THE GU­VNOR

James Cor­den now hangs with the Hol­ly­wood A-list. Meet the Brit boy mak­ing it big. By Giles Hat­ter­s­ley

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Profile - James Cor­den’s film Kill Your Friends is out on Novem­ber 6. The Late Late Show airs on Eleven.

James Cor­den — mar­ried fa­ther of two and sur­prise new dar­ling of the Amer­i­can chat-show scene — is sit­ting in his ex­ec­u­tive Por­tak­abin on the CBS lot in Los An­ge­les, a Banksy on the wall, do­ing his best not to look smug. At 37, the er­rant man-child of Bri­tish light en­ter­tain­ment has un­equiv­o­cally made it.

Amaz­ing, I say, you used to have this rep­u­ta­tion for sadly shag­ging your way around Lon­don, and now look at you — a fam­ily man in your Hol­ly­wood al­pha of­fice with sun-bleached hair and Prps jeans. “Er,” he replies, blink­ing bash­fully. So bash­fully, in fact, I won­der how much of all that drink­ing/shag­ging stuff was true. Alexan­dra Burke? “No.” Ag­y­ness Deyn? “Noo-ooo.” Lily Allen? “No way. It re­ally wasn’t...” he breaks off, laugh­ing.

“I did go out a lot. I was hav­ing fun. I’m pleased of it now, es­pe­cially as I never went to univer­sity. But, um, yes...” he trails off, smil­ing.

Not as fun as all this, clearly. It’s been go­ing so well for him lately, he is prac­ti­cally tug­ging his fore­lock when he wel­comes me into his of­fice af­ter tap­ing a Tues­day-night show (guests: Pa­trick Stewart and Mor­ris­sey).

Not that he was do­ing too badly be­fore Amer­ica came call­ing. He al­ready had a Tony, a BAFTA, two hit com­edy tele­vi­sion se­ries, a No 1 sin­gle and an in­cip­i­ent film ca­reer un­der his belt. But to ev­ery­one’s sur­prise (not least his own), last Septem­ber Cor­den an­nounced he was trad­ing it all in for one of the trick­i­est jobs in showbiz: five nights a week in the thun­der­dome that is Amer­i­can late-night TV. All but un­known in the US, he re­port­edly se­cured a re­lo­ca­tion pack­age of £650,000 and moved his fam­ily to Los An­ge­les in Jan­uary — two months af­ter his daugh­ter was born — and took over on

The Late Late Show in March. Nat­u­rally, we hacks were rub­bing our hands in an­tic­i­pa­tion — another Piers Mor­ganesque maul­ing of an ego-crazed Brit at the hands of the Yanks. But Cor­den has proved an in­stant hit with au­di­ences and crit­ics. His YouTube num­bers are in­sane: more than 200 mil­lion Late Late

Show online views so far, with 35 mil­lion hits alone for a clip in which he drives Justin Bieber around Hol­ly­wood in a seg­ment called Car­pool Karaoke, belt­ing out tunes and de­liv­er­ing his clever brand of home coun­ties sass to per­fec­tion. Other episodes fea­ture Ste­vie Won­der, Mariah Carey and Rod Stewart — all funny. No won­der he has sup­pos­edly just had his con­tract re­newed for £3 mil­lion ($6.5m).

Mean­while, life is sweet. He has moved into a house in Santa Mon­ica five min­utes from the beach, taken up ten­nis, lost a few kilo­grams, popped round for lunch with fel­low Brits abroad Gor­don Ram­say and the Beck­hams, hung out with his good pal Anna Win­tour, been shot for the Septem­ber is­sue of Vogue, walked in a Bur-

berry show and is ru­moured to have recorded a Christ­mas sin­gle with Kylie Minogue. As Nessa might have re­marked in his much-loved TV show Gavin & Stacey: “Tidy.”

“I was un­be­liev­ably ret­i­cent about do­ing it,” he says, nestling into his work sofa at the end of another 12-hour day. “I said no quite a few times, be­cause it just wasn’t where I thought my ca­reer was go­ing to go — not that I’d even given that much thought,” he adds (yeah, right). “At the time, I’d been com­mis­sioned to write a TV show for HBO and I was about to sign up to do a mu­si­cal on Broad­way [Sond­heim’s A Funny Thing Hap­pened on the Way to the Fo­rum].

“I ac­tu­ally talked to Piers [ Mor­gan] quite a lot in my de­lib­er­a­tions about tak­ing the job. He was the per­son say­ing, ‘You’ve just got to go for it. It’s re­ally hard and the crit­ics will ab­so­lutely go for you, but if you just bed in and carry on, you’ll be fine.’

“Luck­ily, that maul­ing didn’t re­ally hap­pen, but it was use­ful to have some­one who had been through that sort of thing be­fore.”

