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April 25, 2022updated 30 Sep 2022 11:15am

‘God, what a life I’ve had’: Piers Morgan on tabloids, TalkTV, Murdoch and the ‘Markle debacle’

By William Turvill

It’s taken 50 minutes, but finally I’ve found a question to tongue-tie Piers Morgan, the new star presenter of Rupert Murdoch’s TalkTV.

“A low point? Erm. Hmm.”

We’ve spoken about Meghan Markle, Donald Trump, Rupert Murdoch, phone-hacking, his wife, his kids, his tombstone – and Morgan’s barely paused for breath while breezing through my interrogation.

But when I ask him to identify the low point of his career, my interviewee struggles for an answer. “It’s probably not what people would think…”

Piers Morgan is probably the most famous journalist of his generation. He’s almost certainly the best paid.

But surely it can’t be too difficult for him to pick out a big hiccup in that illustrious career. There have been three high-profile sackings for starters.

“The thing is,” says Morgan, “I don’t really think about any of it as a low point. I know other people must think it must have been this, this, this and this. But I don’t really see it like that. I just felt it was all part of the rich tapestry of being in the media. You’re going to have highs and lows.”

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After a few seconds more, Morgan has his answer. It’s not what I expected.

“I think the low point was when I had a dream of being a journalist and stumbled into insurance,” says Morgan, who briefly worked for a Lloyd’s of London underwriting syndicate when he was 18.

“It was so mind-numbingly dull. I just used to hate it. I was earning a lot of money at the time – about £150 a week or something. Back in the ‘80s, for a teenager, that was a lot of money. And I could have taken that, and probably would have made a very good life in underwriting or whatever. But I would have been bored senseless.”

Today, nearly four decades later, Morgan starts a job as the headline act of News Corporation’s new British broadcasting venture, TalkTV. Under his deal, Morgan is believed to be earning around £15m a year

“Am I!?” he squawks down the phone.

Well, I say, at least according to a report by my editor-in-chief, Dominic Ponsford.

“Ha,” cackles Morgan, who doesn’t correct the figure. “You really shouldn’t believe what you read in Press Gazette!” 

‘I’m not a diva or a monster behind the scenes’

Piers Morgan Uncensored, TalkTV’s flagship show, launches on Monday 25 April at 8pm on Freeview and satellite in the UK, streaming channel Fox Nation in the US and Sky News in Australia. As part of his multi-million-pound News Corp deal, Morgan will also write columns for The Sun and the New York Post, and books for Harper Collins.

I’m speaking to Morgan over the phone on Good Friday, just over a week before launch. How’s he feeling? Nervous?

“I wouldn’t say nervous – I’m excited. But I’m realistic. It’s going to take time to build this and to bed it down with people. And there’s a challenge to get it right so that it appeals to a global audience in the way I’d like it to. And it’s something brand new, so it will take time.”

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As the frontman of Murdoch’s latest venture, Morgan’s performance and ratings will come under intense scrutiny. “I couldn’t give a monkey’s,” he says. “I’m hoping the knives will come out quickly from all the usual suspects, and that will just create more noise. In the end, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Morgan says he is confident of success, in large part because he has been able to “cherry-pick some of the best people I’ve ever worked with” to join TalkTV, including his producer, Winnie Dunbar Nelson. She previously worked with him at Good Morning Britain and CNN.

As first revealed by Press Gazette, News Corp has gifted Morgan with a purpose-built studio in Ealing, near his London home (he splits his time between the capital and Newick, East Sussex).

When I ask who his dream guest would be, he says: “I’ve actually got that person. I just can’t tell you who it is.” When I ask if he’d like to have his former friend Donald Trump on, Morgan is poker-faced. “I’d have anybody on my show, yeah.” Days after my interview with Morgan, it emerges that Trump is indeed his first big-name guest.

Morgan is the face of the show. But how hands-on will he be? Do staff see him as the editor, the boss?

