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When news broke last week that judges Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger and host Steve Jones would not be returning for season 2 of The X Factor, the only big surprise was the firing of Abdul. After all, she and show creator Simon Cowell have been good friends since their time together on American Idol.
Needless to say, Cowell is a bit disappointed by the way things turned out.
"I would've liked to have kept (Paula)," Cowell, 52, tells Extra in a two-part interview that began airing Wednesday night. "She was very gracious, and I said that to her. She understands it's business; it's never personal."
He says Scherzinger also took the job loss pretty well, adding: "I don't think she's mad. I think she's disappointed." Sources have since said that the former Pussycat Dolls frontwoman is going to focus on her music career.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Cowell's interview is who he blames for the firing on the three X Factor cast members: himself.
"It's only because I opened my big mouth and said we were going to get 20 million (viewers)," he admits. "If I hadn't said that, everybody would be saying the show was a huge success."
In an effort to make The X Factor the 20-million viewer success he wants it to be, Cowell is looking for some new blood to sit next to him and the show's only other returning judge, record exec L.A. Reid. So who is he going after?
If you were putting stock in those reports that Simon had offered Beyonce $100 million a season to come on board, don't hold your breath.
"I have no clue where that came from. I read that online that I offered her $100 million a year. The budget for the show is $100 million. That would never, ever happen. It's absolute nonsense," he insists. "Even if you had that kind of money, I wouldn't spend $100 million on one person."
Cowell goes on to say that Madonna would be "great" but "expensive," and that Katy Perry would be "fun -- she's feisty." He also says that he would "love" to have Mariah Carey as a judge, "but you can't expect someone who's just had two kids to make the kind of commitment you would need on this show."
In fact, Cowell says he doesn't feel the pressure to replace his big-name former judges with more celebs.
"I'm not playing this game where we have to compete on the level of A-lister stars," he says, subtly referencing competing show The Voice. "You can lose focus on what the show is all about, and at the end of the day the most important thing is the contestants."