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The Julia Roberts Episode of ‘Running Wild’ Was a Wild Ride Indeed, Says Bear Grylls

Bear Grylls has had adventures with many A-list music, movie, and sports stars on his reality TV show Running Wild, but he ranks the episode that he filmed with Julia Roberts as one of his favorite episodes of all time. 

In each episode of the show, Bear takes a celebrity on a survival adventure in the outdoors. They always learn some useful skills in the wild, like how to light a fire or make a shelter, while challenging themselves physically and mentally with tasks like abseiling down cliff faces or crossing a ravine by rope. Even after all these years, season 3 episode 9, which broadcast in 2017, still brings a smile to his face.

A Special Mission with a Very Special Purpose

Bear has said that he was particularly excited that Julia was coming on the show, as he had grown up watching her movies such as Pretty Woman and Notting Hill and was a huge fan. Together, they filmed a Running Wild Special for NBC for a fundraising cause to raise money for dying children around the world.

Their mission was to journey to the Kenyan Bush to deliver vaccines to a remote community, and the challenges started well before the episode was filmed. Bear says that when crew members were scouting for the journey, they came under fire between two warring tribes in a remote part of the country.

“That always spices up anyone’s day, to find yourself in a desert gully with rounds and ricochets going off all around, and realizing that you’re right in the middle of the gunfight,” Bear wrote in Never Give Up.

Bear says that the team kept cool heads and let the battle pass by – and they didn’t mention the firefight later to Julia’s team.

Bonding with a Star

Image by Jeff Kravitz/Contributor

Bear says that at the start of this particular adventure, he and the team modified a Twin Otter bush plane to make it look more rustic and atmospheric. They took out the passenger seats and filled the plane with crates of chickens and bales of hay, all to make the plane look rickety. 

“The rougher the whole plan and gear look, the better,” said Bear, who explained that this set the tone for the adventure ahead.

Bear and the team landed on a tiny airstrip in the bush to pick Julia up, and they kept the plane’s propellers turning. When he greeted Julia, the noise was so loud, he could only grab her hand and race her to the door.

“The dust was blasting everywhere, the plane was shaking, the chickens were going crazy inside and hay was blowing all over the place,” Bear said. “Julia had one hand on her hat and was screaming with that dizzy mix of horror, delight, and fear.”

Bear bundled her through the hatch, gave the pilot a thumbs up, and, as the plane hurtled off down the runway, he said the G-force threw the pair backward into a heap of hay, chickens and boxes.

“What’s always so fun for me on Running Wild is taking these huge global stars back to basics within about 30 seconds of meeting them. It is always priceless to see, and invariably a good way to bond at the start of an adventure,” he wrote in Never Give Up.

Puncture in the Bush

Image by Michael Svoboda

When the plane landed, Bear and Julia transferred from the plane to an old Land Rover – which promptly got a flat tire and Julia helped to repair it.

When they ran out of road and then track, they carried the vaccines on foot, in 40°C heat (around 104°F). Along the way, they had to cross an old bridge made of hemp over a river filled with crocodiles.

Bear said that Julia did really well, even though she was out of her comfort zone.

It shaped up to be what Bear says a classic Running Wild episode should be. He said: “The team were in their zone and the star was perfectly terrified, exhausted and excited all at the same time.”

Bear’s admiration for Julia was unchanged after the episode. He says that despite the grime and fatigue, Julia was awesome throughout and was always laughing.

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