“They know that I pretty well edit any show that I’m involved in because of my background as a newspaper editor. Nothing appears on-air which I won’t have signed off on.

“But the advantage of having people who have worked with me for so long is they know how I work, they know what makes me laugh, they know which kind of things I get wound up about, they know what kind of red meat to feed me.

“And they’re also very, very good at their own jobs. So yes, I will in a way be editing the programme. But that’s not to take away from the brilliance of various executives I have, or the team below them.”

What are you like as a boss? “Ha, you’d probably have to ask them,” says Morgan. Dunbar Nelson for one recently described him as a “really nice man”.

“I think probably very different to how people imagine I would be,” is Morgan’s answer. “I certainly don’t think I’m any kind of diva or monster behind the scenes.

“I like to have fun. I like to have a good spirit within the team. I can be quite demanding, as I think people in my position should be. If you’re putting your name on a show every night, you’ve got to make sure you’ve got everything right.”

In his favour, Morgan has been able to persuade several former colleagues to join him at TalkTV. “That shows you, I hope, that I’m not a nightmare to work with.”

Piers was always extremely confident and obsessed with fame

Instead of going to university, Piers Pughe-Morgan studied the basics of journalism on an NCTJ course at Harlow College. He landed his first job at the Wimbledon News, which was part of the South London News Group, in 1985. (At some point, he dropped his double-barrelled byline.)

After my interview with Morgan, I attempted to dig up some dirt from his former Wimbledon News colleagues.

“Piers was always extremely confident and obsessed with fame,” recalls one former colleague who asked not to be named. “We had quite a few celebrities in the area and Piers would always get the newspaper photographer with him to take a photo of him with any famous interviewee. No selfies or mobile phones in those days.

“Piers also had a fantastic sense of humour and fun, and was a great colleague. We all laughed a lot in that newsroom.”

[Read more: TalkTV’s Tom Newton Dunn says ‘We’re not right wing, we are going to surprise you’]

Paul Myers, who went on to work for The Guardian and then French radio station RFI, says: “There was a good energy in the newsroom and he contributed to the glee and repartee in his pursuit of his showbiz stories. He could also do the straight up and down tales needed for a local paper….

“I’ve only seen him once since we left the Wimbledon News and that was years ago when I was at The Guardian… I saw him by chance in a pub in Farringdon. Even though he was surrounded by movers and shakers, he still broke away to say hello and ask how I was doing. Perfectly normal behaviour, but I have come across men and women who have hit the heights who could or would not do that.”

Morgan graduated to Fleet Street in 1988, working initially as a freelance for Kelvin MacKenzie’s Sun before landing a full-time role on the newspaper’s celebrity gossip column, Bizarre.

I asked MacKenzie what Morgan was like when he first joined The Sun. Was he ever nervous? Did he ever lack confidence?

“From the moment Piers arrived at The Sun, he never showed anything but self-confidence,” says MacKenzie. “No matter the size of the star he interviewed, there was no suggestion Piers was in his or her shadow. This was a new approach to showbiz journalism where there had previously been a lot of bowing and scraping.”

Andy Coulson, who worked alongside Morgan on the Bizarre column in the late 1980s and like him went on to edit the News of the World, says: “We hit it off immediately although his ambition was clear when he nicked my byline on a story about Milli Vanilli. Shyness and lack of confidence? No. But he does sadly suffer from dancefloor dysmorphia. Piers can’t dance.”

Kevin O’Sullivan, a former Bizarre editor who is now a presenter on Talkradio, shared some surprising insights into Morgan’s character from this era. “He was pretty quiet. You can hardly imagine Piers Morgan being quiet, but he was really taking everything in. What he was doing is he was learning. He was very keen to learn, always asking questions: ‘Who’s that guy over there? What’s he do?’ He wanted to learn all about newspapers, national newspapers… I think he was on a mission.”

