BGT judges say this year’s hopefuls have left them in tears

You can’t really imagine Amanda Holden not looking her bewitching and immaculate best. 

But Britain’s Got Talent is back, and the beautiful can soon turn decidedly bonkers behind the scenes on this barmy Saturday-night extravaganza. 

Amanda has just been running around in circles backstage, stilettos in hand, as she desperately tried to escape fellow judge Simon Cowell, who had a pile of greasy spaghetti to tip over her and her stunning outfit.

‘Simon got pranked and I managed to dodge one, so he chased me all over backstage,’ Amanda laughs. 

‘I ripped my heels off and was trying to run as fast as possible over the dirty backstage floor which was horrific. Everyone was going mad because obviously I had a fresh blow dry and a beautiful dress on. But oh my God, I was a wreck by the end.

‘If Simon and I had gone to school together, we’d both have been in detention a lot. He’s a pigtail-puller and still tries to feed me false information about contestants coming on stage in the hope that I might make a mistake. He’s full of mischief.’

Britain’s Got Talent is back, and the beautiful can soon turn decidedly bonkers behind the scenes on this barmy Saturday-night extravaganza

Dancers in eye-catching costumes perform onstage to capture the attention of the judges 

And what contestants they are on this 17th series of the ITV talent show, including a Japanese man who does impressions using his hair, an act featuring cardboard cut-outs of the judges and a pogo-stick jumper who reaches incredible heights. 

The usual golden buzzer rule (that each judge can use it only once per series to send an act that most impresses them straight to the live shows) has been discarded, with Simon, Amanda and fellow judge Bruno Tonioli using it for three of the first 20 acts they saw this season.

And in good old slapstick style – both on and off stage – there has been plenty of custard-pie throwing, not to mention Amanda saucily sitting on Simon’s back as he was doing his press-ups, with Bruno joking, ‘Is that how you got the job, love?’

Amanda, always game for a laugh, says, ‘I just pretended to sit on Simon while he was doing his press-ups. Not my full weight, obviously. Everyone, including my husband Chris, thought it was funny.’

At the heart of the high jinks is the trusted close friendship between Amanda and Simon, as well as with their co-judges Bruno and Alesha Dixon. 

Simon was on the receiving end of snide and bitchy remarks made by his former X Factor colleagues Louis Walsh and Sharon Osbourne on Celebrity Big Brother recently.

There has been plenty of custard-pie throwing, not to mention Amanda saucily sitting on Simon’s back as he was doing his press-ups. Above: The pair pictured on the show 

An act on Britain’s Got Talent balances on some blocks of wood in a bid to impress judges 

Sharon said she was ‘furious’ with Simon because she claimed he didn’t renew her contract when she expected he would, meaning she claims she lost out on another major TV gig, while Louis said that he and Simon no longer speak very often. 

And they both poked fun at his appearance, with Sharon joking that her former boss would ‘need more botox’ by the time she’d finished exposing him to the nation.

Amanda’s disgust is tangible. ‘I hated seeing certain people in a reality show dissing Simon – he’s the person who’s given them all the chances, given them a lot of money and a lifestyle they probably wouldn’t have had. It’s bitter and pathetic. It was like Cinderella with her two sisters in the background – just stabby, stabby, stabby. I thought, ‘Oh my God, it’s like watching a pantomime.’ 

‘I just think they look so nasty and awful. There was a friendship there and an opportunity. So however the business ends, you should have respect for the opportunity that was given to you and the pay cheque that was given to you. Just be gracious. There was none of that and I can’t bear it.’

Fortunately Simon, 64, is adept at managing this kind of public malice. ‘I have no phone and I never go on social media, so I don’t have a clue what’s going on most of the time. It’s part of the key to happiness,’ says Simon, who is father to ten-year-old Eric with his long-term partner Lauren Silverman. 

Britain’s Got Talent returns Saturday April 20, 7.30pm, ITV1 and ITVX 

The usual golden buzzer rule (that each judge can use it only once per series to send an act that most impresses them straight to the live shows) has been discarded

‘It’s like when you were younger and you found out things because your friends told you, but you didn’t look for stuff. I live a bit like that now. When I turned my phone off eight years ago, that was the beginning. 

‘I’ve spoken openly about depression and mental anxieties which most of us have to deal with. And I wasn’t embarrassed about seeing a therapist because it helped me in so many ways. For me, happiness is being at peace. That’s always what I try and achieve now.’

Becoming a father has been transformative for Simon, affecting him in both a personal and a professional capacity. 

He’s become more vulnerable and compassionate, a far more complex character than his old reputation as TV’s Mr Nasty. 

‘I’ve got to a point where if we’re going to audition an act that is going to affect me because it’s really emotional, I ask the producer to put it at the end of the session,’ he says. 

‘Because it’s very difficult to watch something emotional, then five seconds later watch another act when you’re still digesting what you just saw.’

Simon readily admits he’s already shed tears during this year’s auditions in London and Manchester. ‘You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t, and for different reasons. I’m a dad and I have a son who I love so when I hear certain stories they affect me.

‘But these stories aren’t here to make you sad, they’re here to say, ‘I’ve overcome something, and I’m proud of that.’ There’s more and more of this on BGT and the clips online go all over the world.

