Piers Morgan isn’t afraid to laugh at himself and is quite happy to admit that plenty of celebrities turn down the chance to be interviewed on Life Stories simply because it’s him asking the questions.
“Oh god yeah,” Morgan tells RadioTimes.com. “You’ll be shocked to hear I’m not universally liked.”
“People might be wary,” he adds, perhaps stating the obvious (there’s no doubt his reputation for pushing uncomfortable topics precedes him). But he does tell me he has “boundaries” and doesn’t “revel” in the tears that have become almost a trademark of the show.
Morgan has attracted an impressive range of stars over the years – from Richard Branson to Mary Berry, Cheryl Cole to Elton John, Russell Brand to Burt Reynolds – but who’s missing from his list of celeb scalps?
“I’m always trying to get Michael Caine,” Morgan reveals. “We get on very well, but he once sent me an email saying ‘For all the reasons I love watching your show, I’m never going to do it. Get it into your head.’”
Even after reminding Caine that he had enjoyed watching his friend Sir Roger Moore on the show, Morgan couldn’t quite convince him. “Absolutely not,” Caine said. “Close, but no cigar…”
The fact that people turn the show down doesn’t bother Morgan, though. “There’s plenty of people out there. I’ve done 79 and we’re always five times oversubscribed for people who want to do it. We then choose who we think will make the best show.
“Sometimes they rate highly, but aren’t great shows. Sometimes they don’t rate highly but are fantastic shows. There’s room for all of that in a series of six. It’s not all about getting the highest ratings each time, otherwise you could go and get six EastEnders stars and you’d probably do fine.”
There is a select handful of stars, though, that Morgan himself point blank refuses to have on.
“Hugh Grant is banned. Steve Coogan’s banned. Saint Coogan and Bishop Grant of Fleet Street. Try and tell us that their brand of morality and ethics is apparently the one that newspapers should all adopt,” Morgan says, referring to the pair’s post-Leveson campaign for press regulation. “If you know anything about those two, it’s like putting a fox in charge of a hen coop.”
Morgan’s in no hurry to have the spotlight turned on himself though, saying he’d find it “extremely uncomfortable”. He jokes that he’d “ban” whoever was interviewing him from discussing “at least thirty things”, which is interesting given he also says that if it was the other way round, and a prospective interviewee was trying to insist certain topics were off the table, he would “refuse” to do a show with them.
Is that a little hypocritical, I wonder?
“I don’t think it’s hypocritical because I always say to my guests, you don’t have to answer my questions. What you can’t do is ban me from asking questions. Otherwise you’d have half a show. They don’t have to answer. I’m not holding a gun to their head.”
His guests are “brave” Morgan concurs, adding: “Very few of them have ever come out of it not looking good. They all come out of it looking pretty good.”
Piers Morgan’s Life Stories returns to ITV on 4th September with Lionel Richie