O’Sullivan provides one more shock claim about his friend: “The thing that Piers doesn’t want you to know is that he’s a very, very nice, loyal guy. And not at all nasty. No viciousness… The thing about Piers is I don’t think there’s any hatred in him. He doesn’t really have a nasty bone in his body. And he’s very genuine.”

In 1994, at the age of 28, Morgan was named editor of The Sun’s sister Sunday title, the News of the World. Two years later, he left Murdoch’s empire to become editor of the Daily Mirror.

Morgan’s Mirror was never far from controversy. As editor, he was embroiled in an insider share-dealing affair. His newspaper racked up a £1m costs bill for breaching the privacy of supermodel Naomi Campbell. In 2004, Morgan was sacked and marched by security from the newspaper’s HQ after the company accepted that the Mirror had published faked photographs purporting to show British soldiers torturing prisoners of the Iraq War.

Morgan, then editor of the Mirror, pictured outside London’s High Court after model Naomi Campbell won a privacy case against his newspaper (REUTERS/Ferran Paredes)

The following year, Morgan teamed up with PR man Matthew Freud (a son-in-law of Rupert Murdoch) to buy Press Gazette. Their joint venture, Press Gazette Ltd, went into administration the following year (though, of course, Press Gazette lived on under new owners).

Dominic Ponsford, Press Gazette’s editor-in-chief who was news editor in the Morgan-Freud era, says: “They were the wrong owners for Press Gazette because they came with too much baggage. No one would believe they weren’t influencing the content (which they didn’t). And in the end we nearly closed because the Mail and Telegraph refused to enter our awards if Freud was owner (there had been bad blood between Freud and the Mail).

“Piers was great fun to work with though, although as a proprietor fairly hands-off. He had infectious enthusiasm and was unusually unpompous for a former newspaper editor. He used his connections to help us land some good exclusives, like getting the inside track when his friend Rebekah Wade ended up in a police cell for an altercation with her former partner Ross Kemp.”

ITV’s handling of Markle episode ‘ridiculous’

To this day, Morgan remains a columnist and book writer. But since 2006 he has primarily been known as a TV personality. His first forays into broadcasting came through America’s Got Talent and Britain’s Got Talent.

In 2011, he landed his own nightly talkshow on CNN, Piers Morgan Live. He endured his second sacking in 2014 following a ratings collapse

Between 2015 and 2021, Morgan was credited with breathing new life into ITV’s Good Morning Britain alongside his co-host, Susanna Reid. But in March last year, he was effectively sacked once more.

This time, Morgan refused to apologise for challenging claims made by Meghan Markle about the royal family and her mental health in an interview with Oprah Winfrey. Morgan says that he was ousted after Markle wrote directly to ITV’s chief executive, Dame Carolyn McCall.

At the time, Morgan described his ITV exit as “amicable”. Just over a year on – and after broadcast regulator Ofcom cleared Morgan of wrongdoing, while raising concerns about an “apparent disregard” for the subject of suicide – he suggests that ITV’s actions now look “ridiculous”.

“I just don’t think anyone who runs a media company should allow a Pinocchio princess to dictate who their on-air talent is, and what opinions they should have,” he says.

“I found that just very dispiriting. And I would hope the lesson ITV have taken from that – and everybody else in the media world – is you’ve got to back your talent when that happens.”

Morgan adds: “I found it quite a sad episode, really. And the truth is, I’d probably still be doing Good Morning Britain now, and the ratings would be I’m sure a lot higher than they are currently.

“I don’t know who won out of that other than Meghan Markle had a temporary win because she was able to bully a media company into getting rid of the presenter of one of their biggest shows.”

Morgan has been described as the Zebedee of Fleet Street (a reference to a children’s TV character with a spring for legs from The Magic Roundabout).

Piers reminds me of that Chumbawamba song – ‘I get knocked down, but I get up again,’” says Rick Sky, another of Morgan’s former Bizarre editors who now runs the  Bang Showbiz entertainment news agency. “Look at the setbacks he’s had, look at the scandals he’s been involved in. They would destroy most people. He takes it on that chin of his. It’s a remarkable thing.”

