They say art imitates life—but in the case of Rupert Murdoch and the show based on his fucked-up family, Succession, it’s more like a Russian nesting doll of art imitating life then imitating art then imitating life, and so on and so on forever.
Vanity Fair dropped a truly meaty cover story on the conservative media mogul and all his personal and professional turmoil on Wednesday, and buried in it is a juicy nugget about Murdoch’s sudden divorce last summer from model (and Mick Jagger’s ex) Jerry Hall. One of the terms of the settlement, VF reports, was that Hall is not allowed to give plot ideas to the writers of Succession.
The whole paragraph about how the divorce went down is worth reading:
At the age of 91, Murdoch blew up his fourth marriage. Hall was waiting for Murdoch to meet her at their Oxfordshire estate last June when she checked her phone. “Jerry, sadly I’ve decided to call an end to our marriage,” Murdoch’s email began, according to a screenshot I read. “We have certainly had some good times, but I have much to do…My New York lawyer will be contacting yours immediately.” Hall told friends she was blindsided. “Rupert and I never fought,” she told people. There had been disagreements over his antiabortion views and some friction with the kids over Hall’s rules about masking and testing before they saw Murdoch, according to sources. But Hall never felt Murdoch treated these as major issues. Hall and Murdoch finalized their divorce two months later. (One of the terms of the settlement was that Hall couldn’t give story ideas to the writers on Succession.) Hall told friends she had to move everything out of the Bel Air estate within 30 days and show receipts to prove items belonged to her. Security guards watched as her children helped her pack. When she settled into the Oxfordshire home she received in the divorce, she discovered surveillance cameras were still sending footage back to Fox headquarters. Mick Jagger sent his security consultant to disconnect them.
Ironically, the Succession writers could’ve just copied and pasted all of this straight into the script, divorce settlement be damned.
The extent to which Murdoch’s life and family drama tracks so closely with the show’s plot, per this piece, actually impresses me. On his kids:
He long wanted one of his three children from his second wife, Anna—Elisabeth, 54, Lachlan, 51, and James, 50—to take over the company one day. Murdoch believed a Darwinian struggle would produce the most capable heir. “He pitted his kids against each other their entire lives. It’s sad,” a person close to the family said. Elisabeth was by many accounts the sharpest, but she is a woman, and Murdoch subscribed to old-fashioned primogeniture.
Oh hai, Shiv!!
In real life, Murdoch just recently tried and failed to remarry a fifth time. The 92-year-old was briefly engaged to a right-wing evangelical woman named Ann Lesley Smith, but he called it off earlier this month (just two weeks after proposing) because reportedly she was too much of a quack, even for him.
It’s too late for any of this drama to make it into a Succession plotline now, for obvious reasons. But if I were Murdoch, the events of last Sunday’s episode would be giving me quite a lot to think about...