Spurlock Paid Price for Super-Sizing Himself
Morgan Spurlock likes meat. How else could he possibly entertain the notion of living on an all-McDonald's diet for a nauseating 30 days? That's the raison d'eating for Super Size Me, an alternately disturbing and entertaining new documentary that opens here Friday (May 7).
In the movie, the Manhattan-based filmmaker swears off all foods not prepared under the golden arches. The ground rules were that he had to eventually eat every item on the menu at least once, and he had to assent whenever he was asked if he wanted to Super Size an order. His body paid a heavy price; aside from liver ailments, headaches, sexual dysfunction, and digestive problems, he gained almost 25 pounds in the one-month experiment that saw him circle the U.S.
"I've finally lost all the weight," Spurlock says in a call from Toronto, where his film has just played at the Hot Docs festival that ended May 2. "It took me five months to lose the first 20 pounds, and longer to lose the last four-and-a-half. One doctor told me, 'Now that you've gained this much weight, you've got all these fat cells that wanna do what fat cells do, which is hang around and watch TV.'"
And go to McDonald's. The 33-year-old American director, originally from West Virginia, didn't choose the Big Mac for arbitrary reasons. He figured the world's most pervasive fast-food corporation is the perfect symbol of a system so powerful that it's able to get us to pay for the privilege of killing ourselves.
"It's an icon. A symbol, known absolutely everywhere, of American culture and all we value: which is to make money over everything else."
Fortunately, his vegan girlfriend, Alex, seen in the film, helped him get back on the path to healthy living.
"I really watch what I eat now, and I exercise like crazy. I have to. She cleaned me up as much as possible, and then I went back to my love affair with swine." Now he's working on a spinoff TV series called Thirty Days, in which he'll confront other bogeymen for a month at a time. A large part of Super Size's appeal is that Spurlock comes across as a relatively agenda-free everydude battling a distant corporate giant.
"You go on a journey with a guy who is pretty much just who I happen to be: someone who had a simple idea about how to have an entertaining examination of obesity in America and of the fast-food culture that has permeated our lives. What was going to happen on the journey, I had no idea. Three different doctors told me nothing was going to happen; that I would gain some weight and maybe my cholesterol would go up a bit. Nobody expected results this extreme."
Or amusing. The no-budget film--hey, this was one movie that really was mostly catering--was a hit at this year's Sundance, where it picked up a distribution deal (for an impressive US$2 million) and a buttload of solid press.
"Funny thing is, even though McDonald's never returned my calls, they announced that they were phasing out their Super Sizes about two months after we came out. Was that a coincidence? You tell me."