Last year documentary, The Rise of the Murdoch Dynasty aired on BBC Two. But for those of us who are Succession addicts - it was basically just an hour-long guessing game about which bits prove, once and for all, if Succession is based on the Murdochs
Since it aired, Succession (available now on Sky and Now TV currently airing the third season each Monday night) has had people speculating over whether the drama – which tells the story of an eye-wateringly rich family that own a media conglomerate – is based on inside gossip about Rupert Murdoch and his family. Some have claimed there are also similarities with the Trumps, Redstones, Maxwells and Hearsts.
But, as well as scoping out the three-part documentary, there are probably some clues out there that we can look at ourselves when deciding how much of Succession is based on the family led by Rupert Murdoch…
The family set-up - who is Rupert Murdoch?
Rupert Murdoch is an Australian-born American billionaire businessman, media tycoon, and investor. Through his business News Corp, he is the owner of hundreds of local, national, and international publishing outlets around the world.
How old is Rupert Murdoch?
At 90 years old, he is still the is still the head of this global media empire and is eager to keep expanding.
Rupert has six children – Prudence, Elisabeth, Lachlan and James, and two younger children, Grace and Chloe, from his marriage to Wendi Deng. In Succession, Scottish Logan Roy has just four older children – Connor, Kendall, Shiv and Roman. So there’s some matching there.
In Succession, Connor has a different mother to his other three siblings – and Prudence, Rupert Murdoch’s eldest, is his daughter from his first marriage to Patricia Booker. Lachlan, James and Elisabeth’s mother is Anna Murdoch Mann and Chloe and Grace’s mother is Wendi Deng.
Did the creators base Succession on the Murdoch family?
Yes and no… according to creator Jesse Armstrong. It depends which interview you read. It’s been widely reported that Armstrong wrote an unproduced film scripts about Rupert Murdoch and his family, but on the whole he says they took inspiration from lots of places.
‘This is a fictional family,’ Armstrong said in a Variety interview. ‘There are loads of succession stories to draw on. We wanted to draw on all the good, rich stories there are about succession and about media and high politics.’
And in a New York Times piece, he’s quoted as saying: ‘The amazing thing about this stuff is that it’s everywhere. Sumner Redstone’s family. The Mercers. The Murdochs. Conrad Black. Sometimes people have said, “It’s really about these people, isn’t it? It’s based on them”. And: No. We read widely and we do take elements of stuff.
‘Hopefully, if you’re writing in the right area, you end up hitting reality,’ he said.
Do the actors take any inspiration from the Murdoch family?
Brian Cox, who plays patriarch Logan Roy said at the Golden Globes: ‘Rupert Murdoch has f— all to do with it, and you can quote me.’ And has also said: ‘I didn’t channel anybody really. It’s a great role and a great subject. And it’s about the nature of how greed and acquisitiveness desensitizes people.’
Do the Murdoch family watch Succession?
Brian Cox has, however, famously admitted he had a run-in that led him to believe the Murdochs do watch the show. He says a man once approached him, saying he and his wife were enjoying the show, but that she ‘finds it a little difficult at times’. When Cox asked why, he said: ‘My wife is Elisabeth Murdoch’.
After offering his apologies, Keith Tyson, who married Elisabeth Murdoch in 2017, said ‘it’s fine’ but added, says Cox: ‘Can you go easy on her next season?’
But in an interview with the New Yorker, James Murdoch denied watching the show, saying: ‘I don’t watch Succession. Not even a peek. Why would I?’
Which Murdoch sibling could the Succession characters be based on?
If you think that there are too many similarities to deny the show is based on the Murdoch family, here's who could be who….
Lachlan Murdoch and Kendall Roy
People speculate these could be the same because Lachlan resigned from his executive post at News Corp and as publisher of the New York Post, when everyone had thought he’d be Rupert’s natural successor. It could seem similar to Kendall’s back and forth with his dad’s businesses…
James Murdoch and Roman Roy
Both are apparently seen as the more rogue elements of the families. Could James’ entanglement with the News of the World phone-hacking scandal mirror Roman’s rocket launch troubles?
Prudence Murdoch and Connor Roy
Both Prudence and Connor steer largely clear of the family business. It’s been reported she is ‘the only one of [Rupert’s] children not directly competing for his business affections’.
Elisabeth Murdoch and Shiv Roy
Elisabeth and Shiv have been said to be similar in the ways they’ve moved in and out of the family business and been seen as possible successors at different times. In 2011, Elisabeth left News Corp to start her own production company, Shine, which was then bought by News Corp. Shiv tries to make a name for herself in politics – but ultimately is embroiled in her dad’s business.
Are there any similarities in the plot of Succession and things that happened to the Murdochs?
There is always talk of succession and who will take over from Rupert Murdoch when he finally retires. And, as we see the family have several conferences and even therapy sessions in Succession, it’s been said the Murdochs have done the same.
In 2011, Vanity Fair said the Murdochs met with a family therapist to discuss 'the issue of succession'. The Times has also reported Rupert has had to manage tensions in his family, calling his children and their spouses to a session in London with a therapist who specialises in working with dynastic families. There was even a rumoured therapeutic retreat to the Murdoch ranch in Australia.