Can James Corden recover from ‘omelette-gate’? As Late Late Show host is branded ‘as Hollywood as they come’ amid backlash over berating of restaurant staff and plagiarism claims, ALISON BOSHOFF asks what’s in store for the star as he returns to Britain
Despite putting on a brave face, James Corden is not having a good week. In fact, as those bitten-to-the-quick nails attest, quite the opposite is true.
A seemingly trivial row over the chat-show host’s wife being served a yolk-only omelette which contained a rogue streak of egg white in New York restaurant Balthazar erupted on October 17. . . and still rages nearly three weeks on.
It seems that every day has brought something new. He was banned from the venue, then made an apology, was ‘unbanned’, tried to justify himself, was called a liar and has been banned again. None of it made him look any better.
Indeed, the fallout from omelette-gate has unleashed a torrent of abuse on a global scale — to the point where one can’t be sure whether Corden’s reputation hasn’t been irreparably tarnished.
Despite putting on a brave face, James Corden is not having a good week. In fact, as those bitten-to-the-quick nails attest, quite the opposite is true
It’s open season on Corden. This week he’s had to apologise for plagiarising, seemingly unwittingly, a joke from Ricky Gervais on The Late Late Show on CBS. He’s also been accused of ripping off a Noel Fielding routine back in 2017. ‘Yes. I believe this is my material,’ Fielding wrote on Twitter.
His critics, and there are many, are loving it. ‘It’s all over but the crying, fat boy,’ one wrote online yesterday.
There are those who believe it’s nothing less than this ‘obnoxious’ man deserves. As a former colleague told me with relish: ‘This has been a long time coming, hasn’t it?’
The Late Late Show host was banned from a new York restaurant, then made an apology, was ‘unbanned’, tried to justify himself, was called a liar and has been banned again
Another source described Corden as ‘a very complicated and very insecure person who can behave very badly — and I’ve seen him do it.’
Friend Ruth Jones, with whom he co-wrote the hit TV comedy Gavin & Stacey, has previously said that his company is a rollercoaster because there are two versions of James Corden, and one is nicer than the other.
Even mild-mannered actor Eddie Redmayne, who went to stage school with him, said only a few weeks ago that his behaviour can be very mean.
Redmayne recounted a tale of Corden ambushing him on The Late Late Show by broadcasting a full two-and-a-half-minute clip of the Oscar-winning star singing Memory while at school. ‘I just sort of squirmed,’ said Redmayne. ‘It was public ritual humiliation.’
Now that the boot is on the other foot, Corden’s friends are aghast and they confide that the episode is taking a serious toll. ‘This has been very tough, very distressing,’ I’m told. ‘It would be a lot for anyone to deal with.’
This week he’s had to apologise for plagiarising, seemingly unwittingly, a joke from Ricky Gervais on The Late Late Show on CBS
They add: ‘Does he have to talk about this every day for the rest of his life? What’s going on is massively unfair and so bizarre.’
Perhaps the great Corden conundrum is why, despite all the feel-good hit shows, his settled family life, boy-next-door air and conspicuous good works, there is a vocal group who simply cannot abide the actor, who was raised by supportive and deeply Christian parents in Buckinghamshire.
One source, who has spent time with him repeatedly over the years, told me this week: ‘Up to this point he’s been a double lottery winner — he’s a comic actor who has risen to incredible fame, much of it to do with his knack for networking with brilliant, useful people, like [TV producer] Ben Winston, the genius behind The Late Late Show and Friends: The Reunion, which he fronted.
‘James has been lucky and clever. The problem is that he has been sold to us as the boy next door when actually he is a powerful man. He has a stylist and a tailor and a nutritionist and is as Hollywood as they come.
‘His friends are all famous. His wife is a power player, besties with Adele and Meghan Markle.
‘When he is “caught” acting like a member of his multi-millionaire media tribe then everyone thinks he’s being phoney, but actually he isn’t. That person who sent back an omelette and was rude about it is just who he is now.’
A seemingly trivial row over the chat-show host’s wife (pictured) being served a yolk-only omelette which contained a rogue streak of egg white in New York restaurant Balthazar erupted on October 17
It’s worth noting at this point that we’ve been here before. Back in 2008 there was a backlash when Corden, at the height of his fame after the success of Fat Friends and then Gavin & Stacey, embarked on a party-hard period.
