Simon Cowell opened up about his infamous mean streak with Redbook, revealing he’s a softie when it comes to Bambi and even, it seems, Paula Abdul. SheKnows also got to talk to The X Factor creator and we have the story on just how mean the new FOX singing competition could get. Will American Idol become “the nice one”?
With The X Factor finally landing on Fox Sept. 21 and 22, Simon Cowell is featured in the Oct. issue of Redbook — yes, we said Redbook! The TV meanie speaks about his relationship with fellow judge Paula Abdul and reveals he does, in fact, have a softer side — sometimes.
“It depends,” Cowell admits in the interview, hitting stands Sept. 13. “If I watch Bambi, I still get sad. That scene where Bambi’s mum gets shot is sad! I swear to God, I’m a softie for that stuff. You don’t believe me do you? Believe me. I promise you, I wouldn’t say it unless it was true.”
Cowell also tells the mag he brought Abdul to the judges’ table because he actually likes her – or rather, appreciates her honesty.
“I do really like people who disagree with me,” he reveals. “Probably my best friends in the world are the people I argue with the most, because they don’t always say what you want to hear. From the minute I met Paula, I was fascinated by her. She’s a complex person, but — this is going to sounds very American — she’s got a great heart.”
Cowell: how mean Will The X Factor get
Things were decidedly nicer on American Idol with Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler on board last season, but when the juggernaut first took America by storm a decade ago, Cowell quickly became a household name synonymous with “mean.” Considering the The X Factor judges’ collective vibe at the TCA, recent promos and the sizzle reel SheKnows got to preview, nice isn’t exactly in the cards for the new competition.
“We didn’t make an intentional effort to be mean. That’s just in us,” Cowell quipped in defense of the reel. “The contestants are mean to us, and sometimes we can be harsh back to them. It’s give and take.”
With an age range of 12 to 80, it turns out the young contestants are meanest in the bunch, unless you count the parents.
“We’ve had to say to the 14-year-olds, ‘Will you be kind to me?’ because they are more lippy than any other contestants I’ve ever met in my life,” Cowell revealed. “I was traumatized after the auditions. There was this one kid in New York, a little rapper. I mean, he absolutely chewed me apart. But I quite like that.”
Whether the judges and contestants are naughty or nice, Cowell insists the most important thing about the tone of The X Factor is that it’s authentic. “There are cameras hidden all through this process, so you’re seeing a really real process not even the contestants are aware of and, half the time, I’m not even aware of,” he said.
That may explain how cameras caught Cowell having a complete melt down, respite with threats of a walk off as the producers surrounded him. On the other hand, that could have been the opposite, with the publicity dynamo hamming it up for cameras he knew were there.
“This was a section where it was during the ‘Boot Camp’ phase of the show,” Cowell explained. “There were about 90 [contestants], and they were given a task to do. And everything went wrong. It wasn’t their fault. It was just the arrangements they had chosen were terrible. I couldn’t hear the piano player, which I was screaming about. The guitar sounded out of tune. So I was concerned for the day, and I was saying to the producers, in a very calm way, ‘I don’t like what I’m hearing, and could you sort it out, please.'”
Hm… SheKnows doesn’t recall a “please” in there… In any event, the outspoken showrunner/judge added that his blow up clip was put in the reel because that’s the kind of stuff that’s going to make the cut, along with juicy backstories and powerful, heartwarming moments.
“We’re going to show the good bits, the bad bits, the ugly bits,” Cowell promised. “There are a lot of ugly bits.”
The good, the bad and the ugly hit Fox in a two-night The X Factor series premiere on Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 21 and 22 at 8 pm.
Get more details on The X Factor from Cowell and Abdul
Simon Cowell will still bring ‘selfish’ Mariah Carey to X Factor (plus more deets on the show)
It’s Jennifer Lopez vs. Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson during American Idol auditions
Images: Fox /Getty Images
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