Cole out of U.S. "X Factor"; accent not to blame

LOS ANGELES Mon Jun 6, 2011 4:22pm EDT

Pop singer Cheryl Cole arrives on the red carpet for the screening of the film ''Habemus Papam'' (We Have A Pope) in competition at the 64th Cannes Film Festival, May 13, 2011. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

Pop singer Cheryl Cole arrives on the red carpet for the screening of the film ''Habemus Papam'' (We Have A Pope) in competition at the 64th Cannes Film Festival, May 13, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Vincent Kessler

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - British singer Cheryl Cole's replacement on the much-hyped U.S. version of "The X Factor" was confirmed on Monday, ending almost two weeks of rumor and speculation about the line-up.

But sources close to the singing contest denied that Cole was dumped because of problems with her strong Northern English accent, or that the last minute changes were an elaborate PR stunt ahead of the show's debut on Fox television in the fall. Instead, the problem was Cole lacked personality, the sources said.

"Cheryl's accent was not the issue. I can assure you, it is not a stunt. You would have to be a PR genius, or nightmare, to think it was a stunt," one person involved in negotiations told Reuters on Monday.

"The X Factor", created by British entrepreneur Simon Cowell, is the highlight of Fox television's upcoming fall television schedule.

Cole, who was Cowell's personal choice for the panel, will be replaced by Pussycat Dolls singer Nicole Scherzinger, who was previously announced as the co-host of the show, Fox television and Cowell's production company said in a brief statement on Monday.

Cole was also dropped last week from the British version of "The X Factor" -- Britain's most-watched TV show.

Cole, a singer with the group Girls Aloud, is a household name in Britain but unknown in the United States. She had already filmed two audition episodes of "The X Factor", along with Cowell, former "American Idol" judge Paula Abdul and record producer Antonio "L.A." Reid.

Cole's role in those auditions will not be cut when the show airs, but producers have not yet decided how to explain her brief appearance to U.S. viewers, the sources said.

"It is a reality series. It will have to be explained but she will not be edited," said one source, who did not wish to be named.

British and U.S. media reports have speculated that the bubbly Cole was dropped because of fears that U.S. viewers would have difficulty understanding her accent.

But a source close to the show said the problem was one of chemistry and personality -- or the lack of it.

"She wasn't herself. After four days of filming, she wasn't what the producers had expected," the source said.

Discussions continued over the weekend in a bid to find Cole some other role on the U.S. show. Cowell's publicist Max Clifford told Britain's Sky News on Sunday that Cowell was pushing hard to keep Cole around.

But with the next round of auditions in front of judges scheduled for New Jersey on Wednesday, Cole apparently no longer wanted to be involved in any capacity, the source said.

The Hollywood Reporter said producers had agreed to pay Cole the reported $1.5 million she was owed under her contract.

The British media has branded the ongoing uncertainty over Cole's participation as "farcical", with some suggesting it was a stunt to raise Cole's profile in the United States.

But there is more at stake in the United States than Cole's career for "The X Factor", which is launching in a crowded field of TV talent shows.

Some U.S. TV critics feel the "X Factor" celebrity line-up has already been outshone by Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine and country music's Blake Shelton on new NBC rival "The Voice".

(Additional reporting by Mike Collett-White in London; editing by Christine Kearney)

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