DESPITE all his many achievements, survival expert Bear Grylls is perhaps best known for being “that bloke who drinks his own pee”.
The ex-military hardman has scoffed a live fish, a zebra, bear poo, raw goat’s testicles and drunk the blood of a turtle.
But even he couldn’t stomach watching Barack Obama knock back his own widdle.
So when producers tried to push the former US President into doing just that on Bear’s extreme outdoors show Running Wild in 2015, he felt they were taking the p***.
Bear, 46, said: “One of our team’s final questions to Obama was, ‘Sir, what would it take for Bear to convince you to drink your own urine?’
“I jumped in and said ‘Guys, we’re done. I’m not asking him to do that. We’re moving on’.”
When you see Bear exposed to the elements on telly — with a wide-eyed, pearly-toothed A-lister in tow — it’s easy to imagine that the wilderness around them is about as real as Jurassic Park.
Do they really sleep in the makeshift shelter they just built from leaves and cobwebs? Or do they head for the nearest five-star hotel as soon as the director shouts “cut”?
While celebrities may harp on about how reality TV shows are not actually real life, the former SAS trooper is adamant there is nothing fake about his programmes.
And not even an entourage of lawyers, agents and insurance providers can stipulate what the weather is going to be like.
Bear said: “Things can go wrong. I remember when we did our first ever Running Wild with Will Ferrell. His agents and managers were so nervous beforehand. I was on a conference call with all the lawyers and the insurance guys.
“They said, ‘Can you guarantee us, 100 per cent, he is going to be safe?’ I said ‘No. We’re not getting a studio where you can control everything. We’re in the wild and stuff happens’.”
Bear knows only too well the dangers at hand as an explorer. He broke his back in 1996 while serving in the SAS after his parachute ripped during a skydive at nearly 16,000ft
And in 2019, while filming Channel 4 survival series Treasure Island, he went into a life-threatening anaphylactic shock after a bee stung his face.
But when he has the likes of actors Julia Roberts, Channing Tatum and Kate Winslet, or tennis ace Roger Federer taking part in his outdoor antics, he has to make sure they don’t become dead meat.
He said: “We know where we’re going to start the journeys and we know where we’re going to end, but we intentionally keep it quite loose in between. It allows me to adapt and moderate what we’re doing.
“But the danger is obviously a part of it though we pride ourselves on being really cautious and managing the risk. I’ll find another way down or across something.”
Ex-England rugby ace Jonny Wilkinson is the latest star to kit up and battle the great outdoors for a show being screened on ITV tomorrow.
Bear says: “Jonny was easy in the sense that he’s physical and loves a challenge. He’s not scared of bad weather, driving wind, rain and mud. And he’s used to doing uncomfortable, scary things.”
While it comes as no surprise that the tough guy takes on all challenges with aplomb, Bear told how viewers will see a more vulnerable side to the sportsman who suffers deeply with his mental health.
Revealing how Jonny has been living “in a constant state of fear and neurosis”, the telly host said: “I didn’t realise how focused he was from such a young age.
“He wanted to be the most famous, successful rugby player in history, but I didn’t realise how much of a toll that took on him mentally. Jonny experienced so few moments of calm and happiness in his life until very recently. He was always so controlling about everything and had to be so buttoned up. That was bad for his mental health.
“He has lived in this constant state of fear and neurosis. But I think he said, ‘I’m arriving on this journey totally open-minded, I trust you’.”
Heartbreakingly, Jonny also admitted to Bear while filming the show that he has only ever felt three seconds of true happiness in his sporting career — after his World Cup-winning drop-goal for England in 2003.
Bear recalled: “The pressure led him to greatness but it took its toll. The most powerful bit for me with Jonny was him saying he has had a true three seconds of total happiness and it wasn’t when that drop-kick went over.
“It was actually just after that, when the ball was being kicked into touch and he saw the referee reach into his pocket for the whistle and he knew it was full time. He knew he had won but it hadn’t happened yet.
“The adulation afterwards was a difficult time for him. He has learned the hard way that fame doesn’t solve anything — it just amplifies things, both positive and negative.
“I think people now come on these shows ready to talk and wanting to talk. But it was definitely intimate for him to share some of this stuff that he hadn’t shared before. My job is always to listen and to look after them on the journey.
“But I think the wild actually does the rest of it. The adventure, the wild, it’s a naturally healing place. And I think we’ve all experienced a little bit of that in our lives.”
Fans of the athletic duo will be pleased to see them strip down to their undies in the show. Bear revealed that he and Jonny will get their kit off for a scene where they jump into a freezing river, filmed in Dartmoor only last month.
But will it rival Myleene Klass’s white bikini shower moment on I’m A Celebrity in 2006 as one of the sexiest moments in TV history?
Bear said with a laugh: “I’ll take that. But I’m not sure. It was interesting. We almost finished the journey. It was cold, it was February, minus whatever.
“We were crossing this river, I knew we were close to the end. It was the last push and then we would be out of there. I was just chatting to him and I said, ‘As a rugby player you must have these epic ice baths? It was all legendary wasn’t it? The England ice baths after games’.
“He goes, ‘I used to dread them. I actually didn’t do them. The alternative was that we could always get on an exercise bike if we didn’t want to do the ice baths. I was always the only one who would choose to do the exercise bike while everyone else was in the ice bath. I just hate it’.
“So I said, ‘Go on, do you want to do it now? Should we do it? Nature’s ice bath out here. Five minutes in?’
“He said ‘Oh God, no!’ But he did and he was so proud of himself at the end. It was a great moment. The great moments in all of our lives are always little snippets, aren’t they?
“They’re often wrapped in discomfort and pain as well. But that was a special one. I’ll look back on that and think actually, for those of us who know and love and admire Jonny, to do that with him, especially when he’s anxious about doing it, that’s going to be special.”
Bear has already had one head of state on his show. Surely an heir to the throne would be an obvious next guest to have?
After Prince Harry’s interviews with James Corden and Oprah Winfrey, an escapade with Bear away from Tinseltown would give him the chance to get back in touch with his Army roots.
While Bear says he cannot comment on future guests, he did not rule out a show with the Duke of Sussex. He said: “I’m sure he’d be brilliant to have in the wild. He’s a good guy.”
- Bear And Jonny Wilkinson’s Wild Adventure is on ITV tomorrow at 8pm.
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