Craig Revel Horwood: “They hated me”

Dancing with the Stars judge has made a TV career of being a caustic judge, but doesn't care if he is disliked.

When he first appeared on 10’s Dancing with the Stars Craig Revel Horwood believes that Aussies didn’t get him at all.

The Ballarat-born dancer-turned-choreographer-turned-TV judge has an impressive CV with UK musicals including Cats, Miss Saigon, West Side Story, Sunset Boulevarde, Chess, Pal Joey, Guys & Dolls and more.

But it only took a few cutting quotes for him to an excited Denise Scott become TV’s new bad guy.

“They hated me, but I knew they would. And I don’t care. The audience didn’t know how to take me. They think it’s a bullying world, but I don’t agree with that,” he tells TV Tonight.

“It’s bullying if you lie to people. It’s bullying if you’re not being honest with people about their dancing. It’s bullying if you say you love something and it was clearly terrible. It’s better to say ‘This is what’s wrong. Go away fix it and come back next week, better.’

“But people are now starting to understand what I’m saying is fact, not fiction.

“It’s only opinion and they are entitled to their opinion.”

“It’s never an insult. It’s always sound advice”

But Revel Horwood was also hired for his outspoken views and isn’t about to start apologising for them yet. As an original judge on Season 1 of Strictly Come Dancing (UK) he’s made a TV career out of blunt and caustic commentary.

“It’s never an insult. It’s always sound advice,” he insists.

“It’s like a judge in a murder trial. He wears a wig and hat and comes out and does his job. Then when the job is over, he goes home to his wife & family, crack open a beer or a glass of Savvy B, but he is not (the same as) himself at work.

“I’m the same. I do my job professionally, then I leave that environment, take off the wig and judge’s hat and then I’m myself.”

So how much of it is an act for the cameras an how much input do producers have in ramping it up, or toning it down?

“None. It’s entirely up to me,” he continues.

“As a judge you have to understand the temperature of the audience and understand the people you’re judging, be fair, to the point and honest.

“But it has to be real. It has to be based on what you’ve just seen.”

Revel Horwood began his professional career in West Side Story in 1983 in Melbourne alongside
Caroline O’Connor. By the age of 23 he was dancing at the Lido in Paris and on the West End before turning director / choreographer at 30.

When the BBC called him to test for Strictly Come Dancing he thought the project would flop.

“I said ‘It will be car-crash television.”

“They thought it would be a great idea to get celebrities who have never danced and I said ‘It will be car-crash television. It’s awful, I’m totally not interested.’ I wasn’t Ballroom / Latin trained. I was classically trained in tap, jazz, modern, contemporary and theatre,” he explains.

“But I went for a screen test and they put a group of us together and it became a phenomenon. It’s gone to 56 countries worldwide. The success of the show is extraordinary.

“I think we can say it relies on peoples’ hearts and minds. It incites people to dance and it shows people who have never danced and just sit on the couch watching telly, to maybe try it themselves.”

TV usually comprises 3 months of his year, but Revel Horwood continues to work in musicals and advocating for charities (he is a patron of the UK’s National Osteoporosis Society).

“I direct opera, choreograph ballets and musicals, that’s my day job. And I do that while Strictly is on.

“It’s my passion and my love. It’s one thing holding up a paddle from 1 to 10 -I find that rather easy.

“It’s stuff I use on actors anyway. Everything I say is only to help the actor.

“I’m honest. I wouldn’t want to piss in their pockets or lie to them, because it’s my reputation at stake. I’m the one who’s employed them.

“I’m wary that I have 10 seconds in which to speak, so it’s got to count. So I’m honest with them.”

“It’s new for 10 and I think they are on a learning curve with it.”

Equally honest, if less caustic, are fellow judges Sharna Burgess and Tristan MacManus. With the revived show now past its halfway point I finish by asking how he feels the series is performing?

“It’s new for 10 and I think they are on a learning curve with it. I’ve been doing it for 16 years after creating it many years ago, and I’ve seen many versions of it. I did the NZ one as well, which was completely different to here. But dance is something that transcends any form of speaking,” he believes.

“That’s why I think it appeals to so many people.”

Dancing with the Stars airs 7:30pm Mondays on 10.

6 Responses

  1. As far as ‘nasty’ judges go, he’s a particularly good one I think. While he’s certainly caustic, he always offers them ‘technical’ advice on what they did wrong, which they can work with to improve. Unlike some over the years, who have just been nasty for the sake of being nasty.
    On the whole, really enjoying this series of DWTS, including all of the judges. I hope 10 give it another run next year, maybe away from the ‘heat’ of MAFS

      1. If they put it against The Voice then that means shifting Masterchef and while it would be great to that go head to head with My Kitchen Rules, I don’t think TEN would risk their franchise show against MAFS. Could switch The Bachelor and DWST putting the Bachelor against MAFS but them again it’s a hook-up type show vs a hook-up type show scenario, that also puts DWTS against The Block so probably not a good move either. Might make it difficult on Amanda as well as that would also mean instead of like now with The Living Room it would be full seasons of both shows not just part like now (TLR is back Friday).

        Only one I could see maybe working is to switch I’m A Celeb and DWTS around, give DWTS the jump on the other shows that I’m A Celeb had, so when the others starts it’s getting to the nuts and bolts of DWTS. That would of course interfere with Sunday Takeaway though and The…

  2. I’ve found him to be okay has a really dry sense of humour which I like, almost as dry as Tom Gleeson on Hard Quiz. Craig’s scores are more realistic as well, when he gives a 3 and the others say a 6 or 7 I’ve often though the others are over scoring (4 and 5 would do). Probably part the reason you get contestants like Olympia Valance voted out, as the scores for say Curtly Ambrose are 2 or so points too high from the other judges.

    Comments can be constructive with a lower score as well, that’s why going too high on scores early in the competition tend to cause a problem. As later on they need to up it if the contestant has improved, so they can get over-inflated and the viewers come in and Curtly Ambrose or whomever gets to stay (even f they weren’t better by a long shot).

  3. He’s really grown on me and I’ve found him to be quite funny. You can tell it really means something to the celebrities when they get a positive comment from him. The whole judging panel though has been working well. All 3 are great choices!

  4. Why is it that rude people defend themselves by saying ‘I was just being honest’? You can be honest without being rude. We don’t expect him to lie to them, but it was their first night. He can’t expect perfection then. We didn’t like Todd McKenny much either, but at least he was funny.

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