MAT Horne will be returning to our screens again this year as he reprises his lead role in the much-talked about Gavin & Stacey Christmas Special.
But since the show ended back in 2009, the actor, 40, has opted for a more simple life in a Scottish village, while his pal James Corden, also 40, headed for the Hollywood hills and mixes with his A-list neighbours.
When Gavin & Stacey landed on our screens back in 2007 the show made stars of all of the cast, but it was James who really got noticed.
Despite Mat having the title role, James' character Smithy proved to be a HUGE hit with stars clamouring to do comedy sketches with him, which includes George Michael and David Beckham.
During their time on the show James and Mat enjoyed an enviable bromance, but drifted apart when the series came to an end.
While James became a superstar TV host in the US with countless showbiz friends, Mat opted for a more quiet life in Scotland.
Mat swapped his London flat to relocate to the Scottish Highlands to live in the town of Helmsdale, which has a population of 700.
He told the Daily Mail: "I'm there the whole time I'm not working. I just want to be in the Highlands .
He added: "I would go to Hollywood if something came in that I really wanted to do."
Meanwhile, James is a superstar now, with a luxury lifestyle to match – thanks to his gig hosting The Late Late Show.
He owns a a £7.3million LA mansion in upscale Brentwood, which has a large swimming pool, as well as a spa, a wood-panelled library, a cinema room and gym.
The two men were once incredibly close, and undertook a number of joint ventures.
Riding high on the success of Gavin & Stacey, the possibilities seemed endless for the two pals.
But after a flop BBC Three sketch show, an “atrocious” movie and a shambolic turn as Brit awards hosts in 2009, the duo seemed destined to be cast into the showbiz wilderness.
Rumours were rife that the duo, who once boasted of their “love” for each other, were no longer speaking.
Now — after James announced this week the Christmas Day return of the sitcom set in Essex and Barry, South Wales — it seems their relationship is firmly back on track.
On Wednesday Mat laughed off the rumours of a falling out, saying the rift “has now healed”.
He said: “It’s a relief for me and James that we didn’t need to do anything.”
He said he was looking forward to working with James again, adding: “There are some sections where it says ‘Smithy and Gavlar riff on this’, so that’s going to be quite exciting for me and James to have some fun.”
James called the cast members personally to ask them if they were available for the big reunion.
Larry Lamb, who plays Mick Shipman on the show, revealed: “It’s quite extraordinary and Hollywood-esque. You get this phone call from a star in La La Land.”
But James’s ascent to super-stardom did not come overnight. After Gavin & Stacey stopped rolling, both James and Mat struggled to find their feet.
James later said: “Things were offered to us after Gavin & Stacey and we just rushed into them.
“If I have one regret, it was we just rushed those things. We never stopped to think about the work enough.”
The backlash was swift and brutal. The pair’s comedy show, Horne & Corden, was described by one critic as “about as funny as credit default swaps” [the cause of the 2008 financial crisis] and James admitted their movie Lesbian Vampire Killers was “atrocious”.
He added, mournfully: “Then we hosted the Brits together and we were so poor I can’t even watch it.” The pair would read through the reviews together in horror — as it dawned on them just how unpopular they had become.
Mat said: “There was lots of horrible things about us.
“So we supported each other, just constantly trying to rationalise and process everything. But it was all happening so quickly. We were just ploughing forward.”
But eventually their work relationship came to a grinding halt. And rumours were rife that the pair’s real-life friendship had collapsed under the strain.
James explained: “We were riding this amazing wave and then it just dropped. In one year we spent 263 days together and we went from that to nothing.
“We didn’t speak for a few months. We both had to find and establish ourselves outside the two of us. We never planned to be a double act.”
When Piers Morgan interviewed James for his ITV show Life Stories in 2011, the only crack in James’s bubbly demeanour came when he was asked about his old pal Mat.
When Piers told him that Mat had declined to appear on the show, James was visibly shaken. “I didn’t know that,” he replied meekly.
“But I can understand why,” he continued, hesitantly. “Because it’s a hard time to talk about.” Mat certainly seemed to find it more difficult to move on from their public failures.
In the midst of the media backlash in 2009, Mat collapsed midway through a matinee performance of Entertaining Mr Sloane at Trafalgar Studio in Whitehall, London.
Speaking about the difficult period, Mat admitted: “I didn’t have the personality to deal with it. Didn’t have the skin to deal with it.
“James is very good at absorbing all the negativity he got and still gets. But whereas he was able to advance, I retreated.”
In 2010, Mat appeared as the Culture Club drummer Jon Moss in a BBC docudrama about the band, and was cast in an episode of ITV’s Miss Marple. But the work was beginning to dry up, just as his old buddy’s star was set to rise.
Everything changed for James when he was cast in the play One Man, Two Guvnors in 2011.
It was a five-star, sell-out West End smash — and it was the making of James. The show soon transferred to New York’s Broadway, where he picked up a Tony Award for his performance. After that, America was his oyster.
In 2015 he became the host of the widely popular US talk show The Late Late Show. His Carpool Karaoke sessions became the stuff of internet legend, with everyone from Sir Paul McCartney to Ariana Grande joining him for a spin and a sing-song.
But Mat insisted James’s success did not affect their relationship.
He said: “Jealousy isn’t something I do. I am not a jealous person. I am thrilled about the success he is having.”
While James’s career went stratospheric, Mat toiled away in theatre productions. He said: “I didn’t want to jump into a long-running series or trawl the panel shows.
“I mean, I did Shooting Stars just to say I’d been on Shooting Stars — I don’t think anyone could begrudge me that — but I don’t have a need to be paid money to sit and tell pre-rehearsed jokes on TV.”
He has turned down offers from I’m A Celebrity and Strictly Come Dancing, saying: “Absolutely no way. The only thing that could come from that is negativity.”
Despite the career discrepancy, the pair managed to put their difficult past behind them.
In 2010, James said his relationship with Mat was “slowly improving”. He said: “We had such an intense love for each other. We never fell out, it was never that. We were one person for a long time.”
And two years later, Mat attended James’s lavish wedding at Babington House in Somerset to his long-term partner Julia Carey.
A year later, Mat said: “We’re still friends. I still talk to him all the time. But I don’t think we’re necessarily seen as the same thing any more. There is a disassociation that’s healthy.”
Speaking about rumours of a feud, he added: “It upsets me because I don’t have anything bad to say about him. Because I will work with him again and because we are mates.”
But for Mat there will be no getting out of the Gavin & Stacey reunion with James and cast members Ruth Jones and Joanna Page.
He admits: “It will be incredibly emotional coming back together, because although we’ve all stayed in touch, because we are all great friends, actually being back together and being in the same place and in the same locations, it’s going to be really strange.”
- Gavin & Stacey returns to BBC One on Christmas Day
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