Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly won’t be returning to their roots anytime soon after a movie effectively “ended” their acting careers.
The cheeky Geordie duo are best known for their presenting skills, having won Most Popular TV Presenter at the National Television Awards for the past 20 years.
They have delighted children and adults alike while hosting hugely popular shows such as SM:TV Live, Pop Idol, I’m A Celebrity, Britain’s Got Talent and Saturday Night Takeaway.
But before all that, and their particular musical career, Ant and Dec found early fame as actors on Byker Grove.
Dec joined the cast of the teen drama series as Duncan in 1989, while Ant got the role of PJ a year later after gaining television experience on the children’s series Why Don’t You?.
“We didn’t particularly like each other at first, I thought he was miserable,” Dec confessed on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross in 2006.
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“We’ve rowed a few times – we’re pretty competitive,” added Ant, who said they wouldn’t get this far in their careers without each other.
After leaving Byker in 1993, the duo began making music under their character names, PJ & Duncan, leading to their first appearance on Top of the Pops in 1994 with their debut hit Let’s Get Ready To Rhumble.
They released 16 singles and three studio albums, struggling on the UK charts but achieving a number one single in Germany, before returning to full-time television in 1997.
After years of showing up, the guys decided to get back into acting and hit the big screen in 2006 in the British comedy Alien Autopsy.
The film was a parody reconstruction of the 1995 alien scandal involving Ray Santilli and Gary Shoefield, who claimed to have discovered footage of an alien crash-landing in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947.
“I think if anyone wanted to give it a try or criticize, now would be the time,” Ant said after he and Dec were cast for the roles.
“But you have to take risks and you have to challenge yourself.”
The guys were cast against their usual TV roles in the film, which was refreshing for audiences, while also starring acclaimed Independence Day actor Bill Pullman and comedy favorite Omid Djalili. .
Bespectacled Ant turned into a serious Shoefield character, while Dec played the rough and loud Santilli.
The film was a moderate commercial success domestically, reaching number 3 at the UK box office, but reportedly only grossed £2.5 million against an estimated £5 million budget.
It was a mixed bag with audiences, receiving a 50% score on Rotten Tomatoes, but was somewhat panned by critics.
James Christopher in The Times called the film “an utterly lamentable attempt to create a post-modern parody of a 60-year-old hoax”.
While The Independent reviewer Anthony Quinn, who was also unimpressed, wrote: “Ant and Dec may be the princes of primetime TV, but they’re barely on par with the peasants in the stakes of the big screen.”
And the BBC’s Neil Smith said the film was “too mundane for adults, too gruesome for children”.
Despite mixed reviews, Ant revealed they loved making the film and had a “great time” when it premiered at Newcastle’s The Gate.
“We went through a period where we were sent a lot of movie scripts and a lot of them were pretty bad. This one came in, our manager said ‘I read it, it’s really interesting,'” Ant said. at the Newcastle Chronicle at the time. .
“Normally they say you should read 10 pages and if you can’t stand it throw it in the trash. Before I knew it I was on page 15 and finished it.
“I called Ant and said you have to read it, it’s a great story. Unlike a lot of other scripts, there were two main men, which was very rare.
“Also, what was so good was that it was based on a real one and I was intrigued by that at the time.”
Ant and Dec had apparently prepared for the worst and accepted that this might just be the only time they would delve into
“It might be the only film we’ve ever made, the only premiere we’ve ever had, so we just decided to enjoy it,” Donnelly said ahead of the film’s Leicester Square screening.
“We were signed with ITV until 2007, so until the end we will still be working on our TV projects. We wanted to see how it went and if viewers could see us as those characters. If things happen, then we’ll watch them but we’re certainly not going to launch an assault on Tinseltown.”
Usually everything they touch turns to gold, but Alien Autopsy isn’t the only dodgy part of their resume.
They would probably also prefer to forget about their ill-fated game show Red or Black, which was surrounded by a lot of hype and claims of the biggest cash prize ever given out in the UK.
Organized by their former boss Simon Cowell, the controversial 2011 series was accused of glamorizing the game and the format of the competition in a number of challenges before playing it all on confused “red or black” viewers.
Addressing the backlash, Ant told The Sun: “We kind of thought it was a Saturday night show. We were all wrong and are holding our hands on that.
“When we had a winner on the first night, we all went back to our locker room and said, ‘We shouldn’t start again tomorrow, it should be weekly.
“And we had unfortunate situations with some of the contestants, which overshadowed the show, probably disproportionately.”
Despite the backlash, the show returned to ITV the following year with some major changes, including a new £3.5million pot, but was dropped after this run.
After almost a decade of deviating from the game show format, Ant and Dec are now back with new ITV series Limitless Win.
The five-part series sees contestants answer increasingly difficult questions while climbing a financial ladder that never ends with every correct answer.
While excited for the show to begin, the pair revealed their main concern is to put ITV aside as contestants can win an infinite amount.
The guys jokingly suggested they should cancel Tipping Point and The Chase to take all their prize money, or get some from daytime TV competition host Andi Peters.
“We’ve had sleepless nights before and we were like, ‘Are we going to put ITV out of business?’ because there is no limit to what you can earn,” Ant revealed to The Sun.
Dec added: “When you turn off the light at night, there’s this little thing going on in your head that says, ‘What if somebody keeps winning – what are you going to do? I don’t know what would happen.”
Ant and Dec’s Limitless Win airs tonight on ITV at 8.30pm
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