I’m still not sure who the real Morgan Spurlock is, or what makes him tick. I do know that he’s one of the most congenial, easygoing people I’ve ever met on the beat; the sort of guy you’d love to head down to the corner bar with and throw back a couple of shots while evaluating the latest trends in movies and politics.
He’s been called a ham, a grandstander and a showoff, but Morgan Spurlock is also smart, clever and fearless, often putting his own tall lanky body at risk in service of his art.
Just what that art is, however, is open to debate. Is he a muckraking filmmaker in search of the truth, a la “Super Size Me”; the celebrutant host of the anthology TV reality series “30 Days”; or is he merely a pandering huckster chasing a buck instead of answers?
After sitting down with him for 15 minutes to discus his latest incarnation – as a journalistic Rambo hunting for the world’s most wanted man in “Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?” – I’m still not sure who the real Morgan Spurlock is, or what makes him tick.
I do know that he’s one of the most congenial, easygoing people I’ve ever met on the beat; the sort of guy you’d love to head down to the corner bar with and throw back a couple of shots while evaluating the latest trends in movies and politics.
You can ask the guy anything and he’ll answer it with neither hesitation nor a flinch of his steel-blue eyes. That stands even when you drop the M words, Michael Moore, the guy to whom Spurlock – to his chagrin – is most often compared.
He speaks nicely of his more-famous peer, but you sense Spurlock wants to be more than Moore, carving out his own niche.
Like he did in his Oscar-nominated hit, “Super Size Me” – in which he ate nothing but fast food for 30 days – Spurlock again puts his life at risk seeking out the elusive al-Qaida leader.
For five months, Spurlock and his production assistants scoured the globe, chatting up everyday Muslims, asking them whether they subscribe to the vitriolic rants of bin Laden.
Their answers may not surprise you, but their willingness to open up so candidly on camera will. Like me, they were no doubt engaged by the charm and wit lurking behind Spurlock’s deceptively sinister red Fu Manchu.
But how does he think he would be received if he’d actually found bin Laden?
“I’m not sure,” Spurlock said. “But I would have loved to have asked him ‘how do we fix this?’ and ‘where does this all end?’”
“This” meaning terrorism, a subject that Spurlock says has intrigued him since the transplanted New Yorker experienced the horrific events of Sept. 11. But while most ask ‘why did it happen,’ Spurlock is more interested in how do we make it stop, especially now that he’s recently become a father.
“It could have been very easy for us to come in and make a liberal, drum-beating, anti-Bush movie,” Spurlock said. “I really wanted to make a film that was a little more big-picture. Something that didn’t look at the past seven years but looked at the last 20 years.”
Spurlock said what most surprised him was the ease with which tempers could be calmed simply by improving educational opportunities and eliminating poverty and dictatorial political leaders. “Those are things that could be changed,” he said with his typical enthusiasm.
That change might well come easier than reversing a box office climate in which Americans have shunned movies about world politics. That’s where Spurlock, the celebrity and name product, comes in.
He’s counting on his millions of fans to flock to the picture. But what is it that draws them to him?
“I think it’s because I’m trying to take you on a journey vicariously,” Spurlock said. “I also hope that I’m making a movie from the Mary Poppins school of filmmaking, which is a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.”
And if the subject of hunting for bin Laden doesn’t make your feet tingle, fans need only wait until June 3 to satisfy their Spurlock fix. That’s when his popular FX series “30 Days” returns.
The show, which takes an average person and inserts them in a completely foreign climate for 30 days (most famously the fundamentalist Christian who spent a month as a Muslim), is entering its third season and Spurlock sees no end of possible subjects.
“Every time we open up the newspaper we find new great things to talk about,” Spurlock said. “This year I go to live on a Navajo reservation for 30 days and I work as a coal miner in my native West Virginia, a great experience, and we deal with some great topics like gay parenting, gun control, animal rights, disabilities.”
Tackling such hot-button topics is what Spurlock is all about. And it’s that love of risk that initially drew him to anti-American hotbeds like Egypt, Morocco and Pakistan in search of both bin Laden and the truth about the world’s vast and disparate Islamic population.
He found the latter, but the former eluded him, just like bin Laden has eluded detection of the allied forces for seven years.
“I question how much we’re really looking for him,” Spurlock said. “I believe we have ... covert people who are aggressively trying to solicit information, but you never know. You’re chances (of finding him) are always going to be 50-50.”