HE is the telly hardman known for his straight talking and fearsome toughness.
Yet while these attributes made his name, Ant Middleton says they also proved his downfall when he found himself ditched by Channel 4’s SAS: Who Dares Wins — the show that launched his TV career, this year.
Now, in a searing new book, Ant worries “the woke patrol” changed the show he loved — and led to him getting sacked.
He feels the notion that producers no longer want “uncompromising alpha males from the military” ultimately led to their decision to axe him in March.
And he insists that before he was pushed, he was going to quit anyway — because the show had become too safe and scripted.
In his new book, Mental Fitness, he says: “They knew that I was going to jump so they pushed me first.”
Ant, 41, describes a gradual fallout between him and producers which left him unhappy with how the show was changing.
The former SBS hero says that on his final series, filmed in Scotland, he was “miserable”.
He writes: “I’d been enduring rather than enjoying it for a while and had to be talked into doing the last series by my management team.
“I already felt the show had become too scripted, and that health and safety had become too powerful.
“It had drifted away from what had made it so fun and exciting to be a part of.”
Ant recalls that while filming in Scotland, he had repeated run-ins with the production team over health and safety restrictions, which led to him threatening to walk off set.
‘No room for spontaneity’
He explains: “I was always willing to butt heads if I thought the authenticity of the show was being further eroded or if some other element of what we were doing was being compromised.”
Ant said the increasing power of health and safety chiefs meant there was “no room for spontaneity”, and had changed the challenges which pushed contestants to their limits.
He recalls one task involving contestants being in freezing water, after which he had told them to get back into the river as an extra test. But he claims health and safety concerns brought it to a halt because it was not an agreed part of the original task.
He told producers: “Unless this changes, I’m f***ing leaving. I’ll walk off set. I cannot have my recruits interrupted halfway through a task. You’re going to ruin the whole authenticity of the show. It’s out of hand.”
That row was one of the final straws which convinced him he did not want to take part in the next series.
He adds: “I even said as much to one of the producers. ‘You guys are going to be getting a call very soon. I don’t agree with the way the course is being run. I’m not being allowed to do my job any more. I’m out’.
Ant claims it took six weeks before anyone from the production company called his agents. And when they did talk, they announced they would not be working with Ant any more.
He writes: “They were just doing what they thought they needed to — protecting their brand — although what that brand is now, I’m not too sure. The first series was so exciting and real because of its brutality. We weren’t pretending to be anything other than what we were — uncompromising alpha males from the military.
“That’s obviously the opposite of the show they want now. The woke patrol have their victory, and I’ll be very interested to see where the series goes next.”
In his book, Ant references “reckless, desperate allegations and statements”.
The woke patrol have their victory, and I’ll be very interested to see where the series goes next.
He says: “I’ve got nothing to hide or feel ashamed of. I’m as happy now as I was then to air anything they think needs to be aired in court.”
But he admits: “I failed to live up to the standards I set myself. I regret that. I really regret that.
“Clearly I wasn’t an easy person to work with on that last series. I was so angry and frustrated for so much of it that I did behave in a way I’m not proud of. I never thought I’d be the guy threatening to walk off set.”
Ant has never been afraid to own his mistakes — one of his rules for mental fitness is “embrace failure”.
It is something he has had to apply to himself, especially over controversial social media posts which landed him in hot water during the pandemic.
One was a video telling fans to “get out there” and hug each other in March 2020, when the world was rapidly going into a Covid lockdown.
Then, during the Black Lives Matter protests in June, he tweeted: “The extreme Left against the extreme Right. When did two wrongs make a right . . . BLM and EDL are not welcome on our streets — absolute scum.”
He later apologised and removed the post, describing himself as “anti-racist and anti-violence”, saying he had not intended to describe BLM protesters as scum.
Ant admits: “I do regret posting them. I could have worded them better. The points I wanted to make got taken out of context and I caused upset, which was never my intention.
“I could have blamed other people for exaggerating or misinterpreting what I said, but that, at best, would have only been half the story. Only one person put those posts together, and only one person pressed send: Me.”
After his controversial posts C4 parted ways with Ant, with the broadcaster issuing a statement that it had “become clear that our views and values are not aligned”.
‘I want to prove myself’
Ant now prefers to go for a run when he has something to get off his chest.
He says: “Those posts took maybe 30 seconds each to compose but led to months of hassle, so they’re something I steer clear of now.”
As stressful as it was at the time, Ant insists the media storm surrounding his tweets was a valuable lesson in failure.
It’s something he tries to instil in his children — 18-year-old son Oakley from his first marriage, plus Shyla, 13, Gabriel, 12, Priseis, four, and Bligh, three, who he shares with wife Emilie. And that means never giving them an easy ride.
It is why Ant is so enraged about PC schools banning competitive sports days in the name of fairness.
He rages: “I’m so against school sports days where there aren’t firsts, seconds, thirds and fourths. Where there aren’t winners and losers, and everybody gets a badge. It’s dehumanising.
“If you aren’t willing to commit to something where failure is a very real possibility then ultimately you’re neglecting yourself.” And when it comes to cancel culture, he has had enough.
He says: “Sometimes it feels as if we’re being tested. It’s like there are people just waiting for others to use the wrong word in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
He says the most important thing is to be true to your own beliefs — even when they are out of step with the accepted norm. But Ant isn’t about to shut up about what he believes any time soon.
He says it doesn’t matter “how amazing a sponsorship deal it is, or how big a TV platform. I’d be willing to lose everything in order to stay true to myself.” But he admits he feels a greater pressure than ever to conform — even though he made his name with his no-nonsense opinions.
The irony is that I became famous because I speak my mind, because I’m true to myself, but the longer I go on, and the higher I get, the greater the pressure has become for me to shut up and conform.
He says: “The irony is that I became famous because I speak my mind, because I’m true to myself, but the longer I go on, and the higher I get, the greater the pressure has become for me to shut up and conform. Work that one out.
“I know people who are afraid of expressing themselves because they won’t be able to put food on the table. It’s a career stopper. But that doesn’t rub with me. If you spend your whole time suppressing your voice, you’ll begin to lose sight of who you are.”
Since his split from Channel 4, Ant has thrown himself into the Australian version of SAS: Who Dares Wins, and has even branched out into fiction writing — this year publishing his first hit thriller, Cold Justice.
He is currently appearing around the UK in his sell-out Mind Over Muscle: Zero Negativity tour.
And he reckons the best is still to come — with a fresh start providing the opportunity to push himself even further.
He concludes: “Being sacked by SAS: Who Dares Wins wasn’t pleasant. Yet it has left me even more hungry to succeed. Because I want to prove myself, and in the process get everyone who has doubted me, or slated me, or walked away from me to realise what a mistake they made.
“‘F*** you’ is an amazing fuel.”
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