Rupert Murdoch is ‘a fearless boss’

So how did Morgan’s latest job come about? He’s publicly stated that he had other offers. What made him want to team up with Rupert Murdoch again?

“I think the perfect storm really was that Rupert Murdoch was in the UK for most of that summer after the Good Morning Britain fallout,” he says. “Having watched it all go down, having seen how it really became a battle about free speech…

“I think he’d been toying with the idea of launching a new network. And I think he felt that if he could get me over to front it then that would be worth his investment.

“Obviously, we go back a long way. Rupert gave me my first massive break in media back ithe mid-90s. So it was great, actually. Great to go back to work for him and to find that his enthusiasm and energy and drive for this sort of thing remains exactly as it was 30 years ago. So it’s invigorating to work for him and his company again.”

piers morgan talktv studio

Morgan pictured with Rupert Murdoch after signing his TalkTV deal (News Corp)

Did Murdoch approach you personally? “Uhh, yeah. I mean, we had a couple of intermediaries, but then I had the negotiation with him personally.”

And what persuaded Morgan to accept? He points to the fact his deal includes TV work in the UK, US and Australia, as well as column-writing work for The Sun and New York Post – “I’ve never had a print column in America before, so that was exciting for me.

“When we finished up, it was a big, all-encompassing deal that covered all the things that I’ve been doing for the last few years. I was particularly thrilled about that.”

Morgan and Murdoch haven’t always seen eye to eye. Murdoch once said: “The trouble with Piers is that his balls are bigger than his brains.”

“We’ve had a few ups and down,” says Morgan now. “But look, I have tremendous respect for him. We had dinner last week in Los Angeles. He’s 91 years old, but his mind is like that of a 50-year-old. It’s quite amazing. I love his zest for life. I love his curiosity. I love his constant drive to learn and to have new information and move with the times. He never looks back, he’s always looking forward.

“He’s a very invigorating mind to be around and he’s a fearless boss. So I think the chances of Meghan Markle being able to write to Rupert Murdoch and trying to get me fired I would say are quite limited.”

Harper Collins, the books division of News Corporation, published Morgan’s 2020 title, Wake Up, which seeks to challenge “wokies” and cancel culture. “He read the book and he knew where I stood on that stuff,” says Morgan. “So my mission statement really is to cancel this cancel culture. I think Rupert Murdoch would totally endorse that.”

Should GB News, another challenger British broadcaster that often seeks to challenge ‘wokeness’, be worried about Morgan’s show? He dismisses the comparison, in part because “I’m not right wing”.

“There’ll be no comparison with what we’re doing to GB News or to anybody else,” Morgan adds. “I think the show I’m doing – because of the fact it’s airing around the world – it’s a very different proposition. I think certainly what people will see is the amount of resource put into the studio and all the rest of it. And production is of a higher level than anything you’ve seen on GB News by a country mile… I’ve got nothing against GB News. I had good conversations with them before I signed my deal, and I wish them all the very best.”

I used to practise signing my autograph a lot’

What made Morgan want to become a journalist?

“I was really young – I was six or seven,” he says. “My mother remembers me reading the paper – the Daily Mail we used to get at home – and how I just loved news and headlines and the whole feel of a newspaper.

“I loved knowing what was going on. I was always being nosy, liked the gossip, liked to be the first person to know stuff. It was just in my blood, really.”

And was it always your plan to become famous?

“Well, I used to practise signing my autograph a lot when I was young. I now look back and think that was particularly arrogant, even by my standards.

“But I used to collect autographs – I used to write to lots and lots of famous people and get them to send me autographs and sign pictures and things. And I used to practise mine, expecting one day I would be as famous as them.

“The irony is when I finally got to be that famous, people stopped asking for autographs. They all want selfies – so you barely ever sign an autograph now as a well-known person.

