Rupert MurdochAs someone who's been a larger-than-life empire-builder and a household name for decades on three continents, Rupert Murdoch has, surprisingly, never been the central character in a movie. Maybe studios and screenwriters have avoided telling his life story out of reverence -- or fear. That may change now that his media conglomerate's British phone-hacking scandal has made him vulnerable. The dramatic events of the past week, of which the Murdoch family's shuttering of the 168-year-old tabloid News of the World now seems only the end of the saga's first act, seems too irresistible not to inspire some future big-screen cautionary tale.

If the makers of such a film are looking for precedents on how to depict Murdoch, they won't find many. Documentaries aside, the only major feature film in which he is a character is the 2002 Australian docudrama 'Black and White.' That film, about a real-life 1950s murder case, features Ben Mendelsohn in a supporting role as the young Murdoch, taking a position few modern-day Murdoch observers might recognize: as a muckraking crusader defending the rights of a minority defendant against a white-dominated justice system.
The film depicts the case of Max Stuart, an Aboriginal man found guilty of raping and murdering a 9-year-old white girl. Stuart's lawyer believes the confession (the only real evidence against him) was coerced by police. Murdoch, then a young Australian newspaper publisher, leads the public outcry for a retrial, in part because he (then as now) recognizes a good tabloid story that will sell papers.

'Black and White' Trailer

Other than that, Murdoch has been depicted only occasionally, mostly on TV. He's appeared a couple times as a character on 'The Simpsons' (voiced by Dan Castellaneta, who also voices Homer), a show that, although it airs on Murdoch's Fox network, has never been shy about biting the hand that feeds it. Murdoch is also briefly seen as a character (played by Paul Elder) in 'The Late Shift,' the 1996 HBO cable movie about the battle to succeed Johnny Carson, in which Murdoch's Fox network chooses essentially to sit out the squabble by not making a serious offer for the services of the newly-available David Letterman.

One might argue that the definitive movie about Murdoch's downfall has already been made. No, not 'Citizen Kane.' Rather, it's 1997's, 'Tomorrow Never Dies,' where James Bond's supervillain du jour is Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce), an international media mogul bent on monopolizing the world's newsfeeds, a man whose media outlets are not above spying on politicians' private lives, strong-arming world leaders, making up facts and cheerleading for manufactured wars. Sound like anyone you know?

Excerpt from 'Tomorrow Never Dies'

Follow Gary Susman on Twitter: @garysusman.
Black and White
Not Yet Rated2002
In Theaters on January 1st, 2002

An Australian lawyer faces racism as he defends an Aborigine accused of murdering a white child. Read More

Tomorrow Never Dies
Based on 38 critics

James Bond and female agent Wai Lin pursue a megalomaniacal tycoon trying to start World War III. Read More

categories Features, Hot Topic