Inside Bruno Tonioli’s debut as BGT judge from golden buzzer blunder to David Walliams’ ‘classy’ gesture
HE was the flamboyant face of Strictly Come Dancing for 18 years but now Bruno Tonioli has hot-footed it over to Britain’s Got Talent.
This weekend he makes his judging debut alongside stalwarts Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden and Alesha Dixon when the talent show returns to ITV.
And the tiny dancer — just 5ft 7in — has revealed there is a huge superstar influence behind his latest TV persona which he promises will be even more exuberant than the jack in the box version from Strictly — not new boss Cowell, but Sir Elton John.
Bruno said: “When you’re on screen you can’t sit there looking bored. You have to give the viewers a show, you have to entertain them.
“So I crank up my delivery and become a larger-than-life persona. I draw on my years of experience working with the likes of Elton.”
Bruno became known for the enthusiastic delivery of his critiques on Strictly and somehow he’s found a an even higher gear for his new gig.
But at 67, his high-energy performance comes at a price.
He added: “The energy comes automatically during filming, but then I’m dead, absolutely dead.
“I lost my voice at the end of the first day on BGT because I didn’t pace myself.”
It was a worrying reminder for Bruno, who suffered a health scare when he was juggling judging duties on Strictly and the US version Dancing With The Stars.
In an interview with Radio Times Bruno revealed: “I was flying from London to Los Angeles and back again every week. I hardly slept.
“I remember saying to Tess (Daly) that I didn’t know where I was because I was so tired.
“I even blacked out once on Dancing With The Stars. I had an out-of-body experience and was confused about where I was.”
It was the final straw that saw him hand over his place on Strictly to Anton Du Beke, 56.
Bruno added: “Anton’s doing a great job and it feels right that he should carry on.
“I may never be a Strictly judge again, but I may go back.
“I just couldn’t continue doing both Strictly and Dancing With The Stars.”
Bruno could, however, juggle his diary to fit the US dance show alongside Britain’s Got Talent and he was ecstatic to take up the new post in January as replacement for David Walliams.
The talent is absolutely incredible.
The comedian resigned after ten years on the panel after footage emerged of him mocking some of the show’s contestants.
Now Bruno has revealed the “classy” gesture from David.
He continued in Radio Times: “He was the first person to send me a message saying congratulations.
“He also sent a fantastic bottle of Italian wine to my dressing room on my first day. I thought that was absolute class.”
The excitable Italian, who has lived in the UK since the mid-70s, made his mark on the first day of filming at the London Palladium by breaking every rule in the book.
He caused chaos by hitting the Golden Buzzer twice during auditions — each judge should only use it once per series — sending two acts straight through to the semi-finals.
He said: “Alesha gave me a brief, but then I forgot everything she told me.
“They were like, ‘here are the rules, you press it then, not then’, but that went out the window.
“I honestly got caught up in the moment, forgot everything I’d been told and just reacted instinctively.
“I looked up, Simon was in stitches, Alesha looked shocked.
“Anyway, Simon tells the crowd there’s no rules, to forget what they’ve been told and act badly behaved, so I listened.”
He added: “Come on, he’s the boss!”
Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly, both 47, are back as hosts of the show now on its 16th series.
And the Geordie duo revealed they were behind Bruno’s buzzer mayhem.
Dec said: “We, quite mischievously, kept telling him different rules.
‘Proper variety show’
“So when he hit his golden buzzer on the first session of the first day, midway through an act, we told him not to worry because he had another golden buzzer tomorrow, and that he had one every day.”
It wasn’t the only joke the lads played with Bruno as their pawn
Dec went on: “We also played a prank on the rest of the judges by going into their room and doing a BGT quiz, having secretly given Bruno all the answers in advance.”
Ant said: “It was much to Simon’s annoyance that somebody else would win a quiz about his show. He quickly worked out it was a prank and didn’t like it — But we loved it.”
The double act reckon the chaotic atmosphere at the auditions has breathed new life into the series, so they are already anticipating a thrilling run of semi-finals.
Dec added: “It could be a very interesting set of live shows — who knows what’s gonna happen.
“There doesn’t seem to be any rules this year.”
Bruno — of course — agrees. He said: “This is like live theatre. It’s a proper variety show like we used to get.
“Let me tell you, some of the talent we’ve seen during auditions . . . abso-lutely incredible. Wow!”
- Britain’s Got Talent returns on Saturday at 8pm on ITV1 and ITVX.
‘Audition that goes viral can open doors’
FOR Simon Cowell it really is the taking part that counts.
Ahead of the launch of BGT’s 16th series, the head judge believes you no longer need to win the contest to become a household name.
He said: “Where things have changed a lot from where we started is it always used to be about the end prize.
“Now a good audition that goes viral can open so many doors, that’s what makes us stand out from other shows.
“I really like it when someone’s brilliant and they’ve got a regular day job, because that adds an extra level to what they’re doing and have people talk about the act afterwards.
“I learned that when Susan Boyle was on the show.”
Simon, 63, has also used tactics from his X Factor days, where he used to pluck one talented singer from a group.
This year he has done the same – to a pack of performing dogs.
He said with a laugh: “It was hilarious. The owner was deadly serious and told us the dogs could play instruments and obviously they couldn’t . . . well, certainly one couldn’t.
“I just thought, ‘Why not? Split them up. Come back with the more talented one!’
“But it worked and they got through.
“That’s show business, baby!”
‘On mission to get more female acts’
ALESHA DIXON is tackling BGT with renewed vigour after 11 years on the show.
In fact, she’s “on a mission” to get more women up on stage.
Alesha, 44, said: “We haven’t had a female winner for a while and that’s a shame.
“We need to encourage more female acts to audition next year. I’m on a mission.
“I do predict a golden buzzer act will win because there’s so many and they were all outstanding.
“Perhaps this could be the first year in a long time that we have a singer win.”
The former Misteeq and solo singer says the programme still feels fresh.
This year BGT auditions returned to Manchester for the first time in three years.
Alesha said: “The audience is always so enthusiastic and up for it and we’d missed it. We always loved touring around the country because it felt like the circus had come to town.
“There is a different sort of perspective and vibe depending on where we go.
“It’s the extraordinary, creative and imaginative people that decide to audition every year, they are the show.
“They are what stops it becoming boring, by people telling their stories through their acts or getting to know them and their reasoning for coming on the show.”
‘We need to strap Bruno to his chair’
AMANDA HOLDEN says the new “nominate a mate” section has changed the show.
In previous years fans have moaned the auditions were filled with professional acts – like 2022 semi-finalist Loren Allred, who sang on blockbuster movie The Greatest Showman.
But this year acts can be nominated by their pals for the chance to audition.
Amanda, 52, said: “It feels more home grown. It feels like stuff people would be doing in their bedrooms. It’s back to being more amateur with people queuing up and coming in.”
She added: “Last year we had a lot of people who had struggled professionally because of lockdown.
“A lot of people who needed to remind themselves and their audience that they could do it and it was great for us to be able to give them that platform after what had been a very tough time for performers.”
Amanda reckons Bruno’s arrival has also given the long-running show a boost.
She said: “He’s got loads of energy, like putting a Berocca into water and watching it fizz. He gives some good critiques when he’s not messing around and being naughty – I swear we need to strap him to his chair, he never sits down.
“But for the first time in a long time I have absolutely no idea who might win.”