With the final of the X Factor this weekend, Suzanne Baum talk to its executive producer Ben Winston about the show, his friendship with One Direction and a new project that will see him working with his best friend James Corden in America
Recent rumours that One Direction’s Harry Styles can speak fluent Hebrew, is converting to Judaism and regularly attends synagogue is sadly untrue. However, the good news is that the band, according to their music video producer Ben Winston, have learnt a lot about Judaism but it seems unlikely any of them will be changing religion soon.
“Everything written about Harry’s conversion is incorrect,” said North-West Londoner Winston. “However, as I spend so much time with the boys they have learnt all about my culture and understand the Jewish way of life.”
For someone who was best man at comedian James Corden’s wedding, hangs out with the 1D boys and who speaks to Simon Cowell most days, Winston seems unaffected by his envious list of celebrity friends. In fact, he so rarely agrees to give interviews for fear of “looking as though I’m blowing my own trumpet”, that I’m flattered he has agreed to talk to the Jewish News. I guess it has something to do with the fact if it wasn’t for his strong involvement in the Jewish community he wouldn’t have met his business partners who together set up the successful Fulwell 73 production company that has catapulted them into the spotlight.
“It was through my years growing up in B’nei Akiva that I met Ben and Gabe Turner and Leo Pearlman who as well as being my close friends are my partners at Fulwell 73.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without these guys.”
Such is the faith he has in them; he knows that when he moves to America at the end of the month, his UK-based work will be left in very capable hands. This is important for Winston as he is aware his new project – as executive producer of the American Late Late show with James Corden- will take up much of his time.
“I’m extremely excited to be taking on this late-night show that will involve me overseeing every aspect of it,” said Winston, who will stay in the US for at least ten months. “As a new host, part of my role will be making sure James is well looked after as this will be the toughest job he’s had so far.”
The two have remained close friends ever since meeting on the set of the Channel 4 programme Teachers, where Winston (then aged 17) worked as a runner and Corden as an actor on the show. “We instantly clicked,” recalled Winston, who was best man at his wedding. “We both saw each other had huge ambitions.
“We have a great friendship and working relationship as we have collaborated on many projects over the years.”
With his Hampstead Garden Suburb home rented out, Winston is taking a last minute holiday to Mexico next week with his wife Meredith before heading to America.
“It’s an amazing opportunity,” he enthused. “It is also convenient for my on-going work with One Direction; the band spends so much time in LA that I will get to see them regularly.
“I will never turn my back on working with the boys. We have the most amazing relationship; I am very close with all of them.”
As well as describing them as “the most loyal friends”, Winston-whose father is scientist Lord Winston- is full of admiration for their work ethic.
“The boys are such hard workers and their fans like the fact they remain totally down-to-earth. They have such global appeal and longevity.”
Having spent the past year working as executive producer on The X Factor, Winston cannot predict the winner, but is adamant those left are the right acts.
“It’s been such an exciting show to work on and I’ve been totally swept up in it. The X Factor final is going to be phenomenal viewing!”
Winston believes that the addition of Mel B to the judging panel has given it an extra spark, adding to the excitement that has surrounded the show since Cheryl and Simon returned.
As for Cowell, his support of Winston’s move to America has been invaluable.
“Most days I chat to Simon, I think he’s absolutely brilliant. He’s such an impressive man, far more impressive than I ever imagined him to be. His advice to me about moving to America is: “Do it your own way, just follow your vision.”
As well as Meredith, there will also be someone else travelling with the couple when they move; their dog Colin Winston. “He’s the main celebrity in my life,” jokes Winston. “He appears in One Direction’s music video Night Changes and loves the attention the boys give him.”
For someone who has close to half a million followers on Twitter, the same cannot be said for Winston who shuns the limelight as much as possible. “I cannot understand why anyone would want to follow me, particularly as I find it hard to tweet anything remotely amusing.”
With Corden as his side-kick for the next year it shouldn’t be too difficult!
One Direction: Where We Are, is on DVD now
The Xfactor Final, is on ITV1 this Saturday and Sunday