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Sunday, 30 December, 2001, 13:50 GMT
Fry travels with Paddington Bear
Stephen Fry
Fry: Set off into the magnificent landscape of Peru
By the BBC's Michael Osborn

Stephen Fry seems to be a master of everything. He has been a comic, film and theatre actor, successful novelist, raconteur and wit.

But he is about to add another string to his bow - as adventurer and wildlife champion.

Fry has travelled to Peru in the footsteps of the much-loved children's character Paddington Bear, which culminated in the rescue of a live bear.

Paddington Bear
Paddington Bear: "British institution"

In a more homely setting sipping a glass of wine, the remarkably self-effacing Fry spoke about his travels, plans for the future - and of course bears.

"I've always had great respect for Paddington because he is amusingly English and eccentric," explained the 44-year-old, famed for his roles on television and the silver screen.

"He is a great British institution and my generation grew up with the books and then Michael Horden's animations."

Armchair

Stephen Fry's trek to Peru to film the documentary saw him save a rare local bear from being eaten by the locals.

"The Peruvian Spectacled Bear is incredibly unusual and no-one knows where they came from," explained Fry.

"A Brazilian explorer once spent six months following the bears in Peru but he never saw one."

Stephen Fry
Fry was surprised by how well he settled into the explorer's lifestyle

Fry's adventure in the breathtaking Andean mountains brought him into contact with the local people, with whom he bartered shovels, corn and flour in a bid to save the animal's life.

He admitted that his Peruvian experience changed his outlook.

"It has changed my fear of making such journeys. I think of myself as at home in a large armchair, writing, smoking cigarettes, and occasionally wandering down to the shop.

"But I thrived on the experience, which has given me a taste to do a lot more."

Fry is planning an "enormous" voyage, which we can expect to see on our television screens in the future.

Films

Having found one new vocation, Fry is also soon to make his debut as a film director.

Dame Judi Dench d
Judi Dench has signed up for Fry's movie

"I'm directing a film for the cinema and casting at the moment. Dame Judi Dench has already agreed to take a part," he said..

"The film is based on Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies - Britain's Great Gatsby with an entirely British cast."

"It's a frightening and exhilarating thing to do for the first time," he said, adding that going into cinema seemed a natural progression for him.

But Fry is still best remembered for his comedy partnership with Hugh Laurie, and their show A Bit of Fry and Laurie.

The pair remain in close contact, and have not ruled out a future project together - even though they face competition from a whole breed of new comics.

"Once you actually get to the age when you're old enough to be a vicar, it ceases to be funny," quipped Fry.

"Of the current comics, I'm a huge fan of The League of Gentlemen and think we are lucky to have Chris Morris working in television."

Christmas for Stephen Fry was a family affair in Norfolk, where he played Santa for his godchildren. But work is never far from his mind, with more novels in the pipeline.

No surprise for a man who, in his own words, has "an urge, like a pregnant elephant, to go away and give birth to a book".

Paddington Bear: The Early Years is on BBC One on 31 December at 1910 GMT.

See also:

29 Nov 01 | TV and Radio
Del Boy is Christmas ratings favourite
10 Sep 98 | Entertainment
Fry aids ex-offenders
13 Feb 98 | Business
End of the line for Paddington Bear
04 Apr 98 | UK
Life begins with marmalade
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