Bear Grylls is a straight-up doer. No excuses. No “I'd rather be on the couch.” The man freaking goes for it and has an adventure resume that's virtually unmatched collecting some gnarly injuries along the way. He's been the world's most famous survivalist for the better part of two decades now, and he doesn't seem to be slowing down much. The adventures keep coming and — just as importantly — the thirst for life remains strong. Whether on TV, in his writing, or on the phone for an interview, he presents a man who is fully engaged in the multi-sensory experience of seizing the day.
This week saw the premiere of season five of Bear's celebrity survival-based show, Running Wild. The project, which has moved homes a few times and now seems to have found a perfect fit at NatGeo, sees the bold adventurer testing the mettle of his famous friends — from Brie Larson to Joel McHale and Channing Tatum to Cara Delevingne. The dynamic created is an endlessly fascinating and deeply enjoyable one, as viewers learn that famous people are, to generalize, just like us. They're not as brave or fearless as they seem on screen and they need Bear Grylls to guide them in their wildest exploits just as much as John Q Viewer might. The result is a show with a surprising amount of humor, genuine thrills, and deep sincerity — even more satisfying that Bear's original Man v. Wild series.
With the Brie Larson episode of Running Wild dropping this past Tuesday and the show set to launch next week on Disney+, I spoke with Bear about survivalism, his passion for stewardship, and how regular people can live lives of adventure.
As someone who has personally been very much into survivalism and exploration, as I watched through this season I witnessed this human desire to be part of this moment of kind of pushing ourselves and our relationship with the natural world. You've tapped into that better than literally anyone on earth, so where do you think that that comes from? Right now humans are living very domesticated lives but they also long to “go walkabout” don't they?
It's so interesting, isn't it? I think you're right. I think in a way, the more sanitized society becomes, the more our innate, ancient hunger for the unpredictable, the uncertain, and the wild becomes, and the more appealing it is, even if it's just to watch it on the TV. You have to go through thousands and thousands of years of wild DNA to suddenly reach this kind of perfect and clean and neat and technology-driven place we're at. I think it's pretty universal — especially in young people — for people to want to know what would happen if they're tested. Where would they be if it all was taken away from them?
The “do I have the stuff?” type of mentality.
I think that's universal, and I see it so much in the Hollywood stars, as well. As you kind of get more cultivated and well looked after, there's still a hunger that says, “But actually if it was all taken away, what am I made of?” And so many of these stars, they don't need the money or the fame. They want the experience, they want the raw, muddy, gritty, in-depth experience of big push in a really wild, remote part of the world — while at the same time knowing that they're with good people and that they're safe and they'll be encouraged and they'll be empowered and at the end of it, they come out really proud of themselves. That's something that money can't buy in the modern world, and I love that part of the show.
I feel like you're essentially offering this ultimate moment in the “experience economy,” and it's one that they'll probably tell at their own dinner parties, right? It feels like something when everyone you know has already gone to the luxurious hotel, what's the story you tell? It's about eating the witchetty grub in Australia or sliding along a rope above crocodiles in Panama, or whatever.
More and more, people are hungry for experience. It's become a little club, a Running Wild club of incredible people, and there's a pride when I see people kind of get together, who plan it, and then get to the end and say, “Wow, we did this!” and they're really proud of what they've done, and they should be because the journey's are hard. This season, we went to some really tough places that really pushed these guests. At the end of each one, I always give them a hug and I just go, “Do you know what? Genuine respect. Good-for-you. TV cameras aside, what you've done is really remarkable, and you should be really proud of yourself.” And they say, “Yeah, do you know what? Yeah, I am proud,” and again, I love that part of my job.
Has there been someone who has really been so gung ho and wanted to go farther and farther where you've really had to think to yourself like, “Okay, how do I push this person?”
