Piers Morgan versus the President

The fiction: The West Wing, season one, episode twenty-one, “Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics”. First broadcast May 10, 2000. Directed by Don Scardino, written by Aaron Sorkin.

The newspaper: Daily Mirror

It must be a charmed life, being an Aaron Sorkin character. You’ll be hyper-competent at your job, intelligent and always prepared to drop a handful of witty bons mots into conversation. But your  idealism still won’t be enough to tackle the world’s premier cynical force: the British tabloid press.

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I just can’t bear the puns

The fiction: Paddington, released 2014. Director: Paul King. Props master: David “Springer” Horrill.

The newspaper: London Evening Standard.

Hailing from deepest darkest Peru, a lovable young bear makes his way to London. That’s the plot of Paddington, one of the finest family films of recent years, and amid its message of affection for immigrants it’s also a love-letter to the capital city of the United Kingdom. Our ursine hero Paddington comes across the Underground, black cab drivers and plenty of rain — so it’s no wonder he also attracts the interest of Fleet Street and the great British press.

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Vague headlines give no spoilers

The fiction: Red Road, released 2006. Director: Andrea Arnold. Props master: Douglas Ferguson.

The newspapers: Daily Record, Evening Times

Although it involves staring endlessly at screens (and doubtless ruining your eyesight in the process), there’s a sort of voyeuristic allure to the job of monitoring CCTV footage. You get to spy on everyday comings and goings for a legitimate reason… or maybe it’s just me who sees the appeal. Anyway, it doesn’t seem like an especially happy life for Jackie, the central character of Andrea Arnold’s debut film Red Road. But at least she keeps up with the news on a daily basis, thanks to the signs outside every newsagent.

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Hero or Menace? Exclusive Daily Bugle Photos!

The fiction: Spider-Man, released 2002. Director: Sam Raimi. Property master: Robin L Miller.

The newspaper: Daily Bugle

One thing I never considered when I started editing newspaper copy is that almost nobody knows how to write “Spider-Man”. That’s capital S, capital M and a hyphen in between. Reporters get it wrong all the time (usually it’s in the context of a rented superhero costume at a charity fundraiser). If you ran a newspaper that regularly covered the wall-crawler himself, you’d need to keep a tight leash on this point of style. In fact, you would need somebody fearsome, hard-edged and always demanding the best out of his team. And they don’t come any better than J Jonah Jameson.

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Making a Prophet

The fiction: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, released 2001. Director: Chris Columbus. Props master: Barry Wilkinson.

The newspaper: Daily Prophet

Journalism doesn’t really start to be important to the Harry Potter series until around the fourth book — not coincidentally, this is after JK Rowling became famous and the newspapers started writing about her. But Rita Skeeter, bugging and Rowling’s testimony to the Leveson Inquiry are some way off, because the Daily Prophet was still around in the Potterverse from the start. So, how do you make a newspaper stand out in a world where pictures can already move?

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Bourne and read

The fiction: The Bourne Ultimatum, released 2007. Director: Paul Greengrass. Props (London second unit): Alex Boswell, Matthew Broderick*, John Moore

*Almost certainly not that one, but this is what the credits say.

The newspaper: The Guardian

It would be easy to scoff at the reputation of the Bourne franchise of spy thrillers. The cameras shake like they’re on board the Enterprise and it’s gritty in the sense that The Bourne Identity came out in the same year as Die Another Day. There are episodes of Barney that look gritty compared to Die Another Day’s invisible car, melting glacier kite-surfing and diamond-faced henchman. But there is a dedication to reality and verisimilitude in the Bourne films, and you only need to watch the start of the third film to see why.

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Sex, spies, salacious front pages

The fiction: London Spy, 2015 television drama. Director: Jakob Verbruggen. Props master: Jim Grindley/Ewan Robertson.

The newspapers: Daily Express, The Independent Times

Where once a conspiracy thriller’s hero would be a tenacious reporter, or an ordinary man who would approach a reporter to blow the lid off the grand deception, anybody with a USB stick and a laptop can get onto WikiLeaks. So what role is left for newspapers in the BBC’s latest such thriller, London Spy? Well, to menace the hero in a way that would make Lord Leveson tremble.

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