‘When Eric’s down on the show with his mates I watch them. They’re a great barometer of what I think our audience likes because this is a family show. When I see Eric literally cry with laughter, it’s the best feeling in the world. Nothing tops that.

‘When we started this show was always about who was going to win. Now, of course, winning is important, but if you have a good clip it will live online forever, and that’s brilliant. It’s like having a hit record, actually.’

An act gets a standing ovation from the judges and a visit from Ant and Dec on the stage 

Meanwhile, Amanda is becoming unstoppable. The effervescent star is one of the most in-demand faces on primetime television. 

As well as her judging role on BGT, which she’s done since the show began in 2007, she’s recently worked with her great friend Alan Carr on the hugely popular BBC1 holiday makeover show Amanda & Alan’s Italian Job. Next she’ll appear as a guest judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK.

‘There’s an awful lot happening in my career, and I’m very lucky,’ she says. ‘My husband keeps saying, ‘Wow, Mand, you’re 53 and it’s still going on.’ And when I look at people like Davina McCall, Jennifer Aniston and Kylie – all these women are smashing it and they’re all in their 50s. It seems like it’s finally going our way.’

It’s no secret Simon likes to keep his judges on their toes, often mixing the panel up to keep things fresh. 

Amanda was reported recently to have said jokingly of Simon, ‘I don’t need you, you need me.’ 

But Simon laughs this off. ‘If something works, why change it?’ he says. ‘I’m really very lucky because they’re all friends of mine. It’s not awkward and we know each other really well. We have a similar sense of humour, we like the same things and we hang out together. I couldn’t imagine the show without everyone there.’

Amanda laughs and says candidly, ‘Ha ha, I’ve got Simon by the scruff of his neck. But seriously, I’m so grateful for every opportunity Simon’s given me and I take nothing for granted.

Simon, Amanda and fellow judge Bruno Tonioli used the golden buzzer for three of the first 20 acts they saw this season

‘I’m passionate about BGT. Alesha and I held hands in the Manchester auditions, looked at each other and both said, ‘This could be our last day of auditions ever.’ You have to stay humble and grateful because no one’s bigger than the show they’re in.

‘Simon and I have known each other for more than 20 years, but we’ve become especially close in the last five years. Our children love each other. We see each other for dinner, it’s a bond that’s been really cemented. 

‘So yeah, it’s going be very difficult for him to get rid of me now, and even worse now that my Hollie and his Eric are very good friends. They’re like a little double act, but charmingly naughty.’

Just like Simon and Amanda really – especially Amanda, who says she’s ‘never knowingly understated’ in terms of glamour and can err on the side of racy. ‘I’m up for a laugh and I really don’t give a s***, so I’m not going to make a big song and dance about it,’ she says.

Aside from all the fun, there is also time for serious talk between the judges, especially Bruno and Amanda, who spend their lunchtimes together. ‘Bruno’s a stalwart in the entertainment world,’ says Amanda. 

‘He’s a very bright and clever man. He’s also in my book club. All the books I’m taking on holiday with me were recommended by him.

‘He slotted into the judging panel perfectly after joining last season. He’s still breaking the rules, though. Simon gives him that nod and a wink to say, ‘You can do what you want.’ But I’m a stickler for the rules. I say, ‘Now listen, you do know the bloody rules now. So you can’t pretend you don’t.’

Of course Bruno, 68, has an excuse. ‘I am so in the moment that I can’t think about rules. I can only think about what’s in front of me and the way I can contribute to the show. I get really involved,’ he insists.

This year he was so moved while watching a dance act that he slammed down the golden buzzer so hard it cracked. ‘I have no idea how it happened,’ he laughs. ‘I just whacked it as I was so excited and it smashed into pieces.’

I hated seeing people on a reality show dissing Simon. It was just bitter and pathetic  


But despite the famous ‘Bruno bruises’ from his flailing arms for whoever he sits next to, mostly his former Strictly co-judge Alesha, he admits, ‘I’m always very nervous before a show and I don’t take anything for granted, even though Simon said to me, ‘Just do your thing.’ Something just happens when I’m on stage but offstage I’m pretty normal. I quietly read books or go to the gym.

‘But on BGT the atmosphere between the girls, myself and Simon is brilliant. This second season for me is just as exciting because the talent just keeps getting better. I’ve found the acts so inspiring. Life throws you curveballs and the way the acts have dealt with them is awe-inspiring. I’ve learnt a lot.’

Alesha, 45, who’s been on BGT since 2012, feels the same way. ‘New people with new talents keep me coming back each year. You have to expect the unexpected,’ she says. And like Simon and Bruno, she’s been moved to tears. 

‘There have been beautiful human moments where you just can’t hold back. It’s not ideal to cry on television but showing vulnerability at times is important as well.

‘It’s these human connections that have meant so much more to me this year than anything – hearing about their backgrounds and what’s led them to this moment. 

‘We live in a time where people are feeling very sensitive and they’re looking for hope and inspiration. In that respect, BGT just gets better and better.’

Simon goes even further. ‘I haven’t looked at ratings for two years now, but the ethos is to try to make the show better. Now I’ve got to a point where I think it’s as good as it can possibly be.’

Britain’s Got Talent returns Saturday 20 April, 7.30pm, ITV1 and ITVX.

Britain’s Got TalentAmanda HoldenSimon Cowell

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