Ant and Dec had showdown talks with Simon Cowell over quitting BGT because they kept being edited out. ANT and Dec have revealed how they secretly tried to quit Britain’s Got Talent — but were persuaded to stay after a showdown with Simon Cowell in LA.
The Geordie duo revealed that waiting for Simon Cowell to turn up at auditions “drives us nuts” as they shared some of the frustrations and tensions they felt on the hit show.
In their new autobiography Once Upon A Tyne, Dec, 44, explains: “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, they have a bit of food, then get back to waiting for Simon.”
Cowell, 60, who also contributes to the book, admits: “They used to have a real issue with me being late and it used to drive them nuts.”
It prompts Ant to quip: “We’ve still got a real issue with him being late and it still drives us nuts.” The TV favorites reveal how matters came to a head when they became infuriated by Simon’s lateness — and footage they had recorded being edited out. They complained that having large parts of their footage edited out of the final show was wasting their time.
The pair told horrified ITV chiefs they planned to walk away from telly’s most popular entertainment show — forcing Simon to desperately fight to win them back.
Describing the dispute, Ant, 44, says: “It was on a trip to America, in 2012, where we had to have a serious conversation with Simon.
“The previous series of BGT had been especially tricky for us two.
“The audition days had been very long, which in itself we don’t mind, but after filming interviews and interacting with every single act, as well as making jokes, giving reactions and everything else we always do, we found that when the show went out on TV, we hardly seemed to feature in it at all.
“We began to feel that we were wasting our time doing the auditions because all the footage of the work we were doing was ending up on the cutting-room floor.
“And, what’s more, with Saturday Night Takeaway about to come back into our schedule, we could have been putting our efforts into that in January, when the auditions happen.
“The experience left us feeling like we were being sidelined.”
Dec adds: “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.
All the footage of the work we were doing was ending up on the cutting-room floor Ant
“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’.”
The complaints led to Simon inviting the duo to meet him in Los Angeles, where they held clear-the-air talks as he made a frantic bid to persuade them to stay.
Ant says: “The ITV bosses told Simon about the conversation we’d had with them and he asked to meet. We agreed to catch up with him in LA to talk about it.
The duo reveal their frustrations in new autobiography Once Upon A Tyne
“We’ve always had a lot of respect for him and, whatever happened, 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 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 explains: “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.”
We’d been to see the bosses at ITV and told them we were strongly considering leaving BGT Dec
Dec says: “He made a promise to us: that things would change and that we’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.
“At the end of the evening, Simon offered us a lift back to our hotel in his chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce.
"We were only staying around the corner, but apparently nobody walks anywhere in LA; plus, we’d never been in a Rolls-Royce before, so we said yes, settled the bill and made our way to the car.”
Commenting in the book, Simon adds: “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 adds: “We had to come up with some kind of compromise, which now means we work earlier.”
BGT returns to our screens on Sunday with a pre-recorded show revealing the semi-finalists. Bosses were forced to pull the series off-air earlier this year due to the Covid-19 shutdown. The live semis will then begin on September 5 — but Simon will be absent after suffering a broken back in a horrific electric bicycle accident earlier this month.