On a rainy afternoon in London, Bear Grylls comes in off the water after testing a new boat and apologizes for being slightly out of breath. But it’s exactly as you would expect Grylls to sound. Married and the father of three boys (that’s as normal as his life gets), the British adventurer is a multi-lingual, former member of the United Kingdom Special Forces, and black belt who, at age 23, became the youngest Brit to summit Mt. Everest. He has also jet-skied around the UK, made an unassisted crossing of the North Atlantic Arctic Ocean, and paramotored over the Himalayas. More recently, he was named one of Fancast’s Sexist Stars of the Summer. “It was an honor,” laughs Grylls.
He is best known in the U.S. as the star of Discovery’s ‘Man vs. Wild,’ where he drops himself in the most inhospitable environments and attempts to survive with little more than the most basic tools. (Watch classic full episodes here.) With a new season of ‘Man vs. Wild’ debuting this Wednesday, August 12, at 9 pm on Discovery, he chatted about living life on the edge, his latest adventures, what it’s like to eat a tarantula, and whether he plans to follow-up his Will Farrell trip to the frigid Swedish wilderness with any other celebrities
How are you today? Surviving.
Funny. I’m not kidding.
What are you surviving? I am preparing a new expedition for next year, and so I just took all the investors out on a new boat that was designed to go to the Arctic. I literally just got off the water, It’s pouring rain and all the investors are miserable
Is that a nice way to treat your investors? I tried to jolly them up. But a part of them were in tears and the other half were kind of going help. However, they survived.
That’s a nice lead-in to the new season. What can we expect this time around? For me it’s been the hardest season we’ve ever filmed. It’s also been the most intense. I went to some of the most dangerous places we’ve filmed. We did the first episode in the Arctic Circle, which is always hard. We also went to Alabama, where we encountered forest fires. We did a war special in Vietnam, which was great. In the jungle, I ended up lacerating my hand badly on a razor sharp bamboo. What else? We went to the Chihuahuan desert down at the Mexico-Texas border, and we went up to Alaska.
How much does a season of shows take out of you? A lot. We shoot back to back, which is hard. But I like that. I get into a zone and we just kind of get on and do it. But I definitely find myself dipping into the reserves during these. That’s kind of what the show is about. I kind of live by Evel Knievel’s great line: “Bones heal. Chicks dig scars. Pain is Temporary. Glory is forever.”
How do you pick which places you go? We react a lot to suggestions that people send in; the viewers come up with cool ideas. Also, on the production side, we try and push it maybe to go to tougher places and more extremes than we have done on previous seasons.
“I live by Evel Knievel’s great line:
“Bones heal. Chicks dig scars.”
How much planning goes into each trip? There’s a production team back in the UK that plans each trip for about three weeks, does a lot of the research and then the crews are sent there to scout the area from the air. Then I arrive and get one or two days of briefing from all the search and rescue guys and all the rangers. I learn what’s happening in that region with the animals and all the flora and fauna. Then we go over all those emergency plans. And then we get straight into it.
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So you drop right in? Yeah. But I kind of like that. I hate planning. I love doing. Mistakes are bound to happen. They happen all the time. And that’s the good part of the show.
Any hairy incidents on the upcoming shows? Let’s see. In Alaska, I was skiing on an old pair of wooden ski I found in a rotting shack. I bound them to my feet. It was pretty hard to improvise. I got right up to the edge of a cliff. I looked down and saw these trees that reached all he way down to the bottom. I thought they looked pretty thin and wimpy and if I jumped on one it would bend and I could ride it to the bottom. So I jumped, caught a branch, and it was just at the tipping point when the damn thing snapped and dropped me 30 feet. Luckily, I landed in a snowdrift. As I said, the editors like all that stuff.
Sure they do. But what about your wife? When you leave home, does she say, ‘Be careful at work. How does that go? Yes, she does. But she’s lived with me a long time. She’s been through my job with the Special Forces and big climbing expeditions and so on. I don’t tell her a huge amount about it beforehand. Then when I come back, she asks, “Was it hot or cold?” I tell her and we go back into normal life.
