March 13, 2012 at 1:49 PM ET
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.
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.
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 local 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 bellied 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 last 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.
Representatives for Gyrlls have yet to respond to requests for comment.
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