Bear Grylls took on a different kind of adventure this week, walking the red carpet at the premiere of the documentary Finding Michael in London.
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In signing on to the project, the survivalist-turned-executive-producer felt personally connected with the film’s subject matter: In 1999, the titular 22-year-old Michael Matthews became the youngest Briton to climb Everest, breaking Bear’s own record set in 1998 when he was 23. Tragically, just three hours after Matthews summited, he vanished without a trace.
“I am really proud of this film,” says Bear. “It’s going to touch people. The world has never needed a story of connection and family and love more than right now. I hope the film helps and inspires people.”
A brother’s mission
Finding Michael is a feature-length documentary following Michael’s brother, British TV star and entrepreneur Spencer Matthews, on his own expedition to Everest to find and recover the record holder’s remains. Bear was executive producer of the documentary, some of which was filmed in Everest’s ‘Death Zone’ beyond 8,000 meters.
Aged 10 when Michael went missing, Spencer always struggled to accept his death. Over 20 years later, Spencer received a photo of a body on the mountain that could be Michael’s.
He heads to Nepal and recruits Nimsdai Purja, the world’s 14-peak record holder, to lead a team and search Everest’s “Death Zone” to try and find Michael. Once at extreme altitude at over 8000 meters, the team rely on a 10-man search crew, armed with drones and the skillset to go off the summit lines. But as the weather closes in and with time against them, they face a series of unexpected challenges.
The world’s best team
Bear helped Spencer to assemble the best team in the world for the expedition, including the production team.
“What you don’t want to do is end up with more casualties up there,” he says. “It’s still a dangerous mountain. Technology improves and things change, but it still claims a lot of people’s lives.”
At the premiere, Spencer reunited with some of the climbing team including Nimsdai Purja, Mingma Tenzi Sherpa and Mingma David Sherpa. They were joined by Canadian climber and politician Dave Rodney, who was on the original Everest expedition with Michael and appears in the documentary.
Also at the premiere were Spencer’s mother Jane Matthews, his sister Nina Mackie, and his wife, Irish model and broadcaster Vogue Williams, who won the Bear Grylls: Mission Survive series in 2015. They were joined by British Made In Chelsea TV stars Jamie Laing, Sophie Habboo, Millie Mackintosh and Hugo Taylor.
The documentary was developed by Shine TV’s Jon Swain and Tom Hutchings with The Natural Studios’s Bear Grylls and Delbert Shoopman (a joint venture with Banijay). It was directed by Tom Beard, who also helmed The Year Earth Changed for Apple TV.
Finding Michael debuts on Disney+ in the UK on March 3 and will later release worldwide and in the U.S.