“I’ve been unashamed about it, really. I wanted to be a great journalist when I started out. I wanted to be an editor – I then achieved that when I was 28. I then wanted to use my journalism skills to go and do other things.”

Morgan was a tabloid newspaper editor in an era when red-tops crossed many lines in their pursuit of scoops. How does he reflect on those years?

“I don’t think that tabloids were perfect in that era,” he says. “But I don’t think that any era could say the media’s been perfect. I think there’s been so much hand-wringing and attack on British tabloid culture, actually I want to defend it.

“I think that papers were fantastic through that period – doing amazing journalism, breaking huge stories, important stories, holding governments to account.

“I don’t see people talking about the campaign the Mirror did against the Iraq War, for example, or the coverage of 9/11 that we did, or the campaign against guns after Dunblane, or any of these things.

“There seems to just be a convenient narrative spun by the likes of The Guardian that everything the tabloids did in that era was terrible. I just don’t agree. I think it was vigorous, dynamic journalism, and I am very proud of what we did at the Daily Mirror. Very proud.”

Phone-hacking claims? ‘It’s just pure clickbait’

Reach has paid out millions in damages to celebrity victims of phone-hacking by Mirror group journalists. Some of the cases dated from Morgan’s time at the company.

He has always maintained that he “never hacked a phone nor told anybody to hack a phone”. He was questioned by the police, who found no evidence of wrongdoing.

And yet, his name is still linked to the illegal practice, on social media and in some media coverage of the ongoing privacy litigation.

“They put my name in there to try and embarrass me and to have my name in their papers and sell copies,” says Morgan when I ask him about a recent Guardian article headlined, “Piers Morgan ‘must have known’ about Daily Mirror phone hacking, say lawyers”. 

“It’s just pure clickbait. There’s absolutely nothing linking me to any phone-hacking whatsoever, as the police investigation proved. So I just think it’s – I’m not going to keep talking about it for the rest of my life, I’ve said what I wanted to say – but I’ve never been charged with any offence or anything. And yet people seem to – every day I read, all day long, stuff about I’m this and I’m that, and I’ve done that. It’s all complete nonsense.

“I think I’ve talked all I need to talk about that. People, if they want to use my name and picture to titillate their audience, that’s fine. But they’ve got to actually have some facts. And there are no facts.”

As a divisive public figure, Morgan regularly endures social media trolling and insults about his character. But, I ask, does he find hacking allegations particularly offensive?

“I have people who all day long say, ‘You hacked a dead girl’s phone!’ Which everyone in journalism knows has nothing to do with the Daily Mirror.

“And so I have to put up with that kind of stuff, which is deeply libellous, deeply wrong, very offensive. Not just to me, but also to the poor family of the girl concerned. I think it’s just horrible to use that in that way. And it’s completely wrong, as everybody knows.

“I’ve tried to tell people to stop doing it – but what can you do? It’s the law of the jungle, and you just have to suck it up.

“But it creates an impression all the time – people assume it must be true then. And of course, everyone knows – in the journalism world – that’s not true. So I have to put up with that and I accept it and that’s just what you have to – if you’re a high-profile person with a lot of following on social media, you’re going to get that kind of crap.”

I’d hate to have boring children who don’t have opinions

After our conversation, Morgan has scheduled a dinner with his three sons in London. He lives with his second wife, Telegraph journalist Celia Walden, and their daughter, Elise.

How difficult is it to maintain a healthy personal life when you’ve built a career as an international media personality?

“It’s fine – you just get tired” says Morgan, who quips that “my wife’s always quite happy to see me get on a plane and leave the country!”

Morgan pictured in March 2021 walking his daughter, Elise, to school (REUTERS/Toby Melville)

In his latest book, Wake Up, Morgan writes openly about family Whatsapp conversations with his sons, who are not shy about disagreeing with their father. Morgan’s daughter is younger – has she started challenging him?

“Oh God, yeah. She’s just like her brothers, yeah. She’s highly opinionated and doesn’t hesitate to give me her opinion. We do morning walks together to school a lot of the time and we just have these long chats about stuff in the news.

