The True Events That Inspired Sienna Miller’s Viral New Series, ‘Anatomy Of A Scandal’

It was based on two specific cases.
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By now, you’ve probably binged through all six episodes of Netflix’s new series, Anatomy Of A Scandal (a long weekend release will do that for you), and if you’re anything like us, you’ll be researching any extra details around the gripping, and at times shocking, storyline. 

The psychological thriller, which is based on the best-selling book of the same name by Sarah Vaughan, follows a British woman named Sophie (Sienna Miller) whose high profile husband, James Whitehouse (Rupert Friend) is accused of raping a parliamentary aide, with whom he had been having an affair. A public facing breakdown and a looming PR crisis threatens the integrity of the Westminster Government, all while tearing Sophie’s family apart in the process. 

The show’s thirst for a political scandal isn’t unlike some of the stories we’ve watched unravel in real life within governments across the world—so naturally, viewers beg the question: Is it based on a true story? 

Here, we look at the events that inspired Anatomy of a Scandal. 

(Credit: Netflix)

Is Anatomy Of A Scandal based on a true story? 

The six-part series isn’t based on one real-life story, but it was inspired by two real events that dominated British news in the 2000s and 2010s. 

The novel’s author Sarah Vaughn previously worked as a political reporter, where she covered several resignations of cabinet ministers in the wake of shocking scandals. It was here that she learned the ins and outs (and distressing realities) of how these were handled within the cabinet. 

In an interview with The GuardianVaughan revealed that there were two cases in particular that inspired her to write Anatomy of a Scandal. The first was the 2004 scandal involving future Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was a frontbencher for the conservative Tory party at the time. He lied about having an extramarital affair with columnist Petronella Wyatt, infamously citing the allegations as “an inverted pyramid of piffle”. He was sacked from his position as a result. 

Vaughan explained that while Anatomy of a Scandal‘s James wasn’t based on Johnson himself, it was the now-Prime Minister’s approach to the truth that inspired his character the most. 

“As Theresa May put it in the Commons recently, either he ‘didn’t read the rules, or [he] didn’t understand them, or [he] didn’t think they applied to [him]’,” she said.

(Credit: Netflix)

Vaughan told Exploring Exeter that her book also drew inspiration from the 2014 case of footballer Ched Evans, who was convicted of the rape of a 19-year-old woman in 2011. He served half his sentence before Evans was granted a retrial, where the court allowed new evidence from two witnesses who alleged details about the complainant’s sexual preferences. The woman was then required to speak to the court about this in great detail. Evans was found not guilty

“I was upset by the way in which the alleged rape victim was depicted by commentators and started thinking about how horrific it must be to summon up the courage to come forward with a rape conviction and then have doubt cast on that in the papers and in court,” she told the publication. 

The case occurred shortly before the #MeToo movement gained momentum, a time where speaking up about gender imbalances, harassment and scrutiny were not talked about nearly as much. 

“I didn’t want my then-8-year-old daughter to have to experience some of the things I had as I learned to navigate sexual politics in my early to mid-twenties,” Vaughan explained.

“I obviously merged concerns I’d had about power, perceptions of truth, privilege—all seen at Oxford and in Westminster—and consent.”

The result was Anatomy of a Scandal, which delves into the impacts that a case like this can have on all people involved, even those who never take to the stand. 

You can watch Anatomy of a Scandal on Netflix by logging in or signing up here

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service or contact Full Stop Australia

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