Page last updated at 01:40 GMT, Wednesday, 30 December 2009

'Hellish' Celebrity Big Brother house unveiled

By Neil Smith
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Big Brother staircase

Macabre sculptures, animal skulls and a kitchen inspired by a hospital morgue await the housemates in the last series of Channel 4's Celebrity Big Brother.

Producers have opted for a gothic, hellish decor, based on Dante's Inferno and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre's notion that "Hell is other people".

"Hopefully we've made it more moody and atmospheric," said C4's David Williams ahead of Sunday's launch programme.

Speculation is mounting over who will take part in the 2010 series.

Coronation Street's Kym Marsh, actress Stephanie Beacham and rapper MC Hammer are among those rumoured to be participating.

Last week, a High Court judge upheld a decision by the Probation Service banning singer Boy George from appearing on the show.

Journalists were given a sneak peek inside the Big Brother house on Tuesday at Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire.

'Autopsy green'

The redesigned house includes a large living room area with fur rugs, gilded panels, ornate lamps and upholstered couches.

Cushions emblazoned with diamante skulls augment the demonic theme, as does a clinical kitchen painted in "autopsy green".

Big Brother couch
Cushions feature representations of skulls

The latter room is decorated with outsized insects in specimen jars that recall Damien Hirst's famous pickled shark.

Other elements include a bathroom dominated by a roll-top bath and an exterior wood-panelled "snug" with leather sofas and a fireplace.

Housemates will enter the house via an imposing double staircase, passing walls decorated with a flame motif.

"The famous line from Dante's Inferno is 'Abandon hope all ye who enter here', which has inspired much of what we have done to the house," said executive producer Shirley Jones.

"When the celebrities arrive on Sunday night, they will definitely wonder what is in store for them."

Journalists were denied access to the bedroom, though, with both Jones and Williams keeping tight-lipped over sleeping arrangements.

Nor would they be drawn on "something new" they had planned for the garden, beyond saying it would be "quite big".

'Full circle'

Following Channel 4's decision to axe Big Brother, Jones said the final edition of its celebrity spin-off would be "bigger and better".

"It'd be nice to go out with a bang," she told the BBC News website.

Big Brother bathtub
Producers said they hoped to evoke the "faded opulence of a country pile"

"It's the final one so we've wanted to do things we've maybe thought about doing over the years," added Williams.

"I think we've pulled out all the stops and had some fun with it."

Williams also confirmed that some of the profits from the show would go to the Comic Relief charity.

"Celebrity Big Brother started [in 2001] as part of Comic Relief, so it seemed poetic to come full circle."

Television presenter Ulrika Jonsson won the 2009 series, beating bookmakers' favourite Verne Troyer.

Other previous winners include Take That singer Mark Owen, faux star Chantelle Houghton and Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty.

The latter became embroiled in a race row sparked by comments made by fellow housemates Danielle Lloyd and the late Jade Goody.

According to David Williams, however, "a lot of water has been under the bridge" since 2007's controversial edition.

"We've shown we can cope with pretty much every eventuality," he said. "We now have in place all the procedures, so we think we can cope with everything."

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