“I always remember Rupert Murdoch actually used to do that with his kids when they were young. They’d all sit round the table and debate the news.

“I love doing that… I’d hate to have boring children who don’t have opinions. I’d much rather they have opinions about everything.”

Have your children ever had a hard time at school because of their association with you? “No. No, they haven’t actually. They’ve always made a point of saying they haven’t. It’s something you always think about if you’re high profile and divisive. But they don’t ever get any kickback at all about that.”

How many friends do you have? “It depends. What kind of friend do you mean?”

How many people know the real you? “Umm, well, I had about 300 or so at my 50th, and I was pretty friendly with all of them.

“But I would say I’ve got my village mates who I have grown up with for 40-50 years, they’d be my closest, probably. And then I’ve probably got a couple of dozen friends from my media world collectively who I would consider to be real friends – people who you might call in the middle of the night, and they get out of bed and come and help you when you need help. And I’ve got many, many other acquaintances who I’m very friendly with.

“But I think that in terms of really close friends, I would say two or three dozen probably, in total, that I can really rely on. Which I think is pretty healthy.”

A lot of journalists love to hate me or hate to love me’

Shortly after his Good Morning Britain exit, Mail on Sunday showbiz editor Katie Hind tweeted that she had bumped into Morgan on her way into work in Kensington. In the space of 20 seconds, she said, “a cyclist shouted ‘I love you, Piers’, a woman stopped for a selfie and a taxi driver opened his window to share the love too.”

Morgan acknowledges a supporter shortly after he left Good Morning Britain (REUTERS/Toby Melville)

How popular does Morgan think he is? “I can only judge it really when I walk around,” he says. “In the year since the whole blowup that went round the world about the Markle debacle, as I call it, I could count on one hand, literally, any negativity.

“It’s been the complete opposite. I’ve never on the streets had a better reaction. [There’s] an absolute belief that I was entitled to my opinion… that’s old, young, all ethnic persuasion, all religious persuasion – it doesn’t matter what kind of person they are. I’ve been approached by everybody from countries all over the world, everywhere I go, and they’re all like: ‘Keep going. Keep fighting. You represent us.’”

What about among other journalists, politicians and the chattering classes?

“A lot of journalists love to hate me or hate to love me, and I get on very well with journalists even if they whack me,” says Morgan. “We keep each other on each other’s toes and that’s fine…

“As to the wider intelligentsia, I think my job is to keep them on their toes. I wouldn’t want them to like me. Why would I want to be popular with, say, politicians or the chattering classes? Our job is to poke them. It’s not to suck up to them or have them like me.

Has Morgan ever considered becoming a politician? “No.” And you never would? “Ha. That’s a very firm ‘never’. I’m not interested. I’m a journalist. I just want to be a journalist.”

Do politicians and journalists envy you?  “I’m sure a few journalists wouldn’t mind being in my position. But I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t be. They just have to work hard and have a very steely ambition, is what I would say.

“I still have a postcard my mother gave me when I was young of a hippopotamus flying with a flock of seagulls with a headline, ‘Ambition knows no bounds.’ And I would think that if more journalists had that mantra then they could also be doing global TV shows.

“I get on well with most journalists, to be honest with you. There’s a few that can’t stand me. But that’s fine. I don’t like them. You don’t have to all like each other.”

I asked some of Morgan’s friends and peers why they think he’s been successful.

“The reason Piers has climbed to the top of the greasy pole is that he is bloody good,” says Morgan’s former Sun editor MacKenzie. “Works damned hard, always on but never forgets where he came from. A very unusual trait in our game and to be much admired.”

His friend, outgoing BBC presenter Emily Maitlis, says: “Piers has real guts. He’s been at the top of the pile and the bottom of the pile so often it’s made him very unafraid of failure. And I think that’s when you take interesting risks. He’s calculated that more people will remember the good stuff he’s done than the weird things he sometimes come out with. And broadly I think that’s true.

