drama series Emmy last year.

When Murdoch and ex-wife Jerry Hall were going through their divorce, it was reported by Vanity Fair that Ms Hall was banned from contacting the show’s producers in an effort to stop her providing them with ideas for storylines.

Asked about this, Armstrong said he is “sceptical” if this is true.

He added: “I imagine that in their divorce agreement, she was probably restricted from talking to any number of media organisations.

“Well, probably, I imagine that’s a spicy detail, ginned up a little bit.”

He said he thinks “one of Murdoch’s great strengths is not giving a f*** too much about those kinds of things” and that he does not believe the restrictions upon Ms Hall came from Murdoch directly.

Armstrong was asked if he knew what the show’s ending would be when it first started.

Murdoch annual party
Murdoch annual party An original script of what became Succession was based on Rupert Murdoch (Victoria Jones/PA)

He admitted he “didn’t know what the end of Succession would be”, stating it “would be almost impossible and counterproductive” to have written the ending while the show was still a fledgling series.

He added: “What you need to know is the tone of the ending, so I guess I knew the tone of the ending right as the show starts.”

He said a major plot point that helped direct the show was Roy’s mortality, who, as an elderly man, knew he would eventually die but would be succeeded by his children, giving him a “chance to live on in a way”.

Fans were shocked when the patriarch was killed off in episode three of the final season of the hit HBO show.