A few years ago, if someone mentioned Bear Grylls, Ben Stiller, and Channing Tatum in the same breath, you probably would have thought that they were pitching an idea for some off-kilter buddy comedy film. And you certainly would not have pictured Bear feeding Zac Efron a snack of worms and insects.
But taking these celebrities out of their comfort zones—and into some very real danger—is exactly what Bear did on his upcoming show Running Wild with Bear Grylls. In his own words, the survival expert wondered how they’re still alive at all.
“Ben [Stiller], who just shot Walter Mitty in Iceland, asked me what was the one place in Scotland I’ve always wanted to go and I said ‘Genius. I know exactly the coolest place in Scotland where it’s totally wild and remote,'” Bear said during a recent conference call about the series.
Ben and Bear ended up sitting on top of a mountain eating a rattlesnake with their pants off. The pants in question were, of course, drying over a bunch of rocks after a taste of Scotland’s freezing rain and wind. On the phone, I could hear Bear’s clipped English accent barely hold back the laughter.
The key, Bear said, was to keep things real no matter who he was with.
“The goal for me, it’s always the same. It’s not to do too many of these shows. Keep them really explicit, really tough-end, real, you know, with the special feel about them and only to do the best guests.”
Watch a sneak peek of the show below:
Running Wild with Bear Grylls is all about one-on-one expeditions with the famed adventurer, almost like an intense session with a personal trainer—except your personal trainer probably won’t encourage you to backflip out of a moving helicopter. Featured on the show are actors Zac Efron, Ben Stiller, Channing Tatum, Tom Arnold, and NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, as well as Today anchor Tamron Hall. These may be some well-known names, but that doesn’t mean Bear Grylls toned down the “wild” aspect of the show. From the Catskill Mountains to Utah’s treacherous cliffs and battling the elements in Scotland, Bear and his team made sure that the show covered a variety of environments.
“Well, I have a lot of places I have learned to really dread going to, but I’ve also learned to shut up about those places. Because whenever I say I really don’t want to go back to this place, then I can always count on my producers to bring it up,” Bear shared. “But I’ve also learned the world is full of incredible wildernesses, and you in America are so lucky. You truly have God’s gift of a country with every sort of diversity and terrain and wilderness and weather and coastline and mountains. And so, I love filming so much, especially over there.”
Bear was calling from small cove off the South Coast of England during what was apparently a storm. He helpfully added that his cell phone’s battery was about to die. Typical.
Watch a clip of Zac Efron struggling to make a dangerous cliff crossing with the help of Bear:
Unlike many of Bear’s other shows, however, Running Wild is not entirely focused on survival. The main theme, according to Bear, is the prospect of adventure and doing something new.
“To be honest, I don’t feel like I am a survival expert,” he said during the conference call. “I really genuinely don’t. I think when I started off Man vs. Wild, I felt much more of a survival expert then in some ways because I just left the military, that’s where I learned all of my skills.
“But the more of this I’ve done, the more I realize […] I know so little, really. And I’m a jack-of-a-lot-of-things, but I’m a master of very little. And every day, I meet better climbers, better skydivers, better survival people, better looking, better fitness, better this, better that. And I just feel lucky that I’m a guy that will always work damn hard, that’s the thing. And I’ll always keep cheerful when it’s miserable, and I go for it.”
Just like that, Bear reminded us that he is made of flesh and bone like the rest of us. So what makes him qualified to lead others into potentially dangerous situations? There is the fact that Bear does have extensive experience in survival training, is the youngest Chief Scout in the history of the Scout Association, and once took an inflatable boat across 2,500 miles of the frozen Northwest Passage. But there is also a love for the outdoors, which he credits to his dad.
Bear speaks about the power of the wild:
So why take people, celebrities even, to share those adventures with?
“I think this a great arena for these guys to come out, learn some skills that maybe they have always wanted but they’ve never had, to really challenge themselves, to really refine themselves and reconnect a bit,” Bear said. “And almost all of these guys have—they said, one of the best bits was just having that space and that time to kind of think about life and how, you know, lucky they have been.
“And the wild does that. The outdoors does that. It creates bonds of people and it gives us space to breathe. And at the end of it, all of them had the smile on their face and there’s light in their eyes that money can’t buy. And fame doesn’t do it, and drugs doesn’t do it, and booze doesn’t do it. It’s the kind of light. And I’ve seen it a ton in people.”
Running Wild with Bear Grylls premieres on NBC Monday, July 28, at 8:00 p.m.