The nation’s favourite presenting pair Ant & Dec have revealed in their new biography that they almost quit Britain’s Got Talent because of tensions with BGT creator Simon Cowell.
The Geordie duo have presented BGT since the start of the show in 2007 but came very close to leaving in 2012, as detailed in their new book Once Upon a Tyne.
Cowell’s constant lateness on set “drives us nuts”.
Dec Donnelly explained what caused the drama: “A couple of hours after we arrive at the theatre, we focus on one of the key elements of any BGT audition day: waiting for Simon Cowell to turn up.
“Once we’ve got started on that, we’ll often film interviews with some of that day’s acts, then have a bit of food, then get back to waiting for Simon.”
According to The Sun, Cowell contributes to the book and admitted: “They used to have a real issue with me being late and it used to drive them nuts.”
Ant McPartlin responded: “We’ve still got a real issue with him being late and it still drives us nuts.”
The multiple BAFTA and National TV Award-winning presenters revealed that matters came to a head over the interviews they record with BGT talent before Cowell arrived. Much of it was edited out and they felt like they were wasting their time.
Dec added: “We’d been to see the bosses at ITV and told them we were strongly considering leaving BGT.
“At that stage, it felt like it may as well have been anyone hosting the show and we said that when our current contract expired, we thought it was time to move on. This isn’t something we’re in the habit of doing and they aren’t easy conversations to have, but we felt like honesty was the best policy.
“I remember waking up in Birmingham on the last day of the 2012 tour, opening my curtains and thinking, ‘Well, this is the last time I’ll be doing this’.”
Cowell realised how far things had gone and tried to make amends with the eternally popular presenters. He asked them to fly to LA for crucial talks.
Dec said: “The three of us went to a restaurant in West Hollywood called Ceconni’s and we sat outside, partly so we could soak up the glorious Californian sunshine, but mainly so Simon could smoke.
“And it’s worth mentioning that Simon was only one minute late for that meeting, which for him is the equivalent of being three days early.
“The three of us sat down and me and Ant went either side of him, so we could do the full pincer movement.
“He started by saying how he’d thought the last series was amazing, how well it had gone, how pleased he was with the talent, and then he asked us how it had been from our side.”
Ant picked up the story: “And then we let him have it with both barrels. We told him everything – that we weren’t being used, that we could be doing other stuff, 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.”
Dec said that Cowell promised things would change and that they’d never feel like that again. “He desperately wanted us to stay and we told him we’d do the next series and see how it went — and, to be fair to him, he was as good as his word, things did change.”
Cowell is quoted in Once Upon a Tyne: “If they’re p****d off, they’ll tell me to my face. And there’s no drama. There’s no entourage. If they’ve got something to say, they say it themselves, which I respect.”
He added: “We had to come up with some kind of compromise, which now means we work earlier.”
Britain’s Got Talent returns to ITV on Sunday, 30th August with a pre-recorded auditions show.
Once Upon a Tyne: Our story celebrating 30 years together on telly is available from book stores and online from Thursday, 30th September.
If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV guide.