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When Duty Calls

An unfinished screenplay by Aaron Sorkin.

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Illustrations by Tony Millionaire  

Int. Rupert Murdoch’s office; day.

Rupert Murdoch sits behind his desk as Joel Klein knocks on the door and steps in.

Klein: Mr. Murdoch?

Murdoch: Well, if it isn’t Lady Macbeth.

Klein: Is that what people are calling me?

Murdoch: Ever since 8:30 this morning.

Klein: What happened at 8:30 this morning?

Murdoch: I sent out a memo instructing everyone to call you Lady Macbeth.

Klein: Sir—

Murdoch: You see, Lady Macbeth is a character from one of the Shakespeare plays—Twelfth Night, if I’m not mistaken—

Klein: No—

Murdoch: —and she was power-­hungry and drove her husband to do terrible things in order to topple the king.

Klein: I’m not trying to topple—

Murdoch: I considered calling you Iago, from the Shakespeare play Iago, but I landed on Lady Macbeth because Rebekah thought it would be fun to feminize you.

Klein: Sir, I’ve been thinking, and I really think you should have someone else head the internal investigation of News Corp.

Murdoch: Don’t sell yourself short, Joel, you’re the man for the job.

Klein: I meant—

Murdoch: You’re a prosecutor with an impressive record.

Klein: Yes, but—

Murdoch: When you were working for the Clinton White House, you led the team that put that short lady with the three names on the Supreme Court. Bladder … Jew-something?

Klein: Ruth Bader Ginsburg. But what I’m trying to say is—

Murdoch: And as chancellor of the New York City public-school system … Well, nobody really cares, but my point is, you shouldn’t be having a crisis of confidence. You’re my man to lead this.

Klein: I just think the investigation should be led by someone else.

Murdoch: That’s not what you said to your wife. You said that by heading up the investigation, you’d have access to me, which would help prime the pump for your eventual position as my replacement.

Klein: How do you know what I said to my wife?

Murdoch: You mean I guessed right?

Klein: Sir, have you been hacking my phone?

Murdoch: Don’t be ridiculous, Joel. And don’t forget to pick up milk on your way home from work.

Klein: I’m just beginning to think that having the investigation led by someone who’s on the payroll isn’t a good idea for the company right now.

Murdoch: But sources say it’s a very good idea.

Klein: What sources?

Murdoch: Sources close to the situation.

Klein: Whom are you talking about?

Murdoch: Sources with an intimate knowledge of everyone’s thinking. They all say it’s a good idea.

Klein: It’s not.

Murdoch: Not according to sources who spoke exclusively to us. Are you worried about your reputation?

Klein: Sir—

Murdoch: Did you see how I handled Parliament? Was it masterful, or was it masterful?

Klein: Frankly, you appeared to be a doddering old man with short-term-memory loss.

Murdoch: I was simply let down by people I trusted.

Klein: Yeah, I’d lose that line. It sounds like you think you were the victim.

Murdoch: I am. Of the people I trusted. But little does it matter, Joel. All the press cared about the next day was Wendi’s takedown of the guy with the pie.

Klein: Another red-letter day for journalism, but that’s not the ­issue. I came to News Corp. to focus on education technology.

Murdoch: And to take my job.

Klein: No. Education technology.

Murdoch: I own something like eleven movie studios, 79 television stations, and 160 newspapers and magazines On a scale of importance to me, education technology falls somewhere between NatGeo and AskMen.com.

Klein: The smart thing to do would be to hire outside counsel to run the investigation.

Murdoch: That would make it an external investigation, and those don’t usually work out well.

Klein: You pay me $4.5 million a year. I have access to a private jet and a $1,200-a-month car allowance. Why should anyone take my investigation seriously?

Murdoch: Sources say people are going to take it seriously.

Klein: You know what I’ve been meaning to ask you? If your publications are willing to invent anonymous sources and make up quotes, why bother hacking phones to get information?

Murdoch: Eureka, Joel. Put that in the report: “Hacking phones? Why bother?” In fact, that should be our new slogan. “News Corp.: Sources Say They’d Rather We Just Keep Making Things Up.”

Klein: Sir—

Murdoch: Admit you want my job, Lady Godiva.

Klein: Lady Macbeth. Fine, yes, I want your job. But I don’t want to be taking over a scandal-plagued joke of a media empire.

Murdoch: Then I’d keep that in mind while running your investigation, Eeyore.

Klein: Iago. I will.

Klein heads out.

Murdoch (calling after): And don’t forget the milk.

Fade to black.


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