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Succession creator ends years of speculation over Rupert Murdoch inspiring Succession

Succession creator Jesse Armstrong has finally commented on the beloved HBO show’s inspiration after years of tiptoeing around the subject.

It was a commonly held belief that the series about a media mogul and his children fighting to inherit his empire was based on Rupert Murdoch, owner of News Corp and the Fox Corporation.

Armstrong has previously insisted that Succession’s Roy family are fictional and that “there are loads of succession stories to draw on” for inspiration.

However, speaking in front of an audience at the Edinburgh TV Festival on Friday (25 August), the 52-year-old writer, also known for Peep Show and Fresh Meat, admitted that the show’s script in its first form was about Murdoch.

“I wrote a script about Rupert Murdoch and his family – the real people, which was the predecessor,” he said

“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.

Rupert Murdoch (left) and Brian Cox in ‘Succession' (Getty/HBO)
Rupert Murdoch (left) and Brian Cox in ‘Succession' (Getty/HBO)

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 his ex-wife Jerry Hall were going through their divorce, it was reported by Vanity Fair that Hall was banned from contacting the show’s producers in an effort to stop her from 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.

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.

Additional reporting from the Press Association