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Morgan Spurlock, Documentarian Of ‘Super Size Me,’ Dies At 53

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Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, an Oscar nominee renowned for his critiques of America’s food industry, has passed away at 53. Spurlock, who famously ate only McDonald’s for a month to highlight the dangers of a fast-food diet, died Thursday in New York from cancer complications, according to a statement from his family issued on Friday.

Spurlock gained significant attention in 2004 with his groundbreaking film “Super Size Me,” which was nominated for an Academy Award. The film detailed the severe physical and psychological impacts of consuming only McDonald’s food for 30 days. During this period, Spurlock gained about 25 pounds, experienced a significant increase in cholesterol levels, and saw a decrease in his sex drive.

One notable scene from the film showed children unable to recognize a photo of George Washington, yet immediately identifying the mascots of Wendy’s and McDonald’s. “Super Size Me” grossed over $22 million on a $65,000 budget and preceded Eric Schlosser’s influential book “Fast Food Nation,” which critiqued the fast-food industry’s environmental and labor practices.

In 2019, Spurlock released “Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!,” which took a critical look at the chicken industry in America, which processes 9 billion animals annually. The film highlighted the financial struggles of chicken farmers and the deceptive marketing tactics of fast-food chains claiming to offer healthier options.

Spurlock was known for his gonzo-style filmmaking, often embracing the bizarre and ridiculous. His films featured zippy graphics, amusing music, and a blend of humor and pathos, reminiscent of Michael Moore’s confrontational style but with Spurlock’s unique touch.

Following his exposés on the fast-food and chicken industries, there was a surge in restaurants emphasizing freshness, artisanal methods, farm-to-table practices, and ethically sourced ingredients. However, Spurlock noted that nutritional standards had not significantly improved.

Spurlock’s body of work extended beyond food-related documentaries. He made films about the boy band One Direction, the subcultures at Comic-Con, and life behind bars at the Henrico County Jail in Virginia. In 2008’s “Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?,” Spurlock embarked on a global quest to find the al-Qaida leader, who was eventually killed in 2011. “POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” explored the realms of product placement, marketing, and advertising.

Born in Beckley, West Virginia, Spurlock was raised by his mother, an English teacher known for correcting his work with a red pen. He graduated with a BFA in film from New York University in 1993. Spurlock is survived by his two sons, Laken and Kallen; his mother, Phyllis Spurlock; his father, Ben; his brothers, Craig and Barry; and his former spouses, Alexandra Jamieson and Sara Bernstein, the mothers of his children.

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