The debut of the American version of Simon Cowell's "X Factor" is six months away, but that hasn't stopped the former "American Idol" baddie from starting a full-court blitz to promote his new baby. And in an era when it seems like being a judge on a reality singing show is the new launching-a-clothing-line/perfume/energy drink, Cowell has been talking a big game about who might end up on his celebrity panel.
Not surprisingly after months of rumors, Cowell told "Access Hollywood" that his old "Idol" pal Paula Abdul is on his radar. Abdul, whose dancing competition "Live to Dance" was recently mothballed after one low-rated season, is once again available, and Cowell has long talked of his affection for her.
Cowell also confirmed that he's talked to former Pussycat Dolls singer Nicole Scherzinger, Mariah Carey and faded 1980s pop star George Michael. So far, though, no one has signed on the dotted line. Asked if he's had an actual discussion with the pregnant Carey, Cowell said, "Yeah, I've spoken to her. I mean, literally, we've spoken to lots of people. I've spoken to Paula," explaining that he's called some of the stars and that some have called him.
"And then new people come along ... [Two days ago], we met somebody who I've never met before in my life, who I just loved," he said cryptically, leading some to speculate that he was referring to Jessica Simpson, who has been mentioned as a possible front-runner for a gig on the show. "And that's why it's good to kind of delay the process. It's not about necessarily the TV show per se, it's people. You genuinely gotta trust that they're gonna be able to do the job you're paying them to do. And like I said, a hit-maker who worked in America and has had experience, I think is crucial to this panel as well."
Cowell, who will be one of the four judges, said Abdul is definitely on his short-short list, but that it isn't just up to him, so it's too early to tell if there will be a rekindling of their onscreen love/hate relationship on "Factor."
He also took the opportunity to bat down other rumors about singers whose names have been bandied about for the show, including Katy Perry and Elton John. While the latter pop icon's name has been mentioned in connection with Cowell's show (and, for a minute, tied to the former vacancies on the "Idol" panel), Cowell said he's never spoken to John about the gig. Plus, he added, he doesn't think the flamboyant piano man would work anyway.
"He's so grumpy nowadays. I mean, it would be like, he'd just be moaning the whole time," Simon said about John. He's also said in interviews this week that troubled singer Christina Aguilera — who just signed on to be a judge on "The Voice" — is not in the running, but that he has been talking to former music exec and friend Tommy Mottola.
Cowell has been hitting the boards hard to promote the show, pointing out that it is open to groups, has no upper age limit and will feature a jaw-dropping $5 million top prize. Auditions will kick off on March 27 in Los Angeles. On-air auditions will take place before a live audience of 5,000 people in an atmosphere Cowell described as being like the singers' first concert and a good chance to see how they handle the pressure of live performance.