“His persona is ‘shoot from the hip’, but I think he works out his thinking on issues quite strategically and purposefully and then makes them sound spontaneous. I do think quite a lot of thought goes in.

“He embraces the space where news and showbiz meet. I can’t imagine any other journalist putting out that Trump trailer without wincing. It was like a boxing promo. But he got away with it as actually it was both shameless and really compelling. He’s not scared to inhabit that realm.”

One of his old Wimbledon News colleagues says: “He works like crazy – as you can tell from watching him on social media – and has always been willing to take risks and to stand by his decisions. He also has a great skill for honing in on issues that people feel strongly about and loves creating controversy. On a personal side, I do think he is also fiercely loyal to his friends and many colleagues which has helped his career. He always stands by his word.”

‘Je ne regrette rien’

My interview with Morgan was scheduled to last for half an hour. At some point, I asked if he could spare another ten minutes (he mumbled an acceptance). By this stage, we’re on 45 minutes, and I’ve still got a quickfire round of questions for him. I should really let my interviewee enjoy a Good Friday evening with his family, but I decide to push on with a few philosophical questions.

What drives you? “What drives me is the great old Henry Ford quote about whether you’re 20 or 80, if you’ve lost the desire to learn new things or be excited by them, you might as well die. To me, it’s always about what’s next. What’s the next big thing? What’s the next thing to be excited by?

“Don’t sit on your laurels – I don’t shut the door and think how brilliant I am or how well I’ve done. I think what’s the next thing I can do that’s going to be fun and hopefully successful. And I think that’s the key to life.

“It’s the old Rocky Balboa thing. I always think that it’s not how many times you can hit, it’s how many times you can get hit, fall down and get back and keep moving forward.

“That is my mantra on life. I’ve had some highs, some lows, good times, bad times – I wouldn’t change any of it. I think it’s all stuff that moulds your character, moulds your personality.

“I think I always try to be pretty positive even when things look pretty grim. I always try to have fun, to see the funny side of life. And I always try to be comfortable in my own skin and be confident and back myself…

“I turned 57 last month, and I was in a hotel in New York thinking: God, what a life I’ve had, and what fun it’s been, and no regrets. Don’t look back, just keep looking forward.”

No regrets at all? “Like Edith Piaf, ‘Je ne regrette rien.’ I don’t see the point. I think regrets are a waste of energy.

My final question: How do you want to be remembered?

“‘He was never boring’ would be a good tombstone description,” says Morgan. “‘Love him, hate him’ – whatever you want to think about me, I don’t think anybody could point at me and say: ‘He was boring.’

“I think the enemy of life is to be boring. And if I died with people saying, ‘God, he was boring,’ that would be a killer. It would be worse than death for me.”

Quickfire questions with Piers Morgan

Favourite interview? Nelson Mandela, Stephen Hawking and Oprah Winfrey

Dream interviewee? “The Holy Grail is Jack Nicholson who’s not done a TV interview in 45 years, so he remains on my hitlist.

I’ve come close. I sat next to him in an Italian restaurant in Beverly Hills a few years ago and I bottled it. I was going to go and ask him but I didn’t want him to say no. I couldn’t face rejection from Jack Nicholson.”

What about if you could interview anyone else from history? Winston Churchill and the Queen

Favourite editor? Kelvin MacKenzie. “He wins by default. He was the only editor I ever had in Fleet Street.”

Favourite journalist? “The foreign correspondents to me who go to these warzones and report, risking their lives, I think they’re pretty remarkable people. My biggest respect is for them collectively.”

Do you wish you’d been a war reporter? “No, I don’t think I’ve got the balls.”

Favourite book? Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby

TV show (apart from your own)? West Wing

Film? The Godfather I and II

Music? Frank Sinatra

Biggest fear? Heights. “I can’t even get on the London Eye without feeling queasy.”

Top photo credit: REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

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