James Corden is currently riding the crest of a wave as the new host of the US' iconic 'Late Late Show', which has turned him into a household name on the other side of the pond.
But, while his fame over there may be new, the actor/presenter/comedian has been a fixture on UK TV for over 15 years now, through many ups and downs - both professionally and personally - to get to where he is today. Here, as part of our BRITSBLITZ project - charting those British talented performers flying the flag across the world - we chart just how he did it.
James Kimberly Corden (yes, his middle name really is Kimberly) was born on 22 August 1978 in Hillingdon, London to parents Margaret and Malcom. Raised as part of the Salvation Army, a young James developed a keen interest in singing and performing. By his own admission, he was not academic at school, preferring to play the class clown, and by the age of 18 he'd settled on a career in acting, landing a one-line part in a stage production on musical 'Martin Guerre'.
Following tiny roles in ‘Teachers’, ‘Hollyoaks’ and ‘Boyz Unlimited’, James landed his first big role in ITV drama ‘Fat Friends’, in which he starred as teenager Jamie Rymer. At the time, little did James know how much this role would shape his future, as it was the place forged a relationship with the co-creator and co-writer of ‘Gavin And Stacey’, Ruth Jones. He found love on set too, and his romance with fellow actress Sheridan Smith would go on to last another seven years until the pair called it quits in 2009.
After ‘Fat Friends’ ended, James headed to the West End, starring in Alan Bennett’s play ‘The History Boys’, which soon took him all over the world, as the production played to audiences in Sydney, Wellington, Hong Kong and on New York’s Broadway. James then starred in the 2006 British film adaptation of the play alongside friend Dominic Cooper, who had become his flatmate at the time.
A year later, James reunited with Ruth Jones to write and co-star in ‘Gavin And Stacey’, which would turn him into a true comedy star. The sitcom began quietly on BBC Three, but it quickly gathered a cult following, and it was not long before it was brought to bigger audiences with a BBC Two slot. Viewers fell in love with James’ character Smithy, whose will-they-won’t-they relationship with Nessa - played by Ruth - captured the imagination in the same way Friends’ Ross and Rachel had a decade earlier.
Meanwhile, his bromance with Gavin (Mathew Horne) resonated with lads up and down the country. The show was nominated for a plethora of prestigious awards - many of which it won - and telly chiefs soon promoted it to BBC One for its final series in 2009. Some 10 million viewers tuned into see the final episode on New Year’s Day 2010 - up 9.5 million up on those who saw the first.
By James’ own admission, the phenomenal success of the series went to his head, and he was branded arrogant in 2008 when ‘Gavin And Stacey' won two BAFTAs, and he questioned why the show hadn’t won more during his acceptance speech. Writing later in his 2011 autobiography, he admitted to being “ungracious, ungrateful and brattish”.
“Instead of applause, I was met with silence, shock and disbelief. Now, of course, I can see why and how it must have looked - ungracious, ungrateful and brattish. Rather than using my speech to thank everyone who'd helped on the show, I'd ruined the moment and belittled myself in the process."
The end of the show marked the beginning of a difficult time for James, as he struggled to live up to the huge pressure of expectation that came after ‘Gavin And Stacey’. He started to become rude to those he worked with and later admitted he had “lost his way”. He teamed up with his on-screen best mate Mathew Horne to write and star in their own BBC Three sketch show. But, despite much hype, it turned out to be a complete flop, thanks to low ratings and a mauling from TV critics.
Speaking about it the following year, James admitted the series wasn’t good enough, telling Stylist: “The truth is, honestly, I'm not good enough at writing sketches to write a sketch show. It was a mistake. There's no point in doing something unless it's going to be as good as 'Big Train' or 'The Fast Show'. Why bother? And the absolute truth is I wasn't good enough."
James and Mathew’s comedy partnership then came to an end after the release of their film ‘Lesbian Vampire Killers’ in 2009. It bombed in the box office, and once again critics slated the pair, with James admitting he felt it hard to take such a bashing after winning such widespread adoration as Smithy.
The pair’s friendship struggled to survive in the following years, and they went from spending 263 days together in one year, to then barely speaking the next. James was visibly shocked while appearing on ‘Piers Morgan’s Life Stories’ in 2011 when the host revealed that Mat has chosen not to contribute to the programme, despite being asked.
James bounced back, though, and he relaunched himself again in the West End in a production of ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’, in a role that won him huge acclaim and an Olivier Award. And it wasn’t long before the production headed to Broadway with James still in the starring role. A Tony Award soon followed.
It paved the way for his breakthrough film role - playing ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ winner Paul Potts in a big screen adaptation of his life story, ‘One Chance’. Film bosses sat up and began to take notice of James, and in 2013 he was cast alongside Meryl Streep, Chris Pine and Johnny Depp in ‘Into The Woods’.
Despite beginning to make it big in Hollywood, James didn’t desert the UK or his small screen roots, continuing in his role as host of ‘A League Of Their Own’ and the BRIT Awards, as well as launching new comedy-thriller series ‘The Wrong Mans’ with Mathew Baynton.
He was leading a busy life off-camera too. Not only was he becoming one of the most well-connected men in the business with drinking buddies such as One Direction and David Beckham, he also married long-term girlfriend Julia Carey in 2012. The couple went on to have a son, Max, in 2013, before welcoming a daughter, Carey, in October last year.
As he settled into his role as a dad, James’ biggest break yet was waiting just around the corner. He was announced as the successor to Craig Ferguson as the host of US chat show ‘The Late Late Show’.
Having learned his lesson from the BAFTA fiasco, James was very humble about his shiny new job in the lead up to taking over the reins, revealing he feared losing it within the first few months. “What are the chances of a chubby guy – and I’m being generous – going to America and hosting a talk show every night being anything other than a complete mistake?” he told The Mirror earlier this year.
But he should not have worried as his first show was lauded by critics and US audiences, with The Hollywood Reporter describing him as “affable and sincere”, while E! claimed they were “in love” with him after just one episode.
Since then, he’s gone on to bag the biggest names in showbiz, including Mariah Carey, Justin Bieber, Naomi Campbell and Tom Hanks, to join him in hilarious sketches and sit down on for a chat on his sofa, cementing him as a real player in the US chat show market.
And with such a high profile, it now only seems a matter of time before James is hosting the Oscars, or is starring in a film that wins him one. Whatever is next for James Corden, we Brits couldn't be prouder of our boy done good.