The glory days of The X Factor may seem long distant but I can reveal that Simon Cowell still has considerable ambitions in the music world.
Cowell, whose show uncovered talents including One Direction, Little Mix and (in the U.S.) Fifth Harmony, is actively planning to form a new band.
At 63, he hopes that he can be the beneficiary of another lightning strike of good luck in the music business – and he’s talking to talent scouts with a view to finding the Next Big Things.
A source close to Cowell said, mysteriously: ‘Something has been in the works that’s imminent and is very different to what has been seen before and yes, it will probably involve putting together a new group.’
It is, though, a somewhat surprising development, given that talent shows on television are no longer the draw they were (The X Factor came off air in the UK in 2018, after 15 series) – and given that Cowell cut all ties to his Syco music label in 2022 (it later closed). But he clearly remains fiercely committed to his music career.
Simon Cowell, whose show uncovered talents including One Direction, Little Mix and (in the U.S.) Fifth Harmony, is actively planning to form a new band
Simon Cowell with One Direction, Louis Tomlinson, Niall Horan, Harry Styles, Zayn Malik and Liam Payne, on ‘The X Factor’ results show on November 14, 2010
Another insider revealed that Cowell is ‘fired up about the challenge’ of returning to his role as pop chart kingmaker.
Earlier this month he launched a joint venture with the Universal Music Publishing Group, in the form of Syco Publishing, which will find and promote global songwriting talent.
The plan is to sign and develop songwriters who will work across various media formats and projects. It has started out with song rights to hits from Camila Cabello, Fifth Harmony and 2012 X Factor winner James Arthur; and has also signed up songwriter Lucy Spraggan, another former X Factor contestant.
Making the announcement, Cowell declared: ‘There is nothing more important than a great song.’
He previously launched a TikTok songwriting platform, StemDrop, again with Universal Music.
Singers Perrie Edwards, Jade Thirlwall, Leigh-Anne Pinnock and Jesy Nelson of Little Mix perform onstage during the Teen Choice Awards 2015
Meanwhile, Cowell’s company, Syco Entertainment, still owns the ‘Got Talent’ and ‘X Factor’ brands (which it created).
Got Talent is officially the world’s most successful reality TV format; America’s Got Talent has remained the No 1 summer series in the U.S. for the past 16 years.
And despite not being on air in the UK any more, The X Factor is the most successful music TV format in history.
Versions of the two shows are currently on air in more than 180 countries . . . watched by more than a billion people each year.
Cowell launched the careers of One Direction, Leona Lewis, Little Mix and Susan Boyle, to name just a handful.
Sophie so good in new kick-ass role
Sofia Boutella is the kick-ass lead in Rebel Moon, a new film series from Superman and Justice League director Zack Snyder. He was in London this week to do publicity for the pictures, the first of which will go out on Netflix in December. It will be followed in April by Part 2 – The Scargiver, which he shot at the same time.
It’s a bold attempt to launch a Star Wars-type franchise, about a peaceful colony on the edge of a galaxy under tyrannical rule. Boutella plays Kora, who assembles a band of warriors, and footage shown to a fortunate few (including me) shows she has some serious action chops – and at 41 passes for someone decades younger.
She is a French-Algerian gymnast and dancer and learned her English from Madonna while working on the Celebration tour in 2006. ‘Being at work with Madonna taught me the most English,’ she said. Boutella’s also been in StreetDance 2 and Star Trek: Beyond.
Sofia Boutella is the kick-ass lead in Rebel Moon, a new film series from Superman and Justice League director Zack Snyder
Sofia Boutella attends the 2023 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on March 12
As this column revealed, hopes of a Strictly special from the Buckingham Palace ballroom have faded again as, with the death of The Queen and the Coronation, there hasn’t been the time or will to get it off the ground. Head judge Shirley Ballas now has her heart set on an appearance on the show next year from Queen Camilla. She says: ‘I know Camilla is a big fan of the show – she has told me so personally – so I’m not giving up on the idea. She’d be great fun!’
Who’s the daddy? Why, it’s posh (according to Geri)…
Geri Halliwell-Horner, the artist formerly known as Ginger Spice, is nothing if not effervescent.
However it seems not everyone shares her fizzing enthusiasm for her new career… as a novelist.
Geri, 51, is keen to sell the TV or film rights to her new book for children, Rosie Frost And The Falcon Queen. It took her an astonishing nine years to write it and it’s being published in October by Penguin.
However, it’s not proving easy to get anyone to believe in the story of her heroine, an orphan who attends a school for extraordinary teens on a mysterious island.
I hear she has spent at least a year unsuccessfully knocking on doors. Netflix was wooed – and said no thank you. Other big players have also apparently politely declined.
Whether that’s got anything to do with Geri wanting to write the adaptation herself is not clear.
Pictured are Geri Halliwell and Victoria Beckham performing with the Spice Girls at The Brits in February 1997
Halliwell-Horner, who is married to Red Bull Formula 1 team boss Christian Horner, says someone has now bought the book, but nothing has been announced and a spokesman did not return requests for comment.
