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Gladiators’ Wolf shocked scene was kept in after Ulrika Jonsson stormed off

Gladiators exclusive interview: Wolf begged TV bosses to let him be bad

Wolf starred on Gladiators from 1992. (ITV/Shutterstock)
Wolf starred on Gladiators from 1992. (ITV/Shutterstock)

As Gladiators returns to our screens, original star Wolf has revealed the jaw-dropping moment that he was surprised didn't get cut from the reality series.

Wolf — whose real name is Michael Van Wijk — shot to fame in 1992 as the cast villain who was always teasing the contenders with his bad behaviour. Now the gladiator is retired at 71 but he still is committed to his fanbase, doing Cameo videos for nostalgic fans.

Looking back at his time on the show, Wolf revealed there were times when he personally was shocked that TV bosses loved his bad behaviour. Wolf was especially surprised at how they reacted when he caused TV host Ulrika Jonsson to storm off stage.

In a new interview, he told Yahoo: "There were lots of other interactions I did that I was surprised they kept on which I thought they would have edited out. But there was one time I did abysmal in a game, I was really bad and Ulrika Jonsson was like, 'That’s a bit pathetic wasn’t it?'"

Wolf remembered how the 'ooooooh' from the audience sparked a fire in him to cause chaos and court the attention of the fans. He elaborated: "So I thought, 'Oh, here's an opportunity to milk it'. I grabbed the mic off of it and I shouted to the audience, 'Do you want to know why I was so bad?' They were going, 'Yeah.' I said, 'Do you want to know why this up?'

Wolf (Michael van Wijk) would be grilled by host Ulrika Jonsson after the challenges. (Photo by Comic Relief/Comic Relief via Getty Images)
Wolf (Michael van Wijk) would be grilled by host Ulrika Jonsson after the challenges. (Photo by Comic Relief/Comic Relief via Getty Images)

"And I said, 'Just before I came out to do this game, I saw Ulrika Jonsson backstage with no makeup on and I felt sick! She stormed off stage, they loved it, they were like, 'This is amazing', and they kept it in when the show came about, I was surprised that they loved it. They kept it in so things like that."

But Wolf had no concerns that he had really genuinely upset the glamorous TV host with his comments that day. "Oh no!" He quipped. Wolf had high praise for the star and shared the exchange was all in the good fun of the show. He added: "She was game for a laugh. It was fun. It was good that she stormed off that way!"

Wolf had to beg TV bosses to be bad

Wolf was the ultimate TV baddie
Wolf was the ultimate TV baddie. (ITV/Shutterstock)

Wolf had great success being a TV villain on the show but he almost wasn't allowed to be bad. The former bodybuilder had to beg the producers to let him behave badly on the show. He asked them, "My name is Wolf and it rolls with being bad. So can I be bad on the series?"

Initially the original gladiator remembered how he was told no and he had to plead with them before TV bosses finally gave in: "They said, 'No everyone has to be squeaky clean and it's the image we got for children.' So I kept on and I said, 'Look, let me just do it for one show. If you don't like it, I promise, I'll never do it again. I'll never ask you again.' I said, 'One show, that's it.' I did it and the crowd erupted and I absolutely loved it. After that, it was like I'm the big bad wolf."

The star come up with the idea because he was determined to stand out from the other stars appearing on the show. "From the get go, I thought, 'I'm the oldest one there'," he said. "I was just turning 40 and all the others were in their twenties and early thirties. They're all good looking fit, super good athletes. I've got to do something that makes me stand out. And that's how I was thinking of it from the beginning. And so that's why I interacted with the audience and that's why the character was tongue in cheek."

While he was acting a part, the TV baddie had no qualms playing games with the contenders. In Hang Tough — where contenders had to try swing away from the gladiators — Wolf would get his grip on his opponent and then play with them until the time was up. "I'd give them a wet finger in the ear or I would start pulling the hairs out of their armpits," he said. "It was like cat and mouse."

The original gladiators

Paul Bradley (L) with Saracen (Michael Lewis), Cobra (Michael Willson) and Ace (Warren Furman) during Gladiators. (Getty)
Paul Bradley (L) with Saracen (Michael Lewis), Cobra (Michael Willson) and Ace (Warren Furman) during Gladiators. (Getty)

From the original line-up, Wolf had the most admiration for his fellow gladiator Cobra who he was friends before they starred together on Gladiators. He explained: "I think because he started off as a reserve and proved himself to be so good that they kept him on and he was a friend of mine before Gladiators. We knew each other beforehand."

He added: "And after the whole eight years, there were only four of us. Two of the original left — me and Saracen — and the Lightning and Cobra who were the two reserves. The four of us were the only ones who made it from the original team from the 1992 at the beginning."

Wolf nearly didn't star on Gladiators

Wolf from Gladiators opening the new Blockbuster Video in Reading, 6th November 1994. (Photo by Staff/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
Wolf from Gladiators opening the new Blockbuster Video in 1994. (Getty Images)

Being on Gladiators completely changed Wolf's life forever. "I was an unknown actor and a gym owner and then all of a sudden I couldn't walk down the street without everyone knowing who I was," he said. "I had to stop going shopping because I get mobbed if I went to the mall. It just got ridiculous."

Despite becoming a huge star from the show, Wolf almost didn't make the cut for the show as he missed the application deadline. The gym boss had been given the heads up by one of his members but he forgot to apply. "I'm one of these people that tends to procrastinate," he explained. "I said, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah I'll give them a ring' and I forgot all about it and then a couple of weeks passed and then I bumped into this guy again."

When Wolf eventually got in touch, he was told, "Oh, it's closed now. We're not looking for people anymore." However, TV bosses changed their mind when they were blown away by his picture of him doing his best Barbarian impression and he got the call the next day calling him for auditions.

For shout outs from Wolf, visit his cameos page.

Read more: Gladiators