Well, it's interesting because this was the first time we had a guest come back for a second journey. Channing Tatum did season one of the show, and now he's back for season five. I said to him, “Mate, you're no longer a rookie now. I'm going to really push you, and I don't want to just give you an experience. I actually want to train you so you can go do some of this stuff with your family, with your friends.”
That episode was much more about testing him and equipping him with proper skills that he's going to remember, and getting into his subconscious a bit more with those skills. He did that and he loved that sort of spirit, and he did really well, but it was a different dynamic again for me. To take somebody to the next level, and what a cool guy to do it with — he's become a good friend over the years, and he should be proud of himself.
If there's a person reading who's not famous enough to get your invite, how do they... How do you encourage people to see the world and to push themselves in ways that are safe but also get them out of their comfort zones in a way that they can really feel fully alive like your guests do?
The thing is, adventure starts with a state of mind — a willingness to do the difficult and embrace the uncertain — and you don't have to go to the other ends of the Earth to do that. We all have a wilderness that is actually pretty close, even if you live in the city, you don't have to go too far.
We've started an adventure theme park in the UK where people can dive with sharks, and free-fall in a wind tunnel, and learn all the climbing and escape rooms and high ropes and the shooting, and it's massively popular because it's tapping into this thing you see something on telly, but you actually want to experience it in a safe way and a fun way yourself.
Do you feel like as people cultivate this interest and as the show has become more and more popular — and obviously your career now has spanned a couple of generations — do you feel like you're also seeing a deeper desire in people that you meet to be nurturers of the environment, to be stewards for our planet and to think of their experiences in terms of conserving wild spaces?
I think all of us have changed and adapted over the last decade or so. I want the sentiment to all of our shows, not justRunning Wild, but all of our — whether it's Hostile Planet or our Amazon series or whatever — it is all about showing how amazing, how incredible, but also how fragile and vulnerable the great wildernesses on our planet are and what people can do if they care to protect it. Sometimes, the best way of doing that is to take people with you and the camera, and show that this is what's happening in this place, and this is how beautiful it is, but also how on the edge it is, and I see that as a huge dynamic shift in how we approach our shows.
In the old days, it was like “Get in and go crazy,” now it's like, “Come with me, let me show you, but tread quietly.”
One of the things that I feel like you've always done well and are continuing to emphasize is cultivating our communal love for wild spaces. And watching this season, for your guests, it seems like of all the things that they're the most on board with — it might be unusual for them to eat a grub or you might push them with some of the physical challenges — but the love for wild space seems to be... In many ways, that seems to be your life's work right now, right?
Well, I think it's what people really care about, especially with a lot of these stars as well. They want to see what people are talking about and that's beyond just learning wilderness skills or being tested and facing difficult things. It's actually about seeing some of the realities of what's going on in wild places for themselves, close up. Look at the journey I did with Obama. It was all about seeing the reality and the effect of climate change close up. I've just done a journey with Prime Minister Modi of India. His whole motivation is “I want to show people how spectacular the wilderness of India is, but how we, together, are going to clean up India, we're going to ban plastics.” I love that.
If I can facilitate and be a part of the big decisions in society, I really want the show to stand for that, and so many of these stars want to be a part of that as well.
Do you feel like working with stars, which is obviously a different format than you've done before, does that help widen the platform a little bit just because they have so much access to the mainstream?
Of course! Every time you do another episode, you bring a whole new demographic of fans. One week, people are mostly into Brie Larson in all the Marvel movies, and the next week, you're accessing Cara Delevingne's 50 million Instagram followers, but the principles are always the same about friendships, bonds in the wild, pushing yourself, and experiencing the power of nature.
I love that. Is there a place where if I was at a dinner party with you and we were just pals, that you would encourage people to go? I always tell people to visit Madagascar or Australia's Northern Territory if they want to see true wild. Are there places where you send people that you're in love with, that you love to talk about?
