James Corden on the Top Guest He Never Booked, His Craziest The Late Late Show Taping and Adeles Surprise Final Carpool Karaoke

Adele’s 2016 “Carpool Karaoke” clip remains the most watched of all time for “The Late Late Show with James Corden.” Actually, it’s one of the most-watched clips of all time for any talk show, period, at more than 260 million views. So, when Adele pitched an idea to surprise Corden for his finale, there was no hesitation.

The idea: Adele would surprise Corden at his house and drive him to work for one final “Carpool Karaoke.” “That was a shock to me, I didn’t know about that,” Corden told Variety. “I thought our last carpool was with Diddy. He was someone we tried to get for a while. And then this surprise with Adele happened!

“The fact that she came and did that for me. The fact that it was her idea to say, ‘well, why don’t I drive him to work?’ It’s really special,” he added. “Because what you’re actually watching is two friends who moved to Los Angeles, I think a week apart. And one of them is going home and one of them is staying. That’s hugely emotional. It just so happens that one of them is the biggest singer in the world.”

The end result will be seen on Thursday in primetime, during an hour-long “The Last Last Late Late Show with James Corden Carpool Karaoke Special,” along with a previously announced sketch with Tom Cruise involving “The Lion King” at the Pantages Theatre. (Scroll down to see the new Adele “Carpool.”)

“As far as closing out and bookending our show, there couldn’t be a better person to do it with than Adele,” said executive producer Rob Crabbe. “Her and James’ relationship, what they’ve meant to each other in Los Angeles and in life, is on full display. It’s incredibly beautiful, moving ‘Carpool.’ I think the singing’s great, there’s laughs in it, but then I defy you not to get a little misty watching it.”

Later that evening, the final show will also include guests Will Ferrell and Harry Styles. But no, that rumored One Direction reunion was never going to be a part of the equation. “Our relationship with One Direction was such that I think that people were hoping it would happen, but when that rumor came up, we came out very fast and said no, that’s not going to happen,” exec producer Ben Winston said. “Partly because we’ve got so many amazing things planned for this finale that the last thing we want it to be is a disappointment!”

Instead, what “The Late Late Show” is promising during the show’s last week on air includes one more “Crosswalk the Musical,” featuring Josh Gad and Jane Krakowski, on Wednesday. The producers describe it as a tribute to Hollywood and the crosswalk itself.

“We wanted Josh because he’s been in three or four of our ‘Crosswalks’ so he is as committed to ‘Crosswalk’ as anybody else,” Winston said. “And Jane Krakowski was very sweet. She always wanted to do ‘Crosswalk,’ and we did a ‘Carpool.’ It was great to get Josh and Jane as friends of the show to come and join us.”

How to handle the final installments of many of the signature “Late Late Show” segments, such as “Role Call” and “Celebrity Noses,” in addition to “Carpool” and “Crosswalk,” has been on Corden’s and the producers’ minds for months.

“From Christmas onward, we started to really think about this last week of shows and what do we want to do, what do we want to revisit, how do we want it to feel,” Corden said. “We wanted it to remain the sort of joyous show. That’s the currency of our show, joy.”

At the same time, Corden said he has no regrets or second thoughts about choosing to end “The Late Late Show” right now.

“My wife and I, we’ve known for three or four years that when my son finished sixth grade, that that was a really major moment in our family’s life,” he said. “Because we both felt certain that it was unfair to move around 14, 15, 16-year-olds. It doesn’t feel fair on them to pick them up as they’re forging a life for themselves and go, ‘hey, now go make some new friends.’ When you add in the pandemic, and how far we felt from our parents and our loved ones and siblings, it all fed into the same conversation of like, it just feels like it’s time to stop and it’s time to do that.

“No bit of this is about me going, ‘I’m done with this show’ and then regretting it,” he added. “I think that’s evident in the manner in which we continue to make the shows. I do feel also it’s important how things end. I’ve always wanted to be in control of those decisions, and go out at a point where I feel like our show’s still relevant, and is still the show that we always wanted to make when we started.”

As “The Late Late Show” winds down this week, all involved said they’re feeling extremely nostalgic. “It has been a life changing eight years,” Winston said. “That happiness and that satisfaction is always going to be tinged with sadness that it’s coming to an end, and a group of people that have worked together so intimately for eight years aren’t going to see each other next Monday. We were looking back and 80% of the staff who started on our show are still here. 1200 shows later, I think that’s pretty insane and unprecedented. I don’t think we’ll ever do anything as big again.”

Would Corden entertain the idea of later on visiting his Apple TV+ “Carpool Karaoke” spin-off, or perhaps do a one-off special for CBS bringing back some of his signature bits? “Maybe,” he said. “But it’s hard to think about anything in the future. I sort of feel like I have to commit to a bit of silence right now. It’s been quite a loud eight years. To be able to find space for new ideas, I will have to let this last eight years go. I’m so conscious of the fact that we’re going to move these three small people back to a completely different city, one that they don’t know that well with new schools, new friends, all those things. I just feel like the most important thing I have to focus on is just being there. I think it would be a really bad idea to commit to going off to do something. I don’t know. That’s really where my mind is.”

Still, Corden added, “if CBS or anyone else were to come and say, ‘what about doing a big holiday variety special?’ It’s, of course, something we’d think about. But I really don’t know.”

There are a few bucket list items that Corden said he never got a chance to do on “The Late Late Show.” At the top of the list: A “Carpool Karaoke” with Paul Simon that they were never able to pull off.

“I think he’s one of the greatest of all time,” Corden said. “My fondest memories of singing in a car was we’d go on these 15-hour drives to France, because we couldn’t afford to fly. My greatest memories of our family vacations are all of us singing along to ‘Graceland’ in the car. I had this idea of, what if I get my sisters to come out and be in it. My parents could be in it too. I always thought that would have been fun. There’s a few of those.”

Corden’s wildest interview? He remembered the time they realized the liquor on the show’s set was real — and with guest Helen Hunt, started doing shots during the taping. “That show was one where I could really feel sort of edges of my periphery blurring,” he said. “That was when I remember thinking, ‘I’ve really got to drink some water now!’”

Asked to recount his highlights, Corden admitted there were too many to count. “Driving down Penny Lane with Paul McCartney, going into his childhood home. That was crazy. Flying in those fighter jets and jumping out of an airplane with Tom Cruise. It’s just nuts. Doing ‘Les Misérables’ as a crosswalk in Paris, in front of the Arc de Triumph. That is peak silliness for our show. That’s the overwhelming feeling that I feel at this moment. This time next week, I’ll no longer be a late-night talk show host. I also imagine this time next week, I’m going to be quite hungover. But the overwhelming feeling I have is, I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve such memories. I really don’t. It’s overwhelming.”

Corden and team will tape both the primetime special and the late-night finale on Thursday afternoon, making for a busy last day. Corden knows it’s going to be an emotional day. “It’s going to be tough on Thursday,” he said. “I’ve just got to hold it together. I just can’t become a meme.”

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