Geri previously released a six-book series about a heroine called Ugenia Lavender for younger readers, co-written with author Rian Hughes.
Before that, she was in the Spice Girls… the best-selling female group of all time.
In a newspaper interview last weekend Geri said that she asked novelist William Boyd (Any Human Heart, The Romantic) for his help with her Rosie Frost manuscript after meeting him at a Buckingham Palace reception.
He told her to rewrite the whole book. ‘Giving him that draft was like giving Humpty Dumpty to Mozart,’ she said.
That interview has now caused some conflict in the band, maybe because Geri went on to say: ‘Victoria and I parent the band together: she is father, I’m mother.’
I hear that Mrs Beckham, pictured left with Geri, is most unimpressed, not to say baffled, by the comment.
…While Bono’s girl is too scared to ask her dad for singing tips
Eve Henson – Bono’s daughter – sings and plays guitar in new film Flora And Son, but she was too scared to ask her famous father for advice.
The movie, which will be released on Apple TV+ on September 29, features Hewson as the young mum of a delinquent teenage son. She finds a guitar in a wheelie bin and it ends up being a ‘salvation’ for them, as they find ways to connect through music.
Apple paid $20 million for the heartwarmer, which was the toast of the Sundance Film Festival in January.
Actress Eve Hewson (left) and father recording artist Bono attend the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party at the Sunset Tower Hotel on February 24
Hewson, who is also in the TV comedy Bad Sisters, noted that Flora And Son ‘stabs you in the heart with pure optimism’. Of its musical demands, she said: ‘I’ve never sung before. I’ve never cared to sing before. I’m not particularly good at it. It is all me singing. The whole thing! And not even with Auto-Tune. I overcame a massive, massive fear doing that . . . I would rather swim with sharks.
‘I grew up playing music. But I hated the guitar, I hate the strings and the calluses. I grew up in a sort of travelling circus home and they just sent us to all these different music classes.’
She didn’t mention singing on screen to her dad until the film was completed: ‘I knew he would come in with lots of ideas to help me. And I have to say, I would rather sing in front of the entire world than for my dad. It would be terrifying.
‘I mean, he’s a really, really good singer. So he was very sweet and wanted to help and I was just like: no. But he got to hear the finished product and loved it.’
The fresh-faced partner of actress Sienna Miller stars as Kate Middleton’s first serious boyfriend in the forthcoming final series of The Crown for Netflix. Oli Green, 26, right with Sienna, plays Rupert Finch, who dated the now Princess of Wales for a year at St Andrew’s University.
In real life Finch (a lawyer) married the daughter of the Marquess of Reading, Natasha Rufus Isaacs of Beulah London dresses fame – and attended Kate and William’s wedding. Green and Miller revealed this week that they are expecting their first child.
The fresh-faced partner of actress Sienna Miller stars as Kate Middleton’s first serious boyfriend in the forthcoming final series of The Crown for Netflix
Gone Fishing star Ted takes a bow
Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse are on the road again – delighting fans of the BBC2 hit Gone Fishing, which starts its sixth series on September 3.
Whitehouse reflected: ‘We found out quickly that people respond to it differently – it really seems to touch viewers. People with zero interest in fishing love it.
‘A white van man drove past me yesterday,’ he recalled.
‘He stopped, reversed and said to me, ‘That fishing show – it’s just like a little bit of poetry.’ Which is lovely to hear.’
As well as the two comedians, the star of the show is the producer’s Patterdale terrier, Ted.
As well as the two comedians, the star of the show is the producer’s Patterdale terrier, Ted (pictured)
Whitehouse quipped: ‘Of course, it’s all about Ted these days – he’s such a diva, me and Bob are like glorified extras.
‘There are some very funny bits with him this series.
‘He tries his luck at the dating game – to be honest he’s a bit long in the tooth for it.’
Has Vanessa Feltz quietly found love? Mutterings from North London suggest that the TV presenter, who filmed Celebs Go Dating for E4 this summer, is in a romance with an eligible divorced millionaire who lives just around the corner from her in St John’s Wood. It’s not clear whether she met him on the show; and her agent says he has ‘no idea’ about the rumoured liaison. Spokesmen for Lime Productions, makers of the programme, did not return requests for comment.
Lasso’s reeled in Campbell
Spin doctor turned media personality Alastair Campbell said: ‘Ted Lasso: “It’s never the wrong time to do the right thing.”‘
Political animal Alastair Campbell has revealed a surprising weakness for the philosophy of… Ted Lasso.
The spin doctor turned media personality told the Performance Hacks website that he inspires himself by putting up quotes from famous figures around his desk, including ones from Nelson Mandela, Benjamin Franklin and Bobby Kennedy.
The fictional football coach, played by Jason Sudeikis, also gets a place among the greats. ‘What about this one,’ Campbell said. ‘Ted Lasso: “It’s never the wrong time to do the right thing.”‘
And who can argue with Tony Blair’s former director of communications and strategy?