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Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, who ate McDonald's in Super Size Me, dies at 53

Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, who ate McDonald's in Super Size Me, dies at 53
Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, who ate McDonald's in Super Size Me, dies at 53


NEW YORK (AP) Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, an Oscar nominee whose most famous works have skewered the American food industry and who famously ate only at McDonalds for a month to illustrate the dangers of a diet fast food, died. He was 53 years old.

Spurlock died Thursday in New York from complications of cancer, according to a statement released Friday by his family.

It was a sad day as we said goodbye to my brother Morgan, Craig Spurlock, who worked with him on several projects, said in the release. Morgan gave so much through his art, his ideas and his generosity. The world has lost a true creative genius and a special man. I'm so proud to have worked with him.

Spurlock made a splash in 2004 with his groundbreaking Oscar-nominated film Super Size Me. The film chronicles Spurlock's adverse physical and psychological effects from eating only McDonald's food for 30 days. He gained about 25 pounds, noticed an increase in his cholesterol levels, and lost his libido.

FILE – Morgan Spurlock poses at the premiere of his film in Los Angeles
FILE – Morgan Spurlock poses at the Los Angeles premiere of his film “Super Size Me” Thursday evening, April 22, 2004, in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. Spurlock, an Oscar nominee who made American food and diet his life's work, eating only at McDonalds for a month to illustrate the dangers of a fast-food diet, has died. He was 53 years old. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)(PA)

Everything is bigger in America, he says in the film. We have the biggest cars, the biggest houses, the biggest businesses, the biggest food and finally: the biggest people.

In one scene, Spurlock showed the children a picture of George Washington and none recognized the founding father. But they all immediately recognized the Wendys and McDonalds mascots.

The film grossed more than $22 million on a $65,000 budget and preceded the release of Eric Schlosser's influential Fast Food Nation, which accused the industry of being bad for the environment and plagued by to work problems.

Spur income in 2019 with Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken! a sober look at an industry that processes 9 billion animals a year in America. He focused on two issues: chicken farmers stuck in a particular financial system and fast food chains' attempt to fool customers into thinking they are eating healthier.

We're living in an incredible moment in history from a consumer perspective, where consumers are starting to have more and more power, he told The Associated Press in 2019. It's not about return for shareholders. It's a question of feedback for consumers.

Spurlock was a gonzo filmmaker who leaned into the bizarre and ridiculous. His stylistic touches included vivid graphics and fun music, blending a Michael Moore-esque in-your-face camera style with his own sense of humor and pathos.

I wanted to be able to lean into the serious moments. I wanted to be able to breathe in moments of lightness. We want to give you permission to laugh where it's really hard to laugh, he told the AP.

After denouncing the fast food and chicken industries, there was an explosion in restaurants emphasizing freshness, artisanal methods, farm-to-table quality, and ethically sourced ingredients. But nutritionally, little has changed.

There's been this massive change and people say to me: so has food become healthier? And I say, “Well, the marketing certainly did it,” he said.

Not all of his work was about food. Spurlock has made documentaries about the boy band One Direction and the geeks and fanboys of Comic-Con. One of his films was about life behind bars in the Henrico County Jail, Virginia.

With the years 2008, Where is Osama Bin Laden? Spurlock embarked on a global search for the al-Qaeda leader who was killed in 2011. In POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, Spurlock tackled issues of product placement, marketing and advertising .

Being aware is half the battle, I think. Knowing literally at any time when you're being marketed is a good thing, Spurlock told AP at the time. Many people don't realize this. They can't see the forest because of the trees.

Super Size Me 2: Holy chicken! was set to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in 2017, but it was scrapped at the height of the #MeToo movement when Spurlock came forward to detail his own history of sexual misconduct.

He admitted that he had been accused of rape while he was a student and that he had settled a sexual harassment case with an assistant. He also admitted to cheating on numerous partners. I am part of the problem, he wrote.

For me, there was a moment of realization as a person who spoke the truth and made it a point to try to do the right thing by recognizing that I could do better in my own life. We should be able to admit we were wrong, he told the AP.

Spurlock grew up in Beckley, West Virginia. His mother was an English teacher who he remembered correcting his work with a red pen. He received a BFA in film from New York University in 1993.

He is survived by two sons Laken and Kallen; his mother Phyllis Spurlock; father Ben; brothers Craig and Barry; and his ex-wives Alexandra Jamieson and Sara Bernstein, the mothers of his children.


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