I've learned a lot over my life about how unforgiving some of the real extremities can be when it comes to Siberia in wintertime or the Sahara in the summertime. I think I've left those places with an appreciation of how beautiful our planet is and, by contrast, how lovely temperate climates and conditions and mountain ranges and summer are. But the message of Running Wild is: You don't have to go far. We all are actually so lucky, especially in America. Sometimes Americans don't realize how lucky they are and how such fantastic, spectacular, wild, remote, diverse wilderness is right here on your doorstep, and all you have to do is get out and experience it and enjoy it and try to protect it.
When I watch the show, I can envision people on their couches saying, “Okay, but now I want to plan something for this weekend. I want to do a hike that feels like it makes me breathe heavily.” Has that become part of the goal in many ways?
A hundred percent. We all have an adventure compass inside us that wants to experience what the outdoors and the wild can do for us, and as I say, you don't have to climb Everest, we all have our Everest, you just got to get out of there and challenge yourself with people you really care about — whether it's your son or your daughter or your dad or your friends from college — and take some risks and make some mistakes. Sure, plan well and be prepared, but making mistakes is what adventure is, isn't it? That's how we grow.
What if you meet someone who really does want to go to that furthest place — wants to plan a trek across the Amazon or wants to do a first descent or something like that? Is there advice that you give people who are trying to plan truly the adventure of a lifetime, whether it's a year off in a van around the United States, or, like I say, a trek across the Amazon?
I think that the key is action. It's all about action and taking one small step. I do think it's important to be prepared and to plan things well and to not maybe take something from cold to boiling, but climb other stuff and build the skills organically and naturally and push yourself to make a million mistakes where the mistake isn't catastrophic because that's how you gain experience. My experience is the sum of all my near misses, which are many, but half of them — this is where you're not going to lose your life but you will build up your experience, your skills, your ability to manage situations.
What is that great quote T.E. Lawrence said, “The dreamers of the day are dangerous men, because they may act upon their dreams with open eyes.” Wait, it's “All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.”
I've always loved that quote.
That's the kind of sentiment. You just got to take action and make things happen, and I love encouraging that in people, whatever their dreams are.
Running Wild airs Tuesdays 10/9C on National Geographic. It will stream on Disney+ starting November 12th.
As long as there are an infinite number of holidays, there will always be holiday ensemble comedies. But Friendsgiving one might be one that we can give thanks for. Produced by Ben Stiller and starring an all-star cast of comedians that includes Malin Akerman, Kat Dennings, Chelsea Peretti, Christine Taylor, Jane Seymour, and more, Friendsgiving has just been picked up by Saban Films with a planned theatrical release for long after Thanksgiving. But hey, being thankful is a year-round experience.
Saban Films announced that it has acquired the U.S. rights to Friendsgiving, an ensemble comedy directed by Funny People and The Big Gay Sketch Show actress Nicol Paone in her directorial debut. The film is set to star Malin Akerman, Kat Dennings, Chelsea Peretti, Christine Taylor, Jane Seymour, Aisha Tyler, Deon Cole, Wanda Sykes, Margaret Cho, and Fortune Feimster in a comedy that follows a “motley crew of close friends” during the new Thanksgiving tradition celebrated by friend groups across the country and inspired partly by the popularity of the Friends episodes set during the holiday.
Here is the synopsis for Friendsgiving:
Friendsgiving follows Molly Akerman, a glamorous, newly divorced actor, and Abby Dennings, her recently-dumped lesbian best friend. Together, along with their motley crew of close friends and strange acquaintances, they host a dysfunctional, comical and chaotic Thanksgiving dinner.
Saban Films, which is behind such independent films as Lizzie, Night Hunter, and the upcoming Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, plans to release the film in 2020, presumably during Thanksgiving.
“We are thrilled to be championing Friendsgiving along with Red Hour and Endeavor Content,” said Saban Films’ Bill Bromiley. “This is a witty and relatable story, along with an outstanding and endearing ensemble cast that our audiences will be enjoying next holiday season.”
