Bear Grylls doesn’t seem like the kind of guy you’d find tearing a hunk of still-warm, raw zebra flesh off the carcass and hungrily chowing down on it. In fact, the star of the Discovery Channel’s popular adventure series Man vs. Wild is a mild-mannered family man with a penchant for ABBA and chick flicks.
And zebra flesh.
He also doesn’t seem like the kind of guy whose adventures are regularly watched by many millions of people across the world. If I hadn’t known who he was, if I hadn’t seen the show, and of course if I hadn’t come to Discovery Communications headquarters to meet him, I would have though he was just a nice British guy who liked to chat.
I had read nearly his entire website before meeting him, so I wasn’t surprised to hear Bear say how much he misses his kids while filming the show. But it’s one thing to read it, and it’s quite another to watch his face as he talks about his kids. He has two boys, a five-year-old and a two-year-old, and another boy on the way, and it’s obvious he loves them and his wife dearly. He even keeps a photo of his family in his shoe while out on his adventures to remind himself, he says, that "they’re what it’s all about." He spoke of being conflicted about his boys, since, on the one hand, he wants them to be safe and not do the sorts of things he does for a living; but, on the other hand, he gets an "Oh, cool!" feeling when he’s doing adventurous things with them. He mentioned his father, Sir Michael Grylls, who died in 2001, and how much he wishes his dad could’ve met his
(Bear’s) kids. His father came up several times in conversation, and it was very clear to me how much he misses his dad and how much Bear looked up to him when he was alive.
I had decided to ask him questions that for him are unusual, because, as I told him, there’s really no need for me to ask questions whose answers I can find on his website with thirty seconds of looking.
So I asked him what movies he likes, and that’s when he completely blew my mind, because the first movie he thought of was Mamma Mia!—no, really! He went on to explain that he is "soppy on three things: drinks—piña coladas; music—ABBA; and movies—Mamma Mia!"
I couldn’t help but laugh at this, because here was a man who’s climbed
Mount Everest, who regularly puts himself through situations tougher than most men will ever experience in their lives, and who is going to be leading a climbing expedition in Antarctica soon, and he was extolling the virtues of a movie widely regarded as a "chick flick." I haven’t seen the movie myself, but I can say this to any guy who’s seen it and enjoys it: You can now proudly say that Bear Grylls does, too.
Sadly, Bear had to go off to meet with other people, so I couldn’t spend too long with him. But he did list his favorite movies of all time (he keeps a list on his PDA), which are, in descending order, Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes; Chariots of Fire; Shadowlands; and Billy Elliott. My first thought, after noticing that those are all British films, was to wonder whether he likes Greystoke
because of the man-in-the-wild connection. But upon further reflection,
I think that, as much as he clearly enjoys his work, and would presumably have to in order to keep doing it, he also really enjoys relaxing with a good book or a movie.
Bear Grylls can be seen in a new season of Man vs. Wild on the Discovery Channel, starting in January 2009 (date unannounced as of yet). The new season includes trips to the Yukon (including finding old frozen gold mines from the Klondike Gold Rush), the jungles of Belize, the Iraq/Turkey border(!), the mountains of Transylvania, and Hells Canyon in Oregon.
(Photo Credit upper: Discovery Channel, lower: Matt Blum)