Former Made in Chelsea star Spencer Matthews is set to appear in a Disney+ film documenting his attempts to recover his brother’s body from Mount Everest.
The TV personality, 34, made ‘Finding Michael’ with the support of 14 Peaks mountaineer Nims Purja and TV presenter and adventurer Bear Grylls. It comes after his brother went missing on the world’s tallest mountain more than 23 years ago just hours after becoming the youngest Briton to summit it.
But viewers hoping to watch Matthews’s journey to the Nepalese peak on its release date were left disappointed. While the film was scheduled to go live on Friday (3 March), it was not immediately released on the platform.
The last-minute nature of the delay reportedly left the star “furious”. He had done a major publicity drive ahead of the release, including a TV and radio blitz when the launch was due to take place.
So, why did Disney delay the film’s release - and has it now arrived on the streaming platform?
What is ‘Finding Michael’ about?
The documentary Spencer Matthews has made follows his journey to Mount Everest, which is called Sagarmāthā in Nepalese, to recover the body of his older brother who is believed to have died on the peak.
Michael Matthews became the youngest person from the UK to climb the world’s highest peak in 1999 at the age of just 22-years-old. But on the descent from the summit, he disappeared and was presumed dead.
The 14 mountains on earth that stand over 8,000-metres’ tall are particularly hazardous to climb given there is not enough oxygen to support life at that altitude and the peaks are often exposed to severe weather conditions. Everest itself has claimed hundreds of climbers’ lives, with more than 200 of the estimated 310 people to have died still thought to be on the mountain.
Twenty years after his brother Michael’s disappearance, Spencer Matthews received a photograph of a body on the mountain from a climber who thought it could be Michael. Over the next two years, Matthews embarked on a hazardous journey to Nepal to see if he could recover his brother from the mountain.
Why has ‘Finding Michael’ been delayed?
The documentary was due to go out on Friday (3 March) - just two days before what would have been Michael Matthews’s 46th birthday. But Disney executives pulled the plug at the last minute, with the Mirror reporting they had done so because the film included footage of multiple dead bodies frozen on the mountain. Work is now understood to be underway to re-edit the film so that viewers will not see the corpses.
The film had been given a 12+ rating by Disney - a lower age limit than the 15-rating given to some documentaries dealing with death on Everest, like Netflix’s 2015 feature ‘Sherpa’ but in line with other films dealing with the difficult subject matter, like the BBC’s ‘The Last Mountain’. Disney had also included a warning that the film “contains scenes that may be disturbing to some viewers” adding: “Viewer discretion advised.”
In a statement released on Saturday (4 March), Disney said: “We’re sorry that the debut date for Finding Michael has shifted on Disney+. We will let you know as soon as we have new timings for its launch. This will be in the near future. Thanks for your patience.”
Matthews posted a separate statement on his Instagram account, telling fans that the launch date “has shifted”. He said: "Apologies to everyone trying to view Finding Michael on Disney Plus. The debut date has shifted and we’ll update you as soon as we have the timings. This will be in the near future. Thank you all for your support."
Spencer Matthews ‘furious’ with documentary delay
The Mirror said it was told by sources that Spencer Matthews was infuriated by the last-minute nature of Disney’s decision.
One told the newspaper that Disney executives had decided the footage of bodies on the mountain “might be deemed insensitive”. They added: "The fact this was only raised with hours to go before the release – and [after] public screenings – is astonishing. So the premiere date was just dropped. Meanwhile, Spencer is doing interviews in which he has to fudge the date.
“He was absolutely furious and there have been some very heated conversations this week. This has been two years of Spencer’s life and it isn’t just a documentary for him – it’s his brother.”
Has Finding Michael been released?
After days of radio silence, Disney+ finally put Finding Michael up on its platform this week. It appeared for viewers on Tuesday (7 March).
No official reason has been given for the delay, but Spencer Matthews told his followers about the release through social media. He said: "Thank you so much for your patience and overwhelming support. Really proud to be sharing Michael's story with you all...".