Gossipy, rude and yet always personable, it’s no wonder Piers Morgan has coaxed such private confessions out of the celebrities he grills on his Life Stories series, as he tells Keeley Bolger, about his famous lookalike, helping Simon Cowell with nappy duties and why he hates answering questions about himself
Piers Morgan is aware that he’s something of a contradiction. On one hand, having four million-plus Twitter followers and being watched by 19 million viewers during his run on Britain’s Got Talent means he’s as recognisable as some of the celebrities he interviews.
Unlike many of those famous faces though, Morgan isn’t keen on delving too deeply into his personal life.
“I actually don’t really talk about too many things in my private life,” explains the 49-year-old, who is back on ITV with a new series of his revealing celebrity interview show, Piers Morgan’s Life Stories.
“Not because I think anyone’s got no right to ask me, I just don’t particularly feel comfortable talking about it.
“That may seem odd for someone who specialises in doing that to other people, but other people are more prepared to talk about it than I am,” he explains. “I have no complaint either way. If I don’t want to talk about it, I don’t have to, but I don’t really enjoy being interviewed that much myself, for that reason.”
This may be the case, but Morgan is doing a good job at looking at ease.
In fact, after parking his cuppa, he eases back into his chair and holds court, quickly showing himself to be as interesting as the people he grills on TV.
He’s a great gossip, punctuating his sentences with name-drops, little reveals and jokes. Not even his friend and former Britain’s Got Talent colleague Simon Cowell is spared. Morgan hasn’t met Cowell’s baby, Eric, yet but jests that he’ll need to soon. “Well someone’s got to change Eric’s nappies and it’s not going to be his dad,” he says, laughing, before warmly adding that Cowell has never seemed “so calm and happy”.
“I’ve got four kids (he has three sons from his first marriage and toddler daughter, Elise, with second wife, journalist Celia Walden) so I’m actually an expert in nappy changing. I said to him, ‘Look, if you can’t be bothered getting your hands dirty, I’m your go-to guy’. So if you see someone looking like me changing Eric’s nappies in public in the near future, you’ll know what’s happened!”
While many in the public eye are at pains to point out how ordinary they are, Morgan seems to relish reeling off his celebrity encounters. For example, he recently had a “good chat” with Kim Kardashian (he’s a big fan) and Kanye West at the GQ Awards, and cornered Colin Firth about the rumour that he’s top of the list to play him in a film about the hacking scandal.
“We were laughing because Colin still gets mistaken for me all the time, particularly in America,” Morgan reveals, chuckling. “I do get mistaken for him quite a lot.”
Although Firth would “be the obvious choice” for the role, Sussex-born Morgan wouldn’t mind if another leading man wanted to step in.
“I hear Brad Pitt wants to do it,” he deadpans. “I’d hate you to repeat it.”
Morgan is clearly thick-skinned, and spends a lot of time with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek – and he expects his interviewees on Life Stories to be able to hold their own against his questioning.
Famously brusque, he teased Cheryl Cole over why she wouldn’t want to have a nose job. Such is Morgan’s pluck that many of his famous friends, including Helen Mirren, refuse to be interviewed by him. “Michael Caine sent me a hilarious email when I asked him to do Life Stories saying, ‘Piers, for all the reasons I love watching your show, that’s why I’m not going to do it’, which I thought was great,” he says.
Humour is central to Morgan’s life, and along with proper pubs (he grew up in one), he misses being the butt of the joke when he’s in America.
“I like getting off the plane somewhere like Heathrow and walking through the crowd and having at least one person shouting, ‘He’s back...You w****r!’ They don’t really mean it in a hurtful way, they just mean it as a laugh and I think that’s funny.
“Americans wouldn’t do that,” he adds. “They might shoot you, but they wouldn’t say that.”
Despite announcing his departure from CNN, Morgan still plans to work in the US. Ever the journalist, he won’t reveal too much about the tantalising “pastures new”, but does say he plans to write more, is considering some “interesting TV work” and has “some ideas for documentaries I want to make for theatrical release”.