Born to be wild
BEAR GRYLLS LOVES TAKING STARS OUT OF THEIR COMFORT ZONE … THEY LOVE IT TOO
Bear Grylls believes his reality adventure show, Running Wild, is best summed up by paraphrasing a quote from boxing wild man Mike Tyson that says: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
The former SAS and Royal Marines soldier and survival instructor turned adventurer and TV personality has been taking audiences into some of the world’s wildest regions for more than 15 years on hits such as Man Vs Wild, Worst Case Scenario and Bear’s Wild Weekend. And if he’s learned one thing over the arduous journeys in baking deserts, frigid mountains, snake-infested jungles and everything in between, it’s that not everything always goes to plan.
“The wild is going to punch you in the head and you have to improvise and adapt and find a way to overcome,” he says.
For six seasons, Grylls has also been taking celebrities including Zac Efron, Kate Winslet, Julia Roberts, Roger Federer and Barack Obama way out of their comfort zones on Running Wild With Bear Grylls. In the latest season, which debuts on National Geographic next week, his “expect the unexpected” mantra was sorely tested, when things threatened to go very bad for guest Danny Trejo in the high altitude of the Utah desert. The 76-year-old ex-con and star of movies such as Con Air, Once Upon a Time In Mexico and Machete, was stricken with severe heat exhaustion, prompting Grylls and his small production team to act fast to avoid what could have been the biggest disaster in the show’s history.
“Danny was definitely one where we had to react pretty fast otherwise he was going to end up in trouble,” says Grylls. “But he was amazing. He was totally determined and resilient and so wanting the adventure, and at the end he said it was one of the most amazing experiences of his life.”
Grylls says Trejo’s upbeat attitude is the common thread of the show’s disparate guests, who expect to be tested and pushed to their limits as they live off the land and negotiate the tricky terrain. Other guests this season include The Falcon and the Winter Soldier star Anthony Mackie shivering in Italy’s Dolomites, footballerturned-actor Terry Crews and actor Keegan-Michael Key negotiating the lava fields and raging rapids of Iceland, and exmotor racing champ Danica Patrick powering a dune buggy through Utah’s Moab Desert.
“We take people who are inspirational figures and have great positive mindsets and attitudes and are there not because they need the money or fame, they are there because they want the experience,” he says. “They come ready to face the wild and share their stories so there’s always a great positive spirit about the show, and I like that.”
As they’ve come from the micromanaged, often pampered environment of movie sets – and trading impeccably curated craft services and bottled water on demand for the likes of cooked rat, scorpion, snake or a handful or earthworms for energy – Grylls says the spontaneity and uncertainty of the trips add an extra layer of appeal. “We know where we are going to get dropped off by helicopter, we know roughly where we are going to end, and then we keep that journey quite loose and versatile,” he says. “We have to adapt it often, but that’s the fun spirit of the show – a lot of it is spontaneous and improvised, and I think the stars love that. They are used to an environment on movies where everything is planned and very controlled, and they love that fact that we go and we gun it.”
Like just about every TV show produced anywhere in the world last year, the pandemic forced Running Wild to improvise, and Grylls pays tribute to his small, tight-knit crew of friends for getting the show to air at all. They were able to duck in and out of countries as travel restrictions lifted and the fact that after so long together they are a well-oiled machine that can work at lightning pace allowed them to shoot when so many others couldn’t. “The shows are fast to make because what you see is what it is. We pick them up in the morning and we get dropped into the mountains and two days later, after a night out, the helicopter comes and picks us up at the end of the journey. And that’s it. There are no retakes, no pickups – it’s a small crew, turn the cameras on, follow us and if you miss it we keep moving.”
Grylls also relishes the opportunity Running Wild and his other endeavours give him to keep challenging himself. Having climbed Everest and remote peaks in the Antarctic, crossed the Atlantic and Northwest Passage in an inflatable boat and circumnavigated the UK on a jet ski, committed Christian Grylls is also heavily involved in charity work, motivational speaking and raising awareness for environmental causes. And he’s always looking for the next challenge. “I think the wild kicks me out of my comfort zone every day and life kicks me out of my comfort zone every day. I am not one of those people who only do the easy. I like that. I always call it a ‘comfort pit’, not a zone. It’s somewhere you want to climb out of as quickly as possible because if all we do is the comfortable then we decay.”
Running Wild With Bear Grylls, Foxtel’s National Geographic, Tuesday, 8.30pm.