Discovery Terminates Relationship With 'Man vs. Wild' Star Bear Grylls (Exclusive)

9:00 AM PST 03/13/2012 by Marisa Guthrie
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UPDATED: Sources say the network has been unable to get the British TV personality to participate in two unannounced projects.

Discovery Channel has terminated its relationship with Bear Grylls, the British television personality and star of the network’s Man vs. Wild. The severing of the relationship, which began back in 2006 when Man vs. Wild launched on Discovery, comes after the network has allegedly been unable to get Grylls to participate in two unannounced projects he was contracted for, say sources. The sixth season of Man vs. Wild wrapped in August.

“Due to a continuing contractual dispute with Bear Grylls, Discovery has terminated all current productions with him,” a network spokesperson tells The Hollywood Reporter.

A representative for Grylls confirmed that the Man Vs. Wild star has parted ways with Discovery.

"Bear's goal has always been to make life-empowering shows for his many fans around the globe, and he has taken great risks to bring Discovery such award-winning programming over seven seasons," said Heather Krug in a statement to THR. "Unfortunately, Bear and Discovery have not been able to come to mutual agreement on new programming, and he disagrees with Discovery's decision to terminate current productions. Bear has loved the Man vs. Wild journey and looks forward to producing further cutting-edge content again soon for his loyal audience."

This is not the first time Discovery has had a disagreement with its talent. In 2010, the network sued Deadliest Catch Captains Jonathan and Andy Hillstrand for allegedly failing to complete work on the spinoff Hillstranded. The $3 million lawsuit prompted the Hillstrands and Captain Sig Hansen to quit, though a month later the dispute was settled, the suit was dropped and all three returned to work on the show.

Grylls, 37, has parlayed his fame as an extreme outdoorsman into an international media career. He’s written nearly a dozen books, many of them survival guides. His memoir Mud, Sweat and Tears – due to be published in the U.S. in May – already is a best-seller in England and Australia. He’s landed numerous endorsement deals including with Dockers and Degree deodorant. There's a Man vs. Wild video game, he has an iPhone app, and his clothing line is sold at REI and Walmart.

VIDEO: Jake Gyllenhaal Guests on 'Man Vs. Wild'

Grylls’ exploits on Man vs. Wild (which averaged 1.1 million viewers on Discovery last season) have earned him numerous celebrity admirers. Jake Gyllenhaal, Will Ferrell and Ben Stiller have tagged along on some of Grylls’ adventures. But the show, which also airs in the U.K. on Channel 4, was beset with early controversies when it was revealed that several of Grylls’ escapades of derring-do were enhanced or staged and that Grylls spent nights in motels while he was purportedly left alone to fend for himself on a deserted island. 

In 2007, the show was briefly taken off the air in the U.K., and Discovery began airing it with a disclaimer allowing that Grylls was not in fact left alone to survive in the wild. In subsequent episodes, Grylls directly addresses the crew, and in the interest of transparency, each season featured a making-of episode.

But Grylls’ rugged public persona has increasingly belied his personal wealth. A former member of the British Army’s Special Air Service, Grylls lives with his family on a private island in Wales (where there is no electricity). He also has a home in Malibu and a house barge on the Thames. In a recent New York Times profile, Grylls says he only hired a publicist last year and maintains that he’s “still always the scruffiest person at any meeting.”

Grylls headlined an urban-disaster-preparedness show for Discovery called Worst Case Scenario, which bowed in 2010. He’s also done multiple specials for Discovery including 2007’s Bear’s Mission Everest, which had Grylls attempting to fly a powered paraglider higher than the famed mountain range.

The network had multiple additional projects in development with Grylls, though he was not part of Discovery’s upfront presentation to ad buyers in April in New York. Nevertheless he has been a marquee personality for the network domestically and internationally. In October, he addressed media buyers (via video message) at a Discovery Networks upfront presentation in South Africa.

E-mail: Marisa.Guthrie@thr.com

Twitter: @MarisaGuthrie

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