I’m A Celeb is finally filming on home soil after six seasons on air, with the reality show’s usual South Africa locale out of bounds due to the coronavirus pandemic.
But if you listened to one particularly vocal section of the I’m A Celeb fanbase, they’ve been here in Australia the whole time. Every season, conspiracy theories abound that the show is actually filmed in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, such is their apparent resemblance to the South African jungle.
It’s something the show has even embraced:
“A large portion of the online community has always believed that we’ve been in Australia the entire time. It’s no small movement either! Now they get their wish and they can see how different it really is,” I’m A Celeb host Dr. Chris Brown tells news.com.au.
“You know what I say every year? Come and find us!” says fellow host Julia Morris with a cackle.
“If we’re in the Blue Mountains every year, get your family in the car, drive up and come find us! How do you hide 500 crew in Leura?”
The production’s move to Australia was obviously borne out of necessity, but it’s a wonder they didn’t do it earlier – we’re not wanting for dangerous animals and celeb-testing conditions here at home. Brown teases that this year’s bush setting is “the spiritual home of the paralysis tick. It has some of the biggest spiders in the world … venomous snakes, plus so many different species of funnel-web. Leeches, ticks, and everything in the summer humidity trying to get busy.”
“They’re not just battling our creepy animals, they’re also battling how they feel about being outdoors,” says Morris of the contestants. “I don’t know that many of them would’ve camped outside with very little protection from the elements before.”
So who’s headed into the Aussie “jungle” this season? Clues teased by 10 so far include an opinionated twosome, a radio star, a renowned chef and a true diva. Industry website TV Blackbox this week claimed Grant Denyer, Amanda Keller, Paulini and Jack Vidgen are among the celebs taking part this year.
One person you’re unlikely to see: Cooking show judge turned conspiracy theorist Pete Evans. Reports surfaced that Evans would be taking part, but as an online backlash swelled, Ten confirmed he wasn’t – amid rumours he’d been hastily dropped and paid out $200,000.
“The tricky thing is, we’re not the ones who narrow down the list. He’s not a name who’s been on any list of ours. It was a shame on a lot of levels that Pete said what he said. Putting the show aside … it was a really sad, sad moment,” says Brown.
And seven seasons in, Morris insists they’re still “spoiled for choice” when it comes to finding celebs eager to appear on the show.
“There’s people we ask every year, and it’s just about erosion. Eventually they crack and say, you know what, I will come on. After a year like this, everyone’s just desperate to get out of the house.”
While each season’s premiere elicits familiar grumbles from some viewers about the star calibre on offer – seriously guys, were you expecting Beyonce? – Brown points out that fame is no real indicator of success on the show.
“Look over the years at the people who’ve become the king or the queen. They’ve often been that real surprise package where you knew who they were, but you didn’t really know ‘them’. Miguel, Casey Donovan – those sort of guys had so much joy and complexity to bring,” he says.
“ And we’ve had some pretty famous people in there, but generally it’s not the more famous people who win – it’s the surprise packages. That’s a really underrated part of the show.”
I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here premieres on Ten Sunday January 3.