He seemed to live in the Groucho Club. He tried to date Lily Allen and gave singer Alexandra Burke a £4,000 watch to convince her of his intentions. He dated, and dumped, Sheridan Smith.
As he admitted in his memoir, after too much partying he was rude, self-centred and ‘lost’.
An intervention by his mum and dad, Malcolm and Margaret, made him see the error of his ways.
‘I felt so embarrassed at the way I’d been living my life, the arrogance and lack of respect I’d shown myself and my work,’ he said.
Corden admitted in his memoir, after too much partying he was rude, self-centred and ‘lost’
Has he reached another personal low? It’s true he’s going through a significant period of change, both professionally and personally. In April he announced that he would not be renewing his contract with CBS as the host of The Late Late Show, despite big-money offers to stay, and will return to the UK next year. The family’s £6 million house in London sold this spring and their £7.5 million house in Los Angeles was quietly put up for sale in October.
He cites his three children with wife Julia (Max, 11, Carey, eight and four-year-old Charlotte) as the reason behind walking away from America at the peak of his success, saying he realised how quickly they were growing up and didn’t want to spend any more time away from them.
He’s said that he doesn’t know what he will do from the summer of 2023 when he returns, but more acting and writing looks likely.
His performance in the Amazon drama Mammals is being lauded. He’s also written two scripts for feature films.
Certainly, it seems the actor is already entertaining thoughts that he’s taking a huge risk, and may never have success on this scale again.
In an interview with the Radio Times, he said he had ‘made peace’ with the possibility that his return may be deemed a failure.
‘I think failure is necessary, for every single person. You need it. I’m at peace with the notion it might never ever get as big as this again. Either way, the worst case scenario is that I get to take my kids to school and pick them up every day.’
For those who need reminding, the current crisis started when the owner of Balthazar in New York, Keith McNally, wrote on Instagram that Corden had been a ‘cretin’ and ‘abusive’ to staff. Apparently he sent back his wife’s omelette because it had egg white in it, and when the returning dish had the wrong side order, Corden lost his temper, shouted and offered to cook it himself.
k eith McNally said that the ‘extremely nasty’ star was banned from the venue. A day later, he said Corden had called to apologise ‘profusely’ and that he was unbanned.
It was bad luck for Corden that this coincided with a Press tour to promote Mammals because he promptly gave an interview to the New York Times in which he made everything far worse by displaying what came across as conceit.
He told the interviewer: ‘I haven’t done anything wrong, on any level. I feel so Zen about the whole thing. Because I think it’s so silly. I just think it’s beneath all of us. It’s beneath you. It’s certainly beneath your publication.’
Being grand, when a humble apology was obviously in order, was a mis-step. Corden himself has always admitted that he has a pompous side: ‘This arrogance thing . . . I’ve had that my whole life,’ he once said.
‘I flip between, “Oh really? Oh thank you. Wow. That’s amazing.” And, “Yeah! Of course I am.” ’
A friend of Corden’s said the incident was deeply unfair.
‘What’s happened here is that the restaurateur discovered that talking about James Corden was really great for business.
‘In the real world people are lovely to him on the streets, all the big networks want to work with him and he makes millions of people laugh all around the world.
‘A lot of this is driven by pure jealousy. He has done better than any other UK person who has gone to America to try to have the same journey. I suspect he wouldn’t get half the amount of abuse if he wasn’t working class. A lot of online comments are aimed at his weight.’
As Corden said last weekend, he believes many of his detractors are snobs. ‘I think there’s absolutely a world of people who think someone who went to a comprehensive in High Wycombe and got two GCSEs shouldn’t be doing what I’m doing.’
Speculation that the staff on his show don’t like him, and have therefore written old jokes into his scripts, is denied.
I’m even told he personally paid the wages of his ‘team’ during the pandemic. He will be in the bosom of that ‘work family’ until the summer of 2023 when he signs off from The Late Late Show for the final time.
What the future holds for Corden this side of the Atlantic is still unclear. One thing’s for certain, though: waiters can look forward to some generous tips — but omel
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