NORTON’S NIGHTMARE GUESTS
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.