ARTS

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May 18, 2004

Would you like fries with that? Spurlock speaks

I'm always afraid before I meet someone in the film industry. This is because I want to be in the film industry so badly that I'm afraid I'll scream, "I love you sooooo much!" before beaning the filmmaker over the head with my unproduced screenplay.

I shouldn't have worried about meeting Morgan Spurlock, winner of the coveted Best Director prize at Sundance for his hot new documentary Super Size Me. No, Spurlock didn't read my screenplay (his loss) but he was incredibly gracious, kind, and funny. In my review of Super Size Me last week, I wrote, "Spurlock himself is the kind of guy you'd like to throw back a couple of beers with." No alcohol was served during the interview, but Spurlock did share a treat with his college interviewers—yummy faux-French fries, made out of marzipan, that were given to him as a present by his hotel.

Yes—despite the didactic nature of his documentary, Spurlock occasionally indulges in foods that aren't good for him (and I'm not just talking about marzipan). The question on the tip of everyone's tongue was if he had dined at a fast food restaurant since the completion of his wildly unhealthy experiment in Super Size Me. Surprisingly, Spurlock admitted to eating at the Tommy Burger, a childhood favorite. How about McDonald's? No one asked specifically, but it's difficult to imagine Spurlock—the Hamburglar's public enemy number one—stopping at the Golden Arches anytime soon.

In some interviews following the film's release, Spurlock has come across as just a tad self-congratulatory. McDonald's claims that his film had nothing to do with recent changes to their menu. Spurlock is right about one thing: The discontinuation of the Super Size option, after the release of a movie called Super Size Me, suggests a pretty strong causality. However, McDonald's had been planning on introducing healthier options for a while; just because Super Size Me offered a publicity-friendly time to do so does not mean the entire movement was spearheaded by Spurlock, as he occasionally seems to suggest. On the whole, though, Spurlock is pretty humble. His own name isn't even the most prominent feature on his business card—this distinction belongs to The Con, the production company behind Super Size Me.

I was too embarrassed to ask him if he was still with his girlfriend from the movie, Alexandra (I hope so), but I did ask about the detox diet she devised for him to reverse the effects of fast food on his body. It wasn't a very original question; plenty have already asked him about that diet and requested that Alex publish it. (For the record, the diet was specifically tailored for Spurlock, so we won't be seeing any mass-marketing efforts anytime soon.)

It turns out Alexandra was one of the few helpful New Yorkers he encountered. Spurlock explained that one of the most difficult parts of filming was the suspicious nature of "the very media-savvy, media-paranoid" New York City. Of course, the media whores were nothing compared to the detrimental effects of fast food on Spurlock's body. One complaint he elaborated upon in the interview—only briefly mentioned in the film—was how dumb he felt during his McDiet.

Today, Spurlock is mentally sharp, trim, and clearly relishing his moment in the spotlight. However, I couldn't help but ask about his past (he directed music videos and TV commercials) and his future (he'd like to do a scripted film one day). He kept mentioning his upcoming college tour—apparently, if we want to see him at the U of C, we need to go to www.supersizeme.com and contact his agent.

According to Spurlock, the tour is part of his ongoing commitment to the nutritional health of America. While this very well may be the case, I couldn't help but suspect it is more about his ongoing commitment to his career—and one way to make sure Super Size Me stays in the headlines a little longer. Whatever. As promotional tools go, there are far more obnoxious methods than pseudo-academic forums. Besides, I doubt he's holding his breath for a Happy Meal tie-in.

So what (or who) will be the target of Spurlock's next documentary? Big Tobacco is passé, thanks to The Insider (and the long-gestating adaptation of John Grisham's The Runaway Jury). The Bush family will be thoroughly—and appropriately—attacked by Michael Moore in the upcoming Fahrenheit 911, and the Record Industry of America has taken enough grief for suing file-sharing 12-year-olds. No worries. Hollywood is a big, ruthless corporation that's simply begging to be the subject of an exposé. And if Spurlock fears that a documentary of this nature will jeopardize his sky-rocketing career, I have a Plan B: There's got to be something suspect in those marzipan French fries he got from the Four Seasons. And action!