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Bear Grylls says he cheated death 21 times in risky early TV career

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 04: Bear Grylls attends the World Premiere of
Bear Grylls says he has cheated death many times. (WireImage)

Bear Grylls has revealed that his early career as a TV survival expert was so risky that he narrowly avoided death a total of 21 times.

Listing parachute failures, avalanches and snake bites as some of the moments that almost finished him off, the Chief Scout and Royal Marine told Louis Theroux he had found it a difficult balance to know when he was facing too much danger on TV.

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Grylls features in tonight's Louis Theroux Interviews series on BBC Two, where he shows Theroux around his private island off the coast of Wales where he spends the summer with wife Shara and their three sons, Huckleberry, Jesse and Marmaduke.

Louis Theroux spends some quality time with Bear Grylls. (BBC)
Louis Theroux spends some quality time with Bear Grylls. (BBC)

Speaking about his early days making the move from military service to TV presenting with Born Survivor, a survival skills programme that began in 2006, he said it had been fun but quickly turned dangerous.

He says: "There was a lot of danger in the early days, we had so many narrow escapes. I was bitten by snakes, caught in rapids, parachute failures, avalanches, you name it."

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Theroux asks him: "In your book, you say there were 21 times in the early days where you think you narrowly escaped death."

Grylls replies: "Yeah, and it was starting to happen all too regularly. The show's got to push the boundaries, everything's got to be bigger and better, and I've got three young boys who were super young at this stage - I was like, 'why am I doing this?'

"So I've got my inner voice going, 'Don't. Be smart, make your own calls' and then I've got a winning format of a show, and that was a tension."

Louis Theroux speaks to Bear Grylls on his private island. (BBC)
Louis Theroux speaks to Bear Grylls on his private island. (BBC)

Grylls also shared that he had found it difficult being in the public eye and was upset at stories criticising his shows and claiming that many of the risky situations he faced were mocked up.

He said: "It was definitely hurtful…it was the first time really I had been in the newspapers and I was like, ‘oh, I knew this was a bad idea doing a public sort of job.’"

The star added: "Some is unfair, some is justifiable, some I look back and I made mistakes, but you’ve got to keep doing your job as best you can."

Louis Theroux Interviews Bear Grylls airs tonight at 9pm on BBC Two.

Watch: Bear Grylls reviews survival scenes from movies and TV