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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Nicola Methven

Britain's Got Talent's Bruno Tonioli breaks silence on David Walliams' shock text to him

Bruno Tonioli says he has turned Britain's Got Talent into an even bigger programme than his old show Strictly Come Dancing.

The exuberant Italian, 67, made the playful boast in his first week of filming as a BGT judge.

He said with a guffaw: "This is the biggest show - now that I'm in it. Now that they have me. I mean it.

"Oh, Simon [Cowell] is going to hate me saying that. Ha, ha ha."

He was signed up just 11 days before the auditions kicked off on Tuesday – as revealed by the Mirror – and says the first person to congratulate him was the man he replaced, comedy star David Walliams, 51.

David left BGT under a cloud after being caught making disparaging remarks about former contestants.

Bruno said: "David sent me a text and a fantastic bottle of wine. He's a very good friend."

Bruno Tonioli has spoken about joining BGT (Ian West/PA Wire)
He has replaced David Walliams on the judging panel (Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)

He added rumours there was a row over cash – with fellow judges Alesha Dixon, 44, and Amanda Holden, 51, reportedly furious he was being paid more than them – are "rubbish".

Bruno also scoffed at reports he is earning £850,000 for BGT.

Insiders yesterday claimed that, in fact, Amanda and Alesha are very happy with the deal they have, adding that Bruno earns "a bit less" than each of them.

Bruno said: "It's vulgar to talk about money, I never do it. So I don't know what the girls are getting...

"There is no frostiness with the girls. We've been having so much fun."

Speaking to the Mirror backstage at the London Palladium, he added that his TV work is not about the money.

He said: "I do it because I love to do it.

"Amanda and Alesha... we've all known each other for years. The first show felt so natural. We have such a lot of fun. I'm very lucky – someone's looking after me." He added there will be no tension with comedian Alan Carr who was also in the running for the BGT job that Bruno landed.

Bruno had been up against Alan Carr for the role (Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)

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He said: "That’s show business. There’s nothing awkward about it.

"I love Alan, he is a very nice guy. This was ITV's decision. He’s a professional, he knows how these things go."

He added the deal was thrashed out at the last minute after he returned from a holiday in St Lucia and BGT boss Simon returned from Barbados.

Bruno said: "I arrived back in London on January 8th... The next day my agent got a call from ITV. They said it was about something 'very big'."

He attended a meeting on January 13 and was thrilled with the offer, adding: "It happened so fast. I thought it was a joke at first because Simon's been teasing me with this for years."

Previously his hectic schedule with Strictly and two annual outings of Dancing with the Stars in the US prevented him taking on other big roles. But now he has left Strictly and the US series airs just once.

He said: "This really is a gift. It’s right up my street. I've done all the stuff – I've acted, I've sung, I've been in the theatre. I can use every aspect of the past 50 years I've been in the business."

Bruno is on the panel with the likes of Amanda Holden (Ian West/PA Wire)
He's also reunited with Alesha Dixon, whom he worked with on Strictly Come Dancing (Ian West/PA Wire)

Along the way, he has worked with the likes of Elton John, Freddie Mercury and Tina Turner.

Bruno and Simon have known each other since the 1980s. It dates back to Simon needing someone to choreograph a video for his then-girlfriend, Sinitta, and asking Bruno to step in.

Bruno said with a chortle: "It wasn't So Macho or ToyBoy, I got lumbered with a naff one." He also worked with Alesha on BBC show Strictly.

Filming on BGT, hosted by Ant and Dec, began on Tuesday and the crowd have loved the new judge – chanting "Bruno, Bruno" as he takes his seat.

But he says his high spirits - such as jumping up and waving his arms while giving his verdicts on the acts - might already be annoying Simon.

Bruno said: "When I am on the panel the volume is a bit higher. Simon already has a headache – he said I gave him a migraine yesterday." He also knew Simon's mum and dad.

Auditions for the new series of BGT have been underway this week (Tim Merry/Daily Mirror)

Recalling a time Simon moved back in with his parents during a lean period, Bruno said: "I went to visit and he had this raggedy rose that was so unkempt so I got out my pliers and trimmed his bush. He was furious."

Later they became drinking buddies in Los Angeles while Bruno was working on Dancing With the Stars and Simon was doing American Idol.

Bruno said: "My trailer was like a milk float and his was a mega-mansion," Bruno remembers. But he was left "screaming like a banshee" after he wore pale blue Dior suede boots to work one day, and Cowell flooded the car-park outside his trailer with his overflowing jacuzzi.

"They were trashed," Bruno says.

It won't be long before viewers will be able to see the former BBC star in action on BGT, with the ITV series due to air on Saturday nights from April.

One thing they won't be seeing though, is any pirouettes from Bruno. He says that taking part on The Masked Dancer last year has left him with a sore back. "I did the Masked Dancer and nearly killed myself. It’s like you've had 10 glasses of wine and put a head on - you don’t even know where you are."

Asked to compare BGT with Strictly, he says it's just impossible because the shows are so different. "I have nothing bad to say about Strictly, it completely changed my life. This is a different sort of judging. The range of this show, you never know what is coming next. I’ve already seen acts that give me goosebumps - and some that are totally bonkers."

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