ANT and Dec have revealed how they secretly tried to leave Britain’s Got Talent – but were persuaded to stay after a showdown with Simon Cowell in Los Angeles.
The hosts were fed up with the show’s guru timing and felt left out in the ITV hit because of the way their work was edited.
The Geordie duo revealed that waiting for Simon Cowell to show up at auditions “drives us crazy” as they share some of the frustrations and tensions felt on the hit show.
In their new autobiography Once Upon A Tyne, Dec, 44, explains: “Within hours of arriving at the theater, we focus on one of the key elements of any BGT audition day: waiting for Simon Cowell to show up.
“Once we get started on this, we’ll often film interviews with some of the artists of the day, then have some food, and then go back to waiting for Simon.
Cowell, 60, who also contributes to the book, admits, “They had a real problem with me being late and it was driving them crazy.”
This prompts Ant to joke, “We still have a real problem with his lateness and it always drives us crazy.
TV favorites reveal how things came to a head when they became enraged at Simon’s delay – and the footage they’d recorded was being edited.
They complained that having so much of their footage edited from the final show wasted their time.
The couple told horrified ITV chiefs that they were planning to quit TV’s most popular entertainment show – forcing Simon to fight desperately to win them back.
Describing the conflict, Ant, 44, says: “It was on a trip to America in 2012 where we must have had a serious conversation with Simon.
“The previous BGT series had been particularly tricky for both of us.
“The audition days were really long, which doesn’t bother us in and of itself, but after filming interviews and interacting with each act, as well as making jokes, giving feedback and everything we still do, we We found that when the series came out on TV, it hardly seemed to figure it out.
“We started to feel like we were wasting our time doing the auditions because all the footage of the work we were doing ended up on the floor in the editing room.
“And, furthermore, with Saturday Night Takeaway set to return to our program, we could have devoted our efforts to it in January, when the auditions take place.
“The experience left us with the feeling of being left out.”
Dec adds, “We had gone to the ITV bosses and told them that we were strongly considering leaving BGT.
“At this point, we felt like maybe it was someone who was hosting the show as well and we said when our current contract expired we thought it was time to move on to something else.
All the footage of the work we were doing ended up on the floor of the editing room
“It’s not something we’re used to doing and it’s not easy conversations to have, but we felt honesty was the best policy.
“I remember waking up in Birmingham on the last day of the 2012 tour, opening the curtains and thinking, ‘Well, this is the last time I’m going to do this.’
The complaints led Simon to invite the duo to meet him in Los Angeles, where they had clear talks as he tried to persuade them to stay.
Ant said, “The ITV bosses told Simon about the conversation we had with them and he asked to meet with us. We agreed to meet him in Los Angeles to talk about it.
“We’ve always had a lot of respect for him and no matter what, we wanted to talk to him face to face.
Dec adds, “The three of us went to a restaurant in West Hollywood called Ceconni’s and sat outside, partly so we could soak up the beautiful California sun, but mostly so Simon could smoke.
“And it’s worth mentioning that Simon was only a minute late for this meeting, which for him is three days early.
“The three of us sat down and me and Ant went to either side of him, so we could do the full clamp movement.
“He started by saying how amazing he thought the last series was, how well it went, how happy he was with the talent, then he asked us how it had been on our side. .
Ant explains, “And then we gave him the two barrels.
“We told him everything – that we weren’t being used, that we could do other things, that maybe someone else should take over.
“To be fair to Simon, he sat there, took it all and listened intently for four, maybe five cigarettes.
We had gone to the bosses of ITV and told them we were strongly considering leaving BGT
Dec said, “He made us a promise that things would change and that we would never feel that way again.
“He desperately wanted us to stay and we told him we would do the next set and see how it went – and, to be fair to him, he was as good as his word, things changed.
“At the end of the evening, Simon offered to take us back to our hotel in his Rolls-Royce with driver.
“We only stayed around the corner, but apparently no one was walking anywhere in Los Angeles; Also, we had never been in a Rolls Royce before so we said yes, paid the bill and walked over to the car.
Commenting on the book, Simon adds: “If they’re screwed, they’ll tell me to my face.
“And there is no drama. There is no entourage.
“If they have something to say, they say it themselves, which I respect.”
He adds: “We had to find some kind of compromise, which now means we are working earlier.”
BGT returns to our screens on Sunday with a pre-recorded show revealing the semi-finalists.
Bosses were forced to withdraw the series earlier this year due to the Covid-19 shutdown.
The live semi-finals will then begin on September 5 – but Simon will be out after sustaining a broken back in a horrific e-bike accident earlier this month.
He hopes to make his return in time for the series finale.
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Ant and Dec have hosted the show – now in its 14th series – since its launch in 2007.
Opera singer Paul Potts was the first winner.
The show remains one of the most popular programs on ITV with around ten million viewers still tuning in.
Copyright © 2020 Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly, Excerpt from Once Upon A Tyne: Our Story Celebrating 30 Years Together On Telly, published by Sphere, an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group on September 3, 2020, hardcover price £ 20 (eBook and audio also available).
- A donation was made to the Prince’s Trust on behalf of Ant and Dec for this serialization.
Duo has been Si guys for a long time
ANT and Dec first worked with Simon Cowell on the first series of Britain’s Got Talent in 2007.
The couple signed a two-year contract in golden handcuffs with ITV when they started hosting the new show.
Since then, they’ve helmed all 14 series, except one in 2018, when Dec hosted the live shows alone with Ant in rehab.
The duo also presented the ITV game show Red Or Black, created by Simon and his team.
It first aired on ITV in 2011, but was canceled after the second series, in 2012, failed to ruffle ratings.
Ant and Dec also got Simon involved in their hit series Saturday Night Takeaway in 2014 – joking him on an episode of American Idol, where he was a judge.
Simon was with Ant when he went to drug rehab after being convicted of drunk driving in April 2018.
The tycoon said: “We have known each other for a long time. You stand alongside the people you work with. We are alongside friends. We are all human. “
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