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Never say never: survival star Bear Grylls talks fear, masculinity and 007

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Never say never: survival star Bear Grylls talks fear, masculinity and 007

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At 23, Bear Grylls was the youngest Briton to scale Everest just one year after breaking his back in a parachuting accident. Now he has become a household name for his daredevil adventures and occasionally gruesome survival techniques. With adventure TV shows in over 200 countries, numerous books and merchandising deals his schedule is timed to the minute, luckily we managed to grab him between takes as he filmed the latest campaign sky diving for Land Rover.

Joanna Gill, journalist
He’s the man you’d want by your side if you were lost in the wilderness, he’s led record-breaking expeditions from the Arctic to the Antarctic. I’m joined by all-round action man Bear Grylls. Sky diving is a relatively dangerous activity. You’ve said in the past that it’s something that still scares you after your accident in 1996? Is that still true?

Bear Grylls
Sky diving is definitely one of those things that’s hard for me. I think you wouldn’t be human. You know I broke my back in three places. I spent a year in and out of military rehabilitation. You wouldn’t be human if when that door opens of that plane and you looked down, that you didn’t still feel a bit of fear.

Gill
You’re known for some fairly extravagant adventures, going to the top of Mount Everest where you’ve been alone (apart from TV crews), is there one adventure that you wish you could have shared with someone and who?

Grylls
I think the summit of Everest was special. It was a real kind of moment . My dad died not long after that and it had been such a dream for us together. I just remember the top of that mountain crying inside my mask. I think part of it was the accident I had been through and doctors not knowing if I was going to be able to walk properly again and all that stuff, and that voice that never really believed I could do it being silenced and I knew that meant a lot to my dad. He was proud, he lived to see that and he would have loved all of this stuff. He was the guy who taught me to love adventure and to go for things.

Gill
You’ve made your fortune from redefining masculinity and you’ve talked to me about crying at the top of Mount Everest – does that strip something away and how does that define masculinity for you?

Grylls
Being a man is just about being yourself, same with being a woman. It’s all about authenticity just being who you are, not being afraid to show the bad sides and the struggles and the doubts as well as the great stuff. The highs and the lows. Tears and all that stuff is always going to be a part of life … what was the question?

Gill
You’re redefining masculinity in the modern world…

Grylls
It feels very grand. I don’t think I have. I’ve just tried to do what I love and say that it’s ok to show your feelings and it’s ok to struggle with stuff and it’s a struggle that makes strength, and that’s the way I’ve tried to operate. If that’s masculinity well, good.

Gill
You had the chance to go with President Obama to a glacier in Alaska and that was to highlight climate change, is that something that worries you?

Grylls
I think it’s a concern for all of us – we’ve only got one planet and we’ve got to protect it and look after it. It’s amazing to have a US President that has that so high on his agenda to do something lasting.

Gill
What was it that surprised you about him?

Grylls
I think that he’s normal. I know everyone’s normal and my mum said beforehand – when I was nervous she said ‘everyone puts on their trousers on one leg at a time’. It’s going to be a normal guy, he really was. The machine that surrounds him, the secret service, air force one and all the madness, but as a human being he was incredible and family-centred, faith-led, hard working, humble, bright. I came away a real fan.

Gill
You said you would have liked to taken Donald Trump before he entered the Presidential race, how do you think he would fare on a 48 hour adventure?

Grylls
As I said, I’ve learnt never to judge a book by its cover… How would he fare? I’m sure he would be good. We all have a bit of ego and if you can leave it behind. But you never know, but that would be an adventure.

Gill
What’s the funniest thing that people say to you when they approach you on the street?

Grylls
Everyone’s got a story which I love about how they’ve climbed some mountain or taken their kids camping. I love that. They often say to me, if I’m in bar do you want a pint of urine? To which I say ‘Not right now but thanks for the kind offer’. If somebody said when I was seven that I’d be known around the world for weird things like that I’d think really? But actually it could be way worse and I’m super lucky, I have a job climbing trees, getting muddy, falling out of stuff and that’s good.

Gill
For your next project you’re training with Cirque du Soleil, what is that like?

Grylls
We were training with aerial acrobats. It’s a live arena show starts in the UK. It’s physical. There’s 12 hour days on the Bond Stage in Pinewood, doing stunt training. You see these Cirque du Soleil guys. They make it look easy. I said to my kid when I got home ‘ I really hurt’. He said ‘maybe over 40 is not the time to be doing these things’. I said ‘that’s stinking thinking we can do this.’

Gill
I just have to ask you – you’re on the Bond Stage – so any chances of seeing you in the next Bond film?

Grylls
Never say never. But yes, not right now. We’re focused on Endeavour (the live show).

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