But unlike other cheesy holiday-themed ensemble movies that sprung up in the wake of Love, Actually like Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve, etc., the holiday in Friendsgiving doesn’t seem as central to the plot of the movie. With Ben Stiller producing alongside Nicholas Weinstock and Haroon Saleem for Red Hour Films, it seems more like a straight-up comedy than a holiday-themed studio cash grab. Akerman is also producing while Tara L. Craig is executive producing.
British talk show host Graham Norton, ever the master of assembling celebrities who wouldn’t otherwise be in the same room and then plying them with wine, most recently assigned Ian McKellen to the task of quizzing Jennifer Aniston on just how well she knows her iconic “Friends” character, Rachel. However, it turns out that Julie Andrews is the savviest of “Friends” experts, and she was joined on “The Graham Norton Show” by Reese Witherspoon to relive Rachel’s best moments. In the clip below, Aniston reminisces about Rachel’s notoriously awful cooking — “if it says boil two cups of salt, you boil two cups of salt!” — and Andrews has a keen memory of Rachel and Ross David Schwimmer going on their infamous “break.”
Aniston and Witherspoon currently headline the Apple TV+ flagship series “The Morning Show,” which is being beaten against the rocks by critics. Despite “The Leftovers” alum Mimi Leder heading up direction on the series, it fell flat for IndieWire’s Ben Travers as well. The series is inspired by CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter's 2013 book “Top of the Morning,” which explored the morning show rivalry between NBC's “Today” and ABC's “Good Morning America.”
The series is written by Kerry Ehrin of “Bates Motel” and directed by “Leftovers” and “On the Basis of Sex” helmer Leder, both of whom also serve as executive producers on the new show. “The Morning Show” marks the return of both Carell to television, where he established himself with the comedy series “The Office,” and Aniston, made immortal by “Friends.”
This is surely the most high-profile series of Apple TV+'s recent bow, with other shows including the post-apocalyptic drama “See” from Steven Knight “Peaky Blinders” and starring Jason Momoa, and the Hailee Steinfeld-led “Dickinson,” about the reclusive poet. Pro tip — if you have the latest iPhone, Apple will offer you its streaming service free of charge for a year. Otherwise, it’s set at a cool $4.99 per month.
Dame Julie Andrews, meanwhile, is set to receive the AFI Life Achievement Award next year, and is currently in production on the period series “Bridgerton.” Most recently, she lent her voice to 2018’s “Aquaman.”
After amassing close to $3M from Friends 25th: The One With the Anniversary back in September, Fathom Events and Warner Bros. TV are bringing the hit TV series back to the big screen for a two nights with Friendsgiving on Nov. 24 at 7PM and Nov. 25 at 4PM.
Each day will feature four Friends episodes that have been newly remastered in 4K from the original 35mm camera negative, including such moments as Monica putting a Turkey on her head, Rachel making a curious trifle cake, Ross revealing an old secret, Chandler declaring his love for Monica, Joey devouring an entire turkey and Phoebe exposing something curious about Chandler's canine allergy. Tickets go on sale tomorrow on Fathom’s website.
The Friends 25th Anniversary event drew 230K fans nationwide over three days, making it the second-highest grossing U.S. event cinema release of the year.
“Fans showed up in full force for our initial Friends screenings, so we know there is demand for more,” said Fathom Events CEO Ray Nutt in a statement. “We're excited to put eight classic episodes on the big screen for fans to celebrate with their friends, just in time for Thanksgiving.”
Warner Bros. Television Group President & Chief Marketing Officer Lisa Gregorian said, “Fathom's events offer our incredible Friends fans an opportunity to enjoy a shared viewing experience. These Thanksgiving-themed episodes were digitally remastered for theaters and we hope the fans enjoy coming together to feast on these classics and celebrate with a Happy Friendsgiving.”
