Cheryl Cole
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Simon Cowell, American Idol
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The biggest X Factor in Fox’s version of the UK hit has been Brit singer Cheryl Cole, who was originally announced as part of the show’s judging panel last month, then was seemingly booted off, and is now being offered a role on the show again.

Here’s what we’re being told happened: Cole signed up with U.S. version of X Factor and participated in the early judging rounds. What went down next is the subject of some dispute, but one U.S.-based executive involved in the matter tells EW that Cole “wasn’t quite herself” during her four days of filming, potentially due to nerves or just feeling out of her environment with the new show.

Some reports have made it sound like U.S. producers basically booted Cole from the show because they were unhappy with her performance. Our source says was more consensual.

“After the Chicago auditions, producers suggested she might be happier returning to the UK panel and her management clearly indicated she’d be happy to consider that,” a source says. “It wasn’t meant to be the case she was ‘being fired.’ She was offered an alternative [to work on the UK version] for more money where they thought she might be happier.”

Producers of the Fox show promoted previously announced co-host Nicole Scherzinger to Cole’s judges spot, while Cole started re-negotiating to return home to the UK version of X Factor. She asked for a reported 2.5 million pounds, then after two days of negotiations went silent “for like three or four days.” Producers were unwilling to meet the price, suspected she might have been courting other offers and were under deadline to start production in the UK. They withdrew their offer.

The press exploded with the story that Cole was now adrift from both versions of X Factor.

But hello: Yesterday Fox and producer Freemantle called her management and said they “want to ensure she still has a role on the show” and told her the role could be adapted to suit her. One serious factor is that Cole’s deal states she gets paid whether she participates or not, so, hey, why not have her involved. But producers still want a commitment that she “really really wants to be a part of the U.S. show” — even though they’re reportedly offering her about $1.5 million, much less than she demanded from the UK version.

“This is not about playing games,” a source says.

We’re told one option being discussed right now is having a panel of five judges (Cole and Scherzinger, plus L.A. Reid, Paula Abdul and, of course, Simon Cowell), though that strikes us as one too many. Especially since, with X Factor, each judge coaches their own performance category, so a new category would presumably have to be created to pull off a panel of five.

“Simon Cowell’s only concern is he wants to make sure everything is done right by Cheryl,” adds a source close to the judge-producer.

One thing is for sure: This is not the end of this story — or the last version of these events you are likely to hear.

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Simon Cowell, American Idol

The X Factor

Simon Cowell, Demi Lovato, Kelly Rowland, and Paulina Rubio judge Season 3.
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