NOR­TON’S NIGHT­MARE GUESTS

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GRA­HAM Nor­ton has iden­ti­fied some of his least favourite chat show guests – and de­scribed Hol­ly­wood ac­tor Robert De Niro as a “be­nign pres­ence”.

Nor­ton made the re­marks dur­ing an ap­pear­ance at the Chel­tenham Lit­er­a­ture Fes­ti­val, where he was pro­mot­ing his new novel.

“He’s not a sto­ry­teller, or very ver­bal,” Nor­ton said of De Niro. “He’s a be­nign pres­ence. Last time he started telling a story – he went on and on. We were all lean­ing in, will­ing it to be amaz­ing… then he fi­nally went, ‘why am I telling this?’ No­body had an an­swer. We cut it.”

Nor­ton also said in­ter­view­ing Ri­hanna, San­dra Bul­lock and Cate Blanchett was like chap­er­on­ing a hen do.

The BBC host in­vited the allfe­male cast of Ocean’s 8 – which also in­cluded Sarah Paul­son and He­lena Bon­ham Carter – to ap­pear to­gether on his sofa af­ter the film’s pre­miere in June.

He de­scribed it as one of the worst episodes of his chat show.

“I felt like the guy driv­ing the bus on a hen party,” he said.

“For 45 min­utes, peo­ple were talk­ing over each other and laugh­ing. They were hav­ing a great time but the au­di­ence was non­plussed.”

Con­tin­u­ing on the topic of prob- lem­atic guests, Nor­ton added: “You want the big Hol­ly­wood stars on the sofa, and you plan the rest around them.

“If they’re a par­tic­u­larly pre­cious star, then you won’t put on a very rude comic with them or some sort of drug-ad­dled rock star. We save those for Christ­mas.”

Nor­ton was at The Times Fo­rum to talk about his sec­ond novel, A Keeper.

He de­scribed be­com­ing a novelist as a “bucket list thing”.

In in­ter­views to pro­mote the book, he took aim at the de­ci­sion to pub­lish BBC stars’ salaries, and said some of the fig­ures bore lit­tle re­la­tion to re­al­ity.

Nor­ton said the dis­clo­sures were not in the pub­lic in­ter­est and had done lit­tle more than pro­voke “gos­sip” about what peo­ple earn.

It was the for­mer Cul­ture Sec­re­tary, John Whit­ting­dale, who in­sisted the BBC pub­lished the salaries of ev­ery­one earn­ing £150,000 or more.

But Nor­ton said: “The pub­lic trans­parency was al­ready there. They’d al­ready pub­lished what pro­por­tion of the li­cence fee is paid to on-screen tal­ent. Now, that’s the bit that peo­ple should be in­ter­ested in.

“This bit is just gos­sip. It’s so weird that when MPs dis­cussed the char­ter, this was the de­mand they made. And I was like, re­ally? You just want to know what Gary Lineker makes. That’s so pa­thetic.

“But any­way. The poor old BBC are hav­ing to do it, and what the BBC said would hap­pen is hap­pen­ing. They are los­ing peo­ple be­cause it’s not com­fort­able, it’s not nice.”

High-pro­file de­par­tures in­clude Chris Evans, who re­cently an­nounced he was mov­ing to Vir­gin Ra­dio, and Ed­die Mair, who de­fected to LBC.

Nor­ton is one of the BBC’s high­est­paid pre­sen­ters, with a pub­lished salary of £600,000-£609,999. But that rep­re­sents only a frac­tion of his earn­ings be­cause his TV chat show is made by his own pro­duc­tion com­pany, So Tele­vi­sion, and there is no re­quire­ment to dis­close how much he is paid for it.

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