AS one of America’s favourite TV hosts, James Corden can barely leave the house without being snapped.
But when he first began his stint on The Late Late Show six years ago, US photographers didn’t have a clue who he was.
Talking about his 2015 move to the US with wife Julia, 42-year-old James said: “It was a really tough time to uproot a family. My son was three, our daughter was only 12 weeks.
“After the show had been on a few weeks we took a moment to relax. I said to my wife, ‘Let’s go to the beach. We live in California’. We’d never even been.
“We went down and found this spot on the sand. As we were lying there we noticed this paparazzi photographer by some rocks.
“And me in swimming trunks. I don’t want to see myself in a mirror, let alone in photos like that.
“So I put my T-shirt on. He was still taking photos, and I thought, ‘Do you know what? This is my only time with my wife. I’m just going to go and speak to him’.
“I walked over and said, ‘Look, buddy, I think you’ve got your photo now’.
“And he just went, ‘What?’. And I went, ‘Come on’. And he went, ‘No, DiCaprio!’ And sat behind me in a restaurant was Leonardo DiCaprio.
“I remember walking back to Jules and going, ‘I think we’re fine, babe, wouldn’t worry about it’.”
Although then unknown in the States, James was a big name in the UK due to BBC sitcom Gavin & Stacey, which he co-wrote and starred in with Ruth Jones.
Fast forward six years and he is a genuine global star, thanks in part to his Late Late Show Carpool Karaoke segments, where he and a celebrity sing along to hits while he drives them around. They are a big favourite on YouTube.
James reveals his favourite guest on the slot was Sir Paul McCartney — despite the Beatle trying to pull out at the last minute — and that he realised it was a success when Michelle Obama asked to appear.
James, now a dad to three children — Max, ten, Carey, six, and three-year-old Charlotte — with Julia, 43, was back on the beach with his family last week.
And he was pictured looking much slimmer than he did when he first landed in LA.
He is now the ambassador for WW, formerly Weight Watchers, and has lost more than a stone in five weeks.
James, from High Wycombe, Bucks, found fame in comedy drama Fat Friends.
He and co-star Ruth came up with the idea for Gavin & Stacey during breaks from filming.
He went on to present the Brit awards, starred in comedy sketches with the England squad for Comic Relief, recorded a World Cup single and played Paul Potts in 2013 film One Chance, inspired by the Britain’s Got Talent winner’s life story.
He also presented Sky One comedy panel show A League Of Their Own and was awarded an OBE for services for drama before getting the unexpected invitation to host The Late Late Show on CBS in March 2015.
James said: “I felt quite reticent about it for quite a while, if I’m honest.
“The offer came completely out of the blue. I knew the first episode would define the show and for quite a long time I would get quite anxious about it. Because normally, if you get these jobs, you’ve been on Saturday Night Live or The Daily Show.
“I would sit all the time thinking, ‘Nobody knows who I am and no one knows what I can do, and this is so difficult’.
“We didn’t have the luxury of an existing fan base. Or the luxury of time.”
But James then realised he had to turn his weaknesses into his strengths.
He said: “I thought, ‘Hang on a minute. Nobody knows who I am! We’re starting with a clean slate. Nobody knows what I can do’.
“I think back with great fondness, actually, now to that start.” James, who interviewed Prince Harry for the show in February, has been joined on his Carpool Karaoke slots by guests including Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Will Smith, Jennifer Lopez, Adele and Stevie Wonder.
‘I HAD A BLAST’
The segment started out as a Red Nose Day sketch with George Michael in 2011.
James said: “When the office of the First Lady, Michelle Obama, got in touch and said, ‘Michelle Obama would like to do a Carpool Karaoke’, that’s a moment when you go, ‘Oh, OK. Well, our show may have achieved something’.”
His favourite of all time was a 2018 ride in Liverpool with Sir Paul McCartney, in which James also dressed up in a range of Beatles outfits from down the ages. But Macca nearly cancelled at the last minute as he did not want to return to his childhood home.
James, who was speaking at the PaleyFest TV festival, said: “We had a chat with him and he said, ‘I’m in, I’ll do it. I can’t wait’. A month later a message came that he had cancelled, he’d got cold feet.
“Two weeks later his people had managed to talk to him and he was back in.
“Then, about eight days before we were due to fly to Liverpool to do it, I woke up around 1am and immediately looked at my phone.”
The singer had cancelled on him. But instead of discussing with his team, James fired off an email saying it was “unacceptable” and urged him to reconsider. And he did.
James said: “On the morning of the shoot, Paul said, ‘I don’t want to be doing this. I’m a Beatle’.
“We’d talked about going back to his family home, where he grew up, but he said, ‘I don’t want to go into my house’.
“He said, ‘I haven’t been there since I left. I feel uncomfortable with it. I just don’t want to do it’.”
James told him to simply focus on enjoying himself. And the episode showing the pair in Liverpool — and at the house where Paul grew up — went on to become a mega hit.
James said: “Paul had never had a solo No1 in America.
“And when the album went to No1 in that summer, I got a text saying, ‘We did it. Thank you for convincing me to do it. I had a blast’.”
James added: “We’re all immensely proud of it. I never expected it to be as moving as it was singing Penny Lane, driving down Penny Lane with Paul McCartney.”
And from his favourite to his worst.
That would be 45-year-old rapper Rick Ross.
James said: “We had this whole parody Rick Ross rap number.
“We changed the lyrics from, ‘Everyday I’m hustlin’, to ‘Everyday I’m cancellin’.
“It was about when somebody makes plans for dinner and you cancel.
“His publicists said he was excited about it. But he came in, saw us rehearsing it and went, ‘I can’t do that’, and stood up and left.
“We were like, ‘Rick? Rick?’. And he was gone and that was it, it was over. Then it’s like, ‘Well now we’ve got six minutes of the show we haven’t thought about tonight, we need an emergency segment’.
“So it’s not always as seamless as it looks.
“But maybe Rick was right because now, as I say it, it sounds like a terrible idea.”
At least moving to America did not turn into a terrible idea.
And his presenting has gone from strength to strength — even through lockdown and filming the programme from his own garage.
James said: “The show is so far away from what I imagined it being six years ago but I’ve never felt more proud.
“We want people at home, particularly in this moment where so many people are on their own, to feel some joy. Joy is the currency of our show.”
And it’s clear James has lots of joy making it.
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