Spy can reveal that international acting star and former FA Cup football star Vinnie Jones is in the South Island to film a new Warner Bros Discovery action reality show, Tracked. The famous hardman loves Godzone and the Kiwi 'no BS' attitude.
Discovery and Three are nailing it with their rollout of local content. First came DWTS NZ; next up is a rebooted MasterChef NZ; and then they snared Jones, the star of hit films Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. He hosts their new-format endurance show which has just started filming.
Jones, 57, tells Spy he thinks New Zealand is fantastic.
"I had three or four options, but I chose this show in New Zealand as it stood out," he says.
"I live on a farm in England, so this is my kind of country. A few years ago, I entered a competition in a fishing magazine and won a fly-fishing trip to New Zealand that I couldn't take up. So, I sent my dad and brother-in-law and they came back saying 'that place is God's garden. It's the most wonderful place we've ever been.' I've wanted to come to the South Island ever since."
Jones calls Aotearoa "paradise" and says he is like a kid in a candy shop down here. Without giving too much away, he says he's glad he's hosting Tracked and not competing because of the "brutal" terrain used for filming. Jones says the "very rugged" filming location is more suited to deer than humans.
"I once filmed a show in Russia where we travelled across the tundra trying to catch the bear hunters and poachers in tanks," says Jones.
"There are places here you couldn't even use tanks - you need to enter via a helicopter, it's that remote. Some of the best fishing spots in the world are right here but you need to get in a helicopter to reach them," he says.
Tracked is scheduled to air on Three and ThreeNow later this year and involves eight two-person teams from around the world competing in a high-intensity game of cat-and mouse through both harsh and breath-taking New Zealand landscapes. The teams must reach the evacuation zone and helicopter out before they are caught by pursuing elite trackers.
The ambitious show is already paying off for Discovery. The network says the new format has gained huge worldwide interest on the back of the global entertainment company's expansion into New Zealand. Produced Great Southern Television, distribution has already been secured across many international territories.
Discovery's senior director of production Vicki Keogh, tells Spy that Tracked is extreme and challenging, and that nothing like it has been done here before.
"The wide range of terrain the competitors need to navigate and conquer adds a whole other layer. And of course, we're delighted to have Vinnie here to keep them all in check," she says.
In between filming, Jones has some fly fishing organised over the next few weeks and says he's after some lake trout. He's already been to a couple of fishing spots and says the locals have been "great".
"Kiwis say it how it is, just like me - No BS involved. So, I feel very at home here."