Bear Grylls talks about manning up with Jake Gyllenhaal for 'Men vs. Wild'
Bear Grylls, star of "Man vs. Wild," has done plenty of challenging things during the nearly five-year run of the worst-case-scenario survival show. He ate a sheep's eyeball. Drank his own urine. He even gave himself an enema in the middle of an ocean.
During the show's sixth season -- new episodes begin airing on Discovery on Monday night -- the 37-year-old will not only continue to push himself, but one very pretty, high-profile actor: Jake Gyllenhaal. In an installment titled "Men vs. Wild," Grylls takes Gyllenhaal to the Icelandic tundra. Unlike when he took Will Ferrell to the Arctic Circle, the weather is uncooperative: he and the "Love and Other Drugs" star brave 90 mph winds and individually pull themselves across a single rope suspended hundreds of feet over a deep ravine. (You can catch a glimpse of that scary stunt below.)
In next Sunday's paper, we talk to Grylls about what to expect from rest of the new season. (Hint: It includes him crying.) What follows is an excerpt of that conversation, in which the outdoorsman discusses the challenges of shepherding an A-list actor through the wild.
How did you decide to ask Jake to be on the show?
Shara, my wife, saw him on some chat show, and he was asked what it is like to be famous. He said, "It's great, and if the paparazzi get to me, I just ring up my buddy Bear Grylls." And I go, I don't even know him! So I emailed him and we started talking about going on a proper adventure. He was a fan of the show, and once we made the schedule work, we did it quite spontaneously.
Why did you choose to take him to Iceland? Were you looking for a location that might be easier for him to handle?
I thought Iceland would be good because there's lots to do. I was like, "The weather will be cool and it should be pretty mellow. We'll do a bit of climbing, and we'll just kind of jump into it." But he was thrown right in on the deep end. We did have some crazy conditions -- some of the worst weather I've seen for years. The wind was so strong that they literally had a jumbo jet blown sideways at the airport. And there we were, 5,000 feet up on a mountain trying to get our backsides out of there in one piece. Jake was saying, "Where's the relaxing chilling out in the wild?"
Is it more difficult for you when someone is tagging along for the journey?
I'm kind of a little bit more aware when I have someone else with me who's more of a wilderness rookie. I'm always kind of nervous because I'm aware that somebody else is trusting me with their life.
I couldn’t believe that Jake decided to crawl across that rope. He was attached to you via a smaller rope tied around his waist -- if he’d fallen, would that have saved him?
That wouldn't have held him. That wasn't a safety line -- that was a helping line for him to balance. And if he ran out of puff, I could have helped him across with that. But I was pretty confident that he'd be OK. We worked out afterwards that it was the equivalent of doing 180 pull-ups.
He must have had to sign every kind of contract imaginable before coming on the show.
I always have to have kind of a weird conversation with these people's insurance guys, where they ask me, "Can you guarantee us that these actors will be safe?" And I go, "Well, no. I can't." Then there's a long pause on the other end of the telephone. But you can't predict what's going to happen in the wild -- that's what makes the show edgy. There's a significant element of unpredictability out there, and I can look after him to my utmost ability, and my ability is OK.
Do you have a lot of Hollywood types approaching you wanting to be on the show in an attempt to prove their toughness?
A few people have asked to be on it. It's nice for actors to do something where they're not covered by safety ropes and helmets. There's a thrill for them to be able to do stuff that is very real.
Overall, what did you think of Jake’s performance in the wild?
You've gotta admire somebody when they step out of their comfort zone and put their life in somebody else's hands. I was very clear with him and said, 'Come on your own and trust me.' He did incredible. What I like about the wild is when you're squeezed, you see what people are made of.
-- Amy Kaufman
Upper photo: Bear Grylls, left, takes Jake Gyllenhaal out on an expedition in Iceland. Credit: Discovery
Lower photo: Gyllenhaal pulls himself across a rope hung between two mountains. Credit: Discovery