Is Succession based on a real family?
Succession tells the story of a ruthless media patriarch and his power-hungry children – but is HBO’s show based on a real family?
Created by Jesse Armstrong, Succession revolves around Logan Roy (Brian Cox), the curmudgeonly CEO of Waystar Royco, a huge American media conglomerate with its fingers in all sorts of pies, including news, entertainment, theme parks, cruises, and more.
He loves but isn’t terribly fond of any of his children – Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Roman (Kieran Culkin), Shiv (Sarah Snook), and Connor (Alan Ruck) – and despite his constant neglect and abuse, they all hope to be in the running for the show’s titular promise: to be the person who succeeds their dad.
Throughout the first three seasons, and now halfway through fourth and final one, similarities can easily be drawn between the Roys and real-life figures, but is Succession based on a real family?
Is Succession based on a real family?
The short answer: yes, it’s clearly inspired by a number of rich, powerful families, including Rupert Murdoch and his children.
In the early 2010s, Armstrong penned a screenplay titled Murdoch. The movie would have taken place at a birthday dinner for the News Corp media mogul, who tries to “convince his elder children to alter the family trust so that his two youngest children by his newest wife will have voting rights in the company,” as per The Guardian.
While considered to be a hot script on the Black List, it was never produced – but it led to Succession.
Armstrong told the Radio Times: “I’d written a screenplay about Rupert Murdoch’s family and it never got made. And it got me interested in the similarities between all these guys — Murdoch, Robert Maxwell and Conrad Black — who are passing from their position of predominance as tech takes over. But, also, how cable news and newspapers are still shaping our political climate.
His research into the heady, viper-filled worlds of media corporations and their chiefs may have made the show possible, but in a later interview with Variety, he played down any connection to Murdoch or anyone else.
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“This is a fictional family,” Armstrong said, also citing inspirations from William Randolph Hearst, disgraced press baron Robert Maxwell, and the Royal Family. “There’s 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,” he added.
Speaking to Town & Country Magazine, Cox also said: “He’s not Rupert Murdoch. He’s certainly not Donald Trump, and he’s not Conrad Black. He is a self-made man, but there was something in his childhood that made him decide, ‘Fuck it. It doesn’t work. None of it works.'”
In 2021, ahead of the show’s third season, Armstrong said he was inspired by quotes from Rupert Murdoch and the late National Amusements and ViacomCBS tycoon Sumner Redstone. When both were asked about their plans for succession, they joked that they “didn’t plan to die.”
“It just struck me: what’s going on for these men in their 80s and 90s who are still packing the diaries every day?” the showrunner said at the London Film Festival.
“It felt like something quite basic about not wanting to give up and feeling that loss of influence at the end of your life. And I started to feel there was a show about what those people are like in general.”
Hilariously, according to a new report by Vanity Fair, one of Murdoch’s conditions in his divorce settlement with Jerry Hall was that she couldn’t give story ideas to HBO.
Succession Season 4 Episodes 1-9 are streaming on HBO and Sky now. Episode 10 will be available to watch on May 28 in the US and May 29 in the UK. Check out our other coverage below:
Season 4 cast | Season 4 release schedule | Season 4 runtimes | Is Succession based on a real family? | What time does Succession drop? | Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3 | Episode 4 | Episode 5 | Episode 6 | Episode 7 | Episode 8 | Episode 9