I don’t believe it’s that simple. Sometimes she’ll watch the show and I’m often away and I’ll get a text message saying, “You didn’t tell me that happened.” Something like that. She knows that I try to be as safe as I can. My job is to stay alive.
Speaking of staying alive, how much planning did you do when you took out Will Farrell? I did about half a day. I had come straight off the Arctic Circle. I had a good night’s sleep, got up, had a good feed, jumped in a helicopter, scouted in the area (the Swedish wilderness), but didn’t even land. Then Will arrived that evening and we kind of went into a briefing on a lot of communications and safety and then we did it live. I loved that. And Will knew it was like that for me and I think it was kind of exciting for him as well. He did really well.
What was it like out there? . It was minus 20 every day, and he is not used to that sort of environment. But I just said, ‘Listen, trust me. Come on your own and we’ll be fine.” And he did that. He really trusted me, and he just kind of got on with it and I admire him a lot for doing that.
Were there any good or hairy parts of that trip that we didn’t see? No, not really. Whenever somebody loses it, we put that in. But that first day Will exerted himself so much, and was relying on adrenaline so much, that he got really tried at the end of the day. I wanted to go a little bit higher, but he said, no, he couldn’t go on. I said, “OK, it’s cool. We’ll stop here.” But he was brilliant. I don’t think people realize how hard that really was.
“I would love to invite
Demi Moore. I think
she would be brilliant.”
Do you have plans to take other celebrities on adventures? Yeah, we have. We are actually doing one with Ben Stiller at the end of this year. And I really would love to invite Demi Moore to do one. I think she would just be brilliant. Having done her G.I. Jane movie, I think people would really love to see her. I’d reach out and see if she would ever consider it.
We’ll do it for you. Consider the message out there. Thank you.
Where are you taking Ben? That’s confidential.
How about the Focker Islands? (Laughs)
How did the trip with Ben get arranged? I met him. He’s a friend of Will’s, and he likes the show, and he loved the one with Will and I said, “Well listen, why don’t we try and do it?” And he said ok.
What does a slug taste like? Bad.
Since I will never taste one, more detail, please. Slugs are particularly nasty, because they leave a really horrible gooey trail down your mouth and throat that stays for about two days. No amount of water or anything washes it away.
What about a tarantula? Tarantulas are pretty bad, too. Don’t believe anyone who tells you these things taste like chicken. The truth is, they are all just gooey and sort of nasty,
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Is there anything out there that tastes good? Only the things you can char or grill over a fire, and then if you close your eyes you sort of imagine you are eating sausage on your barbecue. Apart from that, all of it tastes pretty bad.
When you were a kid, did someone inspire you to get into this line of work or this lifestyle? My late dad was a huge inspiration. He took me out into the wilds and taught me a lot of the stuff that I do now. I kind of look back now and I know he would be so proud of all of this stuff. I hope he is enjoying it form somewhere. And then who else? I guess Robin Hood. You know, he’s always been a great hero. And that’s about it.
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Are your three boys old enough that you’ve been able to do the same with them? The two older ones, they’re six and three, and they love all this stuff. I get back from these shoots with a foot of bloody, muddy clothes and I just want to get inside and crash out, and they go, “Let’s go out and catch worms.” They’re always climbing trees and wanting to build shelters. Half of me thinks, oh that’s cool, it is good for them. And the other half thinks no, they are going to have a proper job like my dad.
How do you relax around the house? Well, we live on a barge on the Thames. We have got a canoe, and we go up and down the river. And then we live on a little private 20 acre island off the Welsh coast and it’s got very little electricity and no running water and we collect rain water off the roof. But it’s a wonderful way for them to live and they love it, you know. We climb and we fall asleep in the long grass and swim and have picnics and you know, I play a lot of the piano. I love that. I do a lot of yoga, you know. It is pretty mellow.
Is anyone cooler than you? I feel so uncool it’s ridiculous. If you saw me with the kids in the bubble bath, with the rubber ducks, you’d know the truth.
REMINDER: WATCH THE NEW SEASON OF ‘MAN VS. WILD’ WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 12, AT 9 PM ON DISCOVERY.