Man vs. Wild host Bear Grylls is all about teaching you how to survive the worst-case scenario, which we almost found ourselves in when we met up for a chat last Friday in New York City, where he was spending the 24 hours he had between shoots in Texas and Alaska, and I proceeded to drop my tape recorder. Luckily, he hadn’t partied too hard at the event he’d attended the night before celebrating the “Survival in the Modern Era” web series he filmed for Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Academy (he made his entrance rappelling from the rafters and fighting off two fake attackers), and he was able to collect the batteries, put the device back together, check that it still worked, order a cup of peppermint tea (badass, but British!), and fill us in on the future of Discovery’s Man vs. Wild and much more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So the Dos Equis event sounds like it was fun.
BEAR GRYLLS: I don’t spend nearly enough time hanging out at fun things like this. I tend to film, and then want to get home. I’ve got three little boys [Jesse, Marmaduke (aka Duke), and Huckleberry (Huck)]. And then a few times a year, I get wheeled out like a monkey [laughs], I get paraded around to promote the start of Man vs. Wild or some company like Dos Equis. But these ads are cool. I’ve wanted to do urban survival stuff for ages. There’s other stuff I’ve learned through all the special forces kind of training, the combat stuff, the gymnastics stuff, and really, they’re a great excuse to show some of those things.
So you did all your own stunts?
Yeah, yeah. That’s the fun side of doing it for me. I hope to do a film next year for Disney that’s gonna incorporate loads of different stuff. The idea is to kind of base it around Man vs. Wild, so we would be filming in a jungle and then everything starts going wrong. You see a plane crash, and there’s a family on-board, and then a whole cat-and-mouse game in the jungle and me getting the family out of there, and then it ends up in London with fight scenes off the rooftops. Again, it would be fun for me. We’d still keep Man vs. Wild going. We’re hoping to do an urban survival Man vs. Wild at the end of this year. We’re trying to do some escape ones, like escape from Alcatraz. We’re trying to do a Man vs. Wild boot camp, training up normal people and giving them some of these skills. So we’ve got a lot of cool ideas for the next few years at least.
Man vs. Wild returns with new episodes in August. What’s in store for us?
Well, we’ve filmed in Alabama, Norway, Texas, we go to Alaska tomorrow. We did a war special in Vietnam that’s gonna be great.
It’s still numb, so it’s not great. But it looks okay now, which is good. But you know, we’re never gonna reach the end of our lives in perfectly preserved bodies doing this sort of job. Vietnam is the highlight of the season for me. It’s a full-on place. It just makes you realize these young American kids out of college sent there with no idea, no jungle experience…Unbelievable. It’s a real struggle just to survive let alone fight. So I think that will really resonate strongly with people.
And what will we be watching you eat this season?
What have I had recently… Rattlesnake a couple of days ago. Lots of lizards. [For the record, when Grylls tweeted, “just found a squashed rattlesnake tail from last week’s texas desert episode in my pocket and woman in NYC elevator looked a bit surprised!” he was not referring to me.]
We have time for a few reader questions: WOJO asks “Bear, if you could give Will Ferrell an animal nickname based on your experience with him, what would it be?”
The Python. [Laughs] Trying to get him out of his shelter in the morning, he was like a python that had eaten too much the night before. Or Sloth. “I can’t do it again today. I’m not moving.” No, he genuinely did an amazing job. There are very few people who would take themselves that far out of their comfort zone and do it. Lots of people come up to me on the street, or actors that I meet, and they talk a big story, but when it actually comes to getting on those six flights and going up to the tip of the Arctic with nothing, it takes something special. And I really admire him for that. I said, “Listen. Just come on your own, without your entourage, trust me, and we’ll have a blast.” He did look a bit like shock of capture at the start, but he committed to it. And he was very tired by the end — but I’m always exhausted by the end. He said he lived 10 lifetimes in two days.
MISSY would like to know if you are planning to have more special celebrity guests. [The June 2 Men vs. Wild special with Ferrell delivered record ratings for the show.]
We’d like to do two or three a year. I’d love to have Jennifer Lopez. She’s got such a reputation of being a diva, but actually, she’s resilient, and you don’t get to where she is by being a pushover. I reckon she’d be much tougher than people suspect, and I think it’d be a really good show. The other nice thing is, you get to know a real person over that length of time when stuff is stripped and much more bare. On the chat show, you can be all great for whatever, five minutes. I think people would be interested to find out some of these real stories. I’d love to do Tom Hanks, as well, with all his Cast Away stuff. I know he likes the show. Having sort of filmed a bit of it in this movie, to then actually do it for real and get his perspective on that would be amazing.
