Bruce Parry Profile

Taking part in shamanic rituals, ingesting tribal hallucinogens and spending quality time with cannibals, Bruce Parry takes the idea of "going native" to ludicrous – and highly entertaining – extremes.

Bruce Parry

Remember Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now? The army guy who went bonkers in the jungle and went around beheading people in a sweaty, mud-caked, tribal warrior kind of way? Well, Bruce Parry is basically him crossed with Michael Palin. Minus the beheadings. Although, saying that, if Bruce continues to merge with random, far-flung tribes across the world, there's no telling what it will do to his state of mind. Beheadings may not be out of the question, further along the line. This, after all, is a guy so adventurous, so fearless and so out there, he makes Bear Grylls look like a presenter of Springwatch.

Whether smeared in vibrantly coloured spice paste, waggling a spear, nibbling on rats ("full of gristle and quite hairy") or chowing down on drugs that taste "like chipboard soaked in battery acid" and make him horribly sick, Bruce Parry always looks utterly game for yet more experiences – even as his face is contorted with pain and nausea. What manner of man is this? Was he raised by wolves in some dark corner of England? Is he certifiably mad? Actually, he's a highly well-adjusted chap from an Army family. His dad was a Major, we'll have you know. And Bruce himself went to boarding school, where he became head of house. He was also raised as a devout Christian, and has said that he used to believe he was "touched by the hand of Jesus" and that he "hated" himself for "challenging it".

After his time in his prestigious cathedral school, Bruce went onto join the Marines at the tender age of 18, and proved his worth immediately. In fact, he would go onto become the head of fitness and training, and embraced the military lifestyle wholeheartedly. It's odd to imagine that the man who would go onto become a wandering "globalist", mingling eagerly with the most alien cultures any English person could imagine, was once a staunchly patriotic and devoted army lad who, in his own words, would stand to attention if he ever heard the national anthem playing.

So what changed him? The love of a woman, that's what. In true movie-style, Bruce's entire life philosophy was abruptly turned upside down by his relationship with an Italian-Irish gal who encouraged him to question all his own rigidly held beliefs and basically become the goo-splattered hippy type he is today.

After leaving the Marines, Bruce started his globetrotting life in earnest, one minute helping monkeys in Indonesia, the next trekking up Mont Blanc. It was all good experience, and led to him pitching the idea of a TV show about a mountain in Papua New Guinea. This became the documentary Cannibals and Crampons, and established Parry as superb telly material. His landmark series Tribe soon followed, and since then he's trudged through the Amazon (in the mysteriously titled TV series Amazon) and hung out with the people of the Arctic, as you do. He's also worked with the likes of will.i.am, KT Tunstall and Hot Chip to release an album in aid of a charity which protects indigenous tribal peoples.

But is Bruce Parry still on pally terms with Jesus? Well, he's reluctantly admitted that he's definitely veering on the atheist side of things nowadays, although he prefers the slightly fancier term of "post-Deist". Or, to put it another way, he's very into "altered states of mind". Oh dear, he's been on that magic tree bark again…

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