5 Most Interesting Secrets from Hollywood Reporter’s ‘American Idol’ Interview

May 19, 2011 11:53 am

(Photo: Art Streiber/The Hollywood Reporter)

As “American Idol” ramps up for one of the most exciting season finales in recent years, the executives of the show sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to dish on how they managed to resurrect one of the most successful franchises in TV history following what many thought would be an almost certain decline following Simon Cowell‘s departure.

Creator Simon Fuller, FremantleMedia North America CEO Cecile Frot-Coutaz, Fox president of alternative programming Mike Darnell, executive producers Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick were joined by judge Randy Jackson and host Ryan Seacrest in the tell-all interview that revealed much about the worrisome months that the show hung in limbo without a judging panel. Read our list of the five most interesting secrets from the interview, then read it in full over at HollywoodReporter.com.

5.) “Idol” Boss Feared Replacing Simon Cowell Was “Mission Impossible”

The departure of Simon Cowell was what many critics thought would be the kiss of death for “Idol,” leaving the show dead in the water without his infamous catty remarks and love/hate relationship with contestants. “Idol” boss Cecile Frot-Coutaz reveals, “I got really paralyzed because I was thinking of it as replacing him. You start making lists, like, “OK, what are his attributes? What makes Cowell work?” And you realize that you can’t find that person because it doesn’t exist. So I was stuck and thought, ‘This is mission impossible.'”

4.) Steven Tyler & Jennifer Lopez Were Hired Without Ever Meeting

Traditionally, producers want to ensure that a new panel of judges has chemistry before committing them to a season of live TV, but Fox exec Mike Darnell reveals that Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez were hired without having sat down together. He explains, “we didn’t know how they would be dynamically, which is probably the most important thing when it comes to these shows. So I asked Ryan to invite them to dinner the night before we made our big announcement.”

3.) Mariah Carey, Shania Twain and Harry Connick Jr. Were In Talks To Judge

Prior to the official announcement of the new “Idol” judges panel, dozens of celebrity names were being tossed around in the media, some true, some ridiculous. Fox executive Mike Darnell revealed they had no direction when looking for new judges and were simply taking meetings with various music stars. Mike tells, “We had a list: Mariah Carey was on it, Shania Twain, Harry Connick Jr. Cecile and I were the first line of defense, and we met with at least 40 people.”

2.) Jennifer Lopez Wasn’t Originally Approached To Be On “Idol”

Though she was longtime fan of “Idol,” multi-talented star Jennifer Lopez was originally being courted for a different show. Creator Simon Fuller explains she was having lunch with Jennifer and her manager Benny Medina about doing a show called “Q’Viva.” Simon explains, “As we were talking, I had in the back of my mind that she would be great for Idol. So I brought it up halfway through the main course, maybe into the coffee and tea. I just threw it out there. She was a huge fan of the show, so she knew all about Idol — she was like an expert, actually. She watched it every season. Jennifer didn’t say yes there and then, but I knew she was intrigued, and eventually I got her to do it.”

1.) Steven Tyler Was Kara DioGuardi’s Idea

It turns out that the daring idea of bringing bad boy Steven Tyler on board was outgoing judge Kara DioGuardi’s idea. Cecile Frot-Coutaz explains she at lunch with Randy Jackson brainstorming a replacement for Ellen DeGeneres when Randy proposed Steven Tyler. “It turned out Kara, who deserves some credit for this, had just worked with Steven, and she brought up the idea to Randy.”