We received two questions about you being naked on the show. Let’s go with MEGAN’s: She says it seems as though you’re stripping down less now, and wonders if you’ve received any complaints.
[Laughs] Okay, what happens is, we film for however long and always during that time, at some point, I’ll strip off and I’ll have a wash. I’ve always just put it in the show, so people go, “Oh, he’s so gratuitous, he’s always stripping off” ’cause they see it once in an hour. I’m going, “It’s once in six days!” So I try to do it less, a little bit more discreetly and tell them to turn the cameras off. Having said that, we’re going to Alaska, and I just know, whenever it’s cold, I always end up doing big river crossings and getting soaked…
HOUSEWIFE IN THE DESERT wants to know if you’ve ever gone on a shoot, realized it was a BIG mistake for everyone involved, and pulled the plug.
No, we’ve never reached that point, God willing. We’ve had some injuries, we’ve had crew who had to be evacuated with heatstroke or got very cold, but on the whole, we’ve been really lucky. We look out for each other. We try to manage the risk as much as we can. We watch each other’s backs and double check each other’s stuff. The show ultimately, I believe, is popular because we’re out there doing it for real, and therefore, I don’t take any pride in close shaves. Close shaves to me are bad, but the reality is we do have quite a lot of them.
We got a few questions about “misconceptions” people might have from watching the show. What would you like people to know about how you film?
I suppose to bear in mind that this is a worst-case scenario show, and therefore, of course things have to be planned. Otherwise, it would just be me in the wild and nothing happening, you know, ’cause textbook survival says you land, you get yourself comfortable, you wait for rescue, you don’t do anything. It would be a very boring show. The show is how to deal if you fall into quick sand, if you get attacked by an alligator, if you have to make a raft. I get a really good briefing before we go. I know there’s a big river there, there’s gonna be a great cliff climb there, there’s loads of snakes in those rocks, watch out for an alligator. So I do have a good idea of 80 percent of what’s gonna happen.
And do you always hike from Point A to Point B?
We plan it, if we’re doing different locations, sometimes we’ll have to do a whole crew move and get a helicopter. Again, we’re talking huge distances sometimes. So we’ll use helis when we have to. They’ll go out three weeks ahead of me, and go, “That bit’s no good. Those rapids we thought are gonna be good are boring, but down there, it’s great.”
Last question: KAY wants to know why your crew doesn’t get screen time.
What do you mean? Haven’t you ever heard this voice, “Good luck, Bear!” [Laughs] That’s Dave [one of his crew, also ex-special forces, who’s sitting in on our chat and no doubt happy we’ve moved past the discussion about the number of times he’s seen Bear’s bits]. Dave’s got three girls, okay. So first time you see one of the crew on Man vs. Wild, we get to the location, I’m under-slung on the helicopter, they lower me, and the heli can’t get down, and then Dave cuts this rope to drop me, and you hear him go, “Good luck, Bear!” All his daughters are watching and just burst out laughing, getting all their friends and wandering around the house going, “Good luck, Bear! Good luck, Bear!” Poor Dave. [Dave: It’s a comedy moment.] We’re doing a behind-the-scenes Man vs. Wild at the moment, for one of the compilations. It’s gonna be cool. So, like, in Texas, we did a biplane entrance, where I’m flying in on a biplane, it flips upside down, I then get thrown out of my seat hanging on to the wing and then drop off. Meanwhile, the pilot’s going, “Okay, Bear, time for you to go.” Whoosh. Zooooom. I drop off, and Simon and the camera are strapped to the wing. So we’ve got great footage of the behind-the-scenes. You’re right: I think people are really interested in it, and I’m really proud to show what an amazing job they do. Obviously, I’m not the person editing [the episodes], but yeah, I agree they should put more and more of it in.
More Bear Grylls:
After our chat: Man vs. Wild helps lost 9-year-old Utah boy survive night in forest
2008 Bear Grylls Q&A: I’d rather be eating maggots
Bear Grylls translates his survival skills to EW readers’ lives
Bear Grylls eats rat, wears a tux, and answers your questions (to promote Dos Equis)
Will Ferrell on Man vs. Wild: Top 5 moments
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