As part of the Friends celebration and her new Apple+ series The Morning Show, Jennifer Aniston opened an Instagram account and crashed the social media site as she drew close to 9M followers in her first day off one Friends reunion photo post. She currently counts 17.9M followers with that initial photo earning 14.7M likes.
After The Office ended in 2013, series regular John Krasinski was hellbent on doing something that proved he wasn’t just a workplace funny man. He took roles in Michael Bay’s military drama 13 Hours, co-starred in the tearjerking indie dramedy The Hollars which he also directed, took the lead role in Amazon’s Jack Ryan series, and wrote, directed and starred in A Quiet Place. Now Krasinski is finally stepping back into the world of comedy, and he’ll have some welcome company.
Imaginary Friends is a new fantasy comedy set up at Paramount Pictures that will team up John Krasinski with Deadpool star and all-around smart ass, Ryan Reynolds. You can probably guess what the movie is about based on the title.
Variety has word on Imaginary Friends lining up Krasinski and Reynolds to star. Paramount picked up the script in a bidding war, beating out Lionsgate and Sony for the deal. Their enthusiasm was probably bolstered by how successful A Quiet Place was for them.
In addition to starring, Krasinski is also slated to write, direct and produce, expanding his career behind the camera. Krasinski hasn’t actually directed a straight-up comedy feature yet. The Hollars comes close since it does have a good amount of laughs in it, thought it’s also one of those heartfelt indie family dramas at its core. But Krasinski did direct three episodes of The Office while he was on the show, so he’s no stranger to directing comedy. Though this movie sounds like it might have a bit of a darker side.
Imaginary Friends follows a man who can see and talk to people’s imaginary friends, though we’re not sure whether Krasinski or Reynolds is playing that role. The premise sounds fun, but there’s trouble around the corner as some of the imaginary friends who have lost their real buddies start to turn to the dark side. That sounds rather ominous, but this is a fantasy comedy, so we’re probably not talking about these imaginary friends murdering people all willy-nilly, right?
As of now, it’s not clear when Paramount Pictures plans to sent Imaginary Friends into production. Krasinski will be busy wrapping up A Quiet Place 2, which is slated for release on March 20, 2020. Plus, Reynolds just wrapped up a deal to star in a musical take on A Christmas Carol with Will Ferrell, and he recently made a stop by Marvel Studios, so who knows what that will result in down the road. But we’ll let you know when we hear more.
It's crazy to think that it's been 25 years since Friends premiered on NBC on September 22, 1994, to be exact given that the enormously popular staple of “Must See TV” is somehow now more popular than ever. Thanks to years of airing on syndication and streaming on Netflix for now, anyway, generation after generation keeps continuing to discover the show — and by proxy, learn that Ross is still the worst, after all these years.
Perhaps in part of an effort to connect with these younger audiences or promote her upcoming Apple+ show, series star and notable social media holdout Jennifer Aniston officially joined Instagram on Tuesday morning. And what better way to make an instant splash on the platform than to post a selfie — albeit a grainy, poorly cropped selfie with poor lighting — of herself along with her Friends costars Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer.
“And now we're Instagram FRIENDS too. HI INSTAGRAM,” Aniston captioned the photo.
Interestingly enough, just days before her decision, Aniston opened up about her reluctance to social media during a chat alongside her Morning Show costar Reese Witherspoon with Entertainment Tonight. Though she did admit that Witherspoon has pointed out some upsides to social media and has made it “sound intriguing.”
“What you resist, persists,” Aniston said, referring to the immutability of social media's presence in our society. “It's something that is a part of our world now and it's not going away.”
“You can actually have a little bit more control over the narrative that's out there,” Aniston said. “[You can] right some wrongs and some silly things that, God knows, are said often.”
“Maybe,” Aniston said with a shrug when asked if fans could expect to see her on Instagram anytime soon. “You never know.”
As they say, never say never ... except when it comes to an actual Friends reunion, which the cast has resisted while making it clear that they are never, ever, ever getting back together.