Cor­den makes friends wher­ever he goes. A peo­ple-pleaser by na­ture — when he isn’t manic with it, he can be as charm­ing as it gets — he’s pally with ev­ery­one from the Eng­land soc­cer team to One Di­rec­tion. I as­sumed he would have be­come a fe­ro­cious, gim­let-eyed net­worker now he’s in Tin­sel­town, but ap­par­ently not. He and his wife, Ju­lia, a for­mer char­ity worker, and their son and daugh­ter tend to keep to them­selves. Not long af­ter they ar­rived in LA, Cindy Craw­ford in­vited them for din­ner, and when they turned up the other guests were Sean Penn, Char­l­ize Theron and Colin Far­rell. It was “lovely”, he says, look­ing a lit­tle freaked out.

“To be hon­est, I’ve not been out loads, but Gor­don [Ram­say] has been on the show and I’ve been to his house a cou­ple of times — that was nice.” Aren’t the Beck­hams in Lon­don these days? “No, they’re here right now. I’ve seen them. Won­der­ful. And when I was do­ing the show [his Tony-win­ning turn in One Man,

Two Gu­vnors] in New York, I used to have din- ner with Anna [Win­tour] about once a month. I like her very, very much. She’s a pas­sion­ate and un­be­liev­ably sup­port­ive woman. The way she uses her power, for want of a bet­ter word, is in­spir­ing, re­ally. I re­mem­ber Ni­cholas Hyt­ner told me that they were at a din­ner, and she said she would like to raise money for the Na­tional Theatre. He thought, she’s the busiest woman on the planet, but the next day she called and said, ‘ What can we do?’ That’s some­thing to be cel­e­brated, I think.”

So he has made the cut as a Win­tour con­sort (along with her other favourite, Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch, and the peren­nial Roger Fed­erer). It’s a no-brainer, re­ally. He’s so­cial WD-40. Part smart alec, part ob­se­quiously def­er­en­tial, Cor­den tem­pers his earnest­ness with enough edge to keep him the right side of cloy­ing. For ex­am­ple, he’s re­fresh­ingly open about lov­ing at­ten­tion. “I don’t know an ac­tor or per­former who doesn’t. I know a lot of ac­tors and per­form­ers who say they don’t, and I don’t be­lieve them,” he says, bor­der­line peeved. He drops into an im­pres­sion of a typ­i­cal hipster ac­tor: “Oh, I can’t bear this, but I do want to sell these watches.”

Grow­ing up in High Wy­combe, the son of an RAF mu­si­cian and a so­cial worker, he was pretty much per­form­ing straight out of the womb. He got his first laughs at church (his par­ents are de­vout Chris­tians — the val­ues seem to un­der­pin him still), and he got him­self on the West End stage by 18, per­form­ing a one-line part in Martin Guerre. From here, he skipped from

Hol­lyoaks and Fat Friends to a Mike Leigh film and The History Boys at the Na­tional be­fore, aged 29, he wrote and starred as Smithy in

Gavin & Stacey, which put him within spit­ting dis­tance of be­com­ing a Bri­tish na­tional trea- sure. In­stead, though, he be­came a bit of a div, com­plain­ing about not win­ning a par­tic­u­lar BAFTA, hav­ing spats with the­atri­cal knights and fall­ing out of night­clubs. When a com­edy sketch show with his Gavin & Stacey co-star Matthew Horne tanked, the Bri­tish press moved in for the kill — though, to his credit, Cor­den honed his so­cial skills, kept on work­ing, mar­ried the right girl and got through it. His sports show A League of Their Own be­came pop­u­lar, his turn in One Man, Two Gu­vnors was daz­zling, he starred in Into the Woods with Meryl Streep and this year re­ceived an OBE.

Now it’s Amer­ica, where he seems to have en­sconced him­self as some sort of David Frost/ Rus­sell Brand hy­brid. Like most great en­ter­tain­ers he’s a vic­tim of wildly fluc­tu­at­ing con­fi­dence. “You have to take it all with a bag of salt,” he says of re­ports on his crazy life. “It’s al­ways writ­ten about in a far more dra­matic way than it ever was. Peo­ple said then that I was at my low­est ebb, ca­reer-wise, but me and Ruth [Jones] were writ­ing the third se­ries of Gavin &

Stacey, which, it’s fair to say, was the big­gest com­edy of that year. I’m proud of the plays I’ve been in, I’m proud of two out of the three TV shows I’ve writ­ten, and I’m proud of a cou­ple of the films I’ve been in. I’ll take that ev­ery day of the week.”

And if Amer­ica ever stops swoon­ing for him, he can al­ways come home. As Smithy was so “lik­able and ap­proach­able”, he ex­plains, “peo­ple would buy me pints all the time in pubs — and I don’t drink. I mean, I en­joy an eastern stan­dard [a cock­tail], but I cer­tainly don’t drink pints and I don’t like lager. Peo­ple would of­ten say, ‘Does the at­ten­tion not drive you mad?’ ” He looks gen­uinely puz­zled by the thought. “I would much rather this than the other.”

COR­DEN HAS PROVED AN IN­STANT HIT WITH AU­DI­ENCES AND CRIT­ICS

The Late Late Show’s new host James Cor­den

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