Adventurer Ben Fogle has done so much since his first TV appearance,in Castaway 10 years ago, that he's struggling to make room in his autobiography. His most recent documentary, which follows Prince William on a trip to Africa, shows just how successful he's become. During a recent call with TV.com, however, he revealed he's thinking of stepping back from TV adventures.
Read on as we talk to the presenter about Prince William's Africa (airing on Sky One, this Wednesday at 8pm), being mistaken for a Royal and his hopes for the future (which strangely include Katie Price)...
TV.com: How did you get involved with Prince William's Africa?
Ben Fogle: I've been involved with Tusk, which is the main charity that the documentary focuses on, for a couple of years now. William became patron a few years ago and I’ve met him a number of times, both socially and privately. I’ve wanted to make a film showing the real William--showing a side to him that we wouldn’t normally see, showing that he’s a normal 27-year-old born into an extraordinary family, and also to show how passionate he is about the charities he works for.
So when he decided to go on this joint Royal tour to Botswana with his brother it just seemed too good an opportunity to miss. We had some meetings with Clarence House and with William to talk about the possibility and I'm very privileged and humbled that he agreed to let me follow him and do just that.
You say in the show that sometimes you get mistaken for Prince William, what's been your favourite example of this?
I was in Chile about two years ago and I landed at the airport in South America where William funnily enough had spent his gap year. I walked past a group of school girls, who started screaming--I mean absolutely hysterical screaming--and before I knew it all these paparazzi arrived, then the Police arrived and there was almost a mini riot in the airport. I found out later that they all thought I was William. It was rather embarrassing.
Do you know if William's seen the documentary yet? Have you had any responses from him?
I don’t know if he's seen it yet, actually. I know that everyone who helps him out at Clarence House has, and the feedback I've had is that they're amazed at how relaxed, happy and candid he looks. I take that as a great compliment, because that's what I wanted to get across. This wasn't a formal interview--I wanted it to show the real William and I think you get that; I hope you get that.
Could it be described as a 'Royals in the wild' documentary?
Yes, a lot of the things I do are observing other people or wildlife and you’re right, this was kind of observing the second and third in line to the Throne, out in the wilds of Africa. It is a form of observation, and the questioning that I had came from spending time out there with them. I spent some time alone with the two Princes, some time alone with just William and some time with the whole press pack of 200 journalists. For me it was fascinating to see both sides: spending time with the journalists and seeing how they act around royalty and also seeing how royalty reacts around the press. Seeing both sides made me feel really privileged, and that is something that happens quite a lot in my job I suppose--I see all the different sides of the subject.
How much time did you actually get with the Princes?
I was probably out there with them for about three or four days in Botswana.
But the documentary isn't just about them. It balances their visit with scenes of wildlife and charity work too...
Yes exactly, that was the idea. It's partly about William, it's partly about Africa, it's a bit about conservation and lots of the other charities. It weaves all of those elements in.
It's more informative than adventurous. Would you like to have been more hands on?
I've been doing adventure stuff for about five years now and it’s something that I’ll always love to do, but in some ways it’s time to move on. I can’t do this for the rest of my life, I’d be exhausted and I’d never see my family.
I still have a passion for adventure, travel and discovery; I suppose that’s what a show like this does. It is a form of adventure--it's one of the most exciting things I’ve done; spending a few days with the Royals out in the bush in Africa, seeing lions out on safaris. It's desperately exciting.
I did a documentary earlier this year for the BBC, called Make Me a New Face, which was a harrowing film to make, about a flesh eating disease out in Ethiopia. I found it enormously rewarding, because I discovered the power of television: a week after the documentary was on television, the charity had received nearly a quarter of a million pounds in donations from people who watched it. This showed me that television can not only be entertaining and informative, but it can genuinely make a difference. As much as I love trekking to Poles and rowing across oceans, it's also rewarding to actually be able to follow people that really make a difference and old William obviously does that.
How much does being a new dad impact on your work?
I just want to be around my family now. The best thing is being at home with my wife, dogs and Ludo (my baby boy) so it makes going away a lot harder. I’m heading back to Antarctica in about three weeks to make a documentary for the BBC about Captain Scott, so I’ll be out there for about a month. That will be really hard because, obviously, speaking to home is not going to be easy--maybe a satellite phone occasionally--and I think that will probably be one of the hardest things. But, as long as the weather doesn’t turn on us, I’ll be back for my son’s first birthday, which is the most important date. My life would not be worth living if I didn’t get back for his first birthday.
This documentary certainly proves that you’ve come a long way since your Castaway days. What’s been the highlight of your presenting career so far?
This has been one of the highlights, if not the highlight of my presenting career. It's not only a great honour, but it was great fun to do. I think rowing across the Atlantic was another highlight, but you couldn’t get two more different scenarios. It's been 10 years since I did Castaway and I think I’ve packed quite a lot in. I’ve actually just started an autobiography about the last decade and I’ve already got way too much, it can’t all fit.
Are there any other big names you'd still like to work with?
I tell you what; I’d love to make a film about Bill Gates, I’m fascinated by him. He has a mission to try and eradicate Malaria from Africa and he and his wife Melinda, are (I think) the biggest philanthropists in the world. I would love to follow them and make a documentary about how they are genuinely trying to change history. And failing that, it would be Jordan.
Should I ask why?
[Ben laughs] For someone who gives so much away about themselves, I think she's one of the most mysterious people I’ve ever not met! For someone that has been on the front of every paper and has documentaries made about the documentaries made about the documentaries following her life, I’d love to know who she really is.