The last Big Brother was quite “evil” – how bad will it get for this year’s band of mentalists?
I don’t know! They deliberately don’t tell me, for the simple reason that I go away and just tell everyone. Literally everyone. Right to the point where I’d go and tell my newsagent who was up for nomination. And then there’d be these e-mails going round the office saying, “There’s a leak and if we find out who the leak is, that person won’t work again!” And more than once it’s shot through my mind: “That might be me!”
Would you consider telling the house that England had won the World Cup, just for a laugh?
Yeah, that’d be brilliant! They played a clip of the last European Championships really quickly to them and then they just took it away. I think the whole evil thing’s fantastic. It pisses me off when the show gets a bit of a bad rap on that score. The whole exploitative thing.
How much would we have to bribe you to sneak us in the house for half an hour?
Just a couple of cups of coffee will do me. It’s a proper human zoo. I think everyone should see it, we should just do tours.
Do you have any power on set? Could you get a mate behind the scenes – or would you get bollocked?
Both. I reckon I could swing it now, but I’d probably get told off afterwards. It’d be worth it though.
When the tabloids fly radio-controlled helicopters over the house do you think, “This is great for ratings!” or “Please piss off”?
A bit of both, really. Primarily, I just think it’s great. I’ve spent the last six years working on a show that’s become this cultural phenomenon and so divisive. It stimulates such debate, and as a presenter, you get those opportunities once in a lifetime. So, in that respect I feel privileged. The worst thing you’d want is no helicopters going over at all.
Who’s the weirdest celebrity you’ve met and how do you think they’d fare in the house?
God, the weirdest? Good question. Well, Evan Dando [Lemonheads singer] was weird. And the lead singer from The Dandy Warhols, he is out there. Lovely guy, but he’d kill everyone. I wouldn’t blame him.
Is it true that you shagged Janet Jackson after an interview?
That was all a bit weird. I saw this thing in a magazine that said, “Dermot and Janet went on a date to Oxford, and went to see the Changing of the Guard and went shopping!” I interviewed her at her hotel, she was quite flirtatious, it was really nice, that was it. I’ve never seen her again.
Pah! Makosi, Lisa and others claim that Big Brother ruined their lives. What do you make of that?
Rubbish. Well, it might’ve done, but they’ve only got themselves to blame. That really annoys me. I don’t know who these people hold to account for their own words and their own actions, but they should be looking closer to home. And in terms of them going in the house, I think it’s a really tired argument that it’s exploitative. Maybe it was in the first couple of years, but then we didn’t really know what we were doing. The idea that these people aren’t psychologically assessed and don’t get told doomsday scenarios and asked, “Are you sure you want to do this? Ex-lovers – are you sure they’re not going to go to the papers? Are there any family members that might stitch you up? If this is going to ruin your life, don’t do it.”
So they know what they’re doing…
You know, they’re pretty much sat down and told not to do it – “We don’t guarantee fame, we don’t guarantee fortune, we’re not giving you money, you’re not going to retire off the back of this.” And they go, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Get me in the house.” And when they get in the house, they act the way they do, they say what they say and they come out and go, “Have you edited that?” Hmm – let’s see, so you washed up for 50 minutes and then you had a go at someone for ten minutes: which bit’s going to get on television? It’s ridiculous.
Good rant! Were you worried that you’d “broken” Vanessa Feltz?
That was before my time, actually, before Little Brother. Weirdly, Vanessa Feltz is a brilliant guest. It’s odd, because it made her, in a strange way. She’s a tough old girl.
Have you ever caught a cameraman mid-tug while peeping at the ladies?
I’ve heard stories but the worst one is when Jodie Marsh came down and was being shown around last year. She turned to my producer and said, “God, if I was in here, I’d be wanking all the time.” He stammered, “That’s nice,” and she went, “Nah, I would.” He was like, “Get out of here!”
What’s the weirdest request you’ve had from a fan?
“Sign my boobs!” always freaks me out. I’m like, “I’m not sure… do you honestly want me to permanently mark your breast?” And you get knickers thrown at you every now and again.
Why have there been so many rumours about you being gay?
I don’t know. I’m not stylish enough to be gay. If I’d taken my girlfriend’s advice and worn that cravat this morning, then maybe… I just think that when a new guy comes on television, there’s always a little bit of hoopla and people think, “Is he going to be a player and shag around?” But I’m not that kind of guy, so I guess they just went on to the next thing which was, “He’s got quite short hair, works out a little bit, and he hasn’t got a girlfriend. So…”
You’ve been hugely successful. Was there ever a day when you ran down the street, clicked your heels and thought, “I’m a millionaire!”
Ha! I get paid a good wage, but money doesn’t really motivate me. Last year’s National Television Awards, where we won for Big Brother, was the moment I enjoyed most. And I did a Star Wars documentary last year, that was a click of the heels moment because it was a show about something I loved. Plus I got to fight my dad with a lightsaber.
How did you feel when BBC presenters’ six-figure salaries were leaked to the press?
I was shitting myself, because they didn’t publish mine and I was just thinking, hang on, it’s going to look like I’m the rat! To be honest, I was as fascinated as the next person. You look at it and you go, “Wogan, okay, he earns that much.” But the more middling ones, you look and go, “Fucking hell! They make that much for doing a couple of shows a week?”
Do you think Jade Goody is earning more than you now – and do you think, “How did that happen!?”
I don’t know if she has a million pounds, but she’s earned a million pounds. It’s great to have cash but the only things it gives you are freedom and choice, right? And you’ve just got to try and live your life with as much of those as you can whether you’ve got £10 or £100 in your pocket.
Very true. So who would you rather shag – Jade or Kinga?
Come on! If there was an orphan’s life on the line!
I’d take both of them – save two orphans!
What did you think of Kinga wanking with a wine bottle?
It was awful. No one really wanted it to happen. She’s a lovely girl, Kinga, but it was a classic “act up in front of the cameras” moment.
If you were in the Big Brother house, would you shower with shorts on or in the buff?
You’ve got to jump in for the whole experience. Also, I never think I’ve properly showered when I’ve showered with shorts on.
So you’d happily shower in the buff… the O’Leary family jewels on show?
But would you ever do it: would you be a contestant in Big Brother?
Never in a lifetime?
Original interview by David Moynihan in the Jully 2006 issue of FHM UK magazine