Spurlock in Where in the World Is Osama bin LadenCourtesy of Non-linear films
When Super Size Me director Morgan Spurlock’s wife became pregnant with their first son, Spurlock did what any nervous father-to-be would do: He hopped on a plane to the Middle East and spent the next seven months attempting to track down Osama bin Laden. The resulting film — Where In the World Is Osama Bin Laden — hits theaters this weekend, and it’s already inspiring a critical hailstorm, with many lauding Spurlock’s humanizing portrayal of regular Middle Eastern folk, and others calling him a blowhard for his hammy approach. Spurlock sat down with Vulture to discuss the making of the film, the people who criticize his work, and the impressive wife who puts up with it all.
Touring the Middle East is an unusual way to cope with parental anxiety. Most people just read What to Expect When You’re Expecting.
[Laughs] That’s what my wife, Alex, suggested. She said, “Maybe you should just stay here and read this book.”
Though there are a lot of differences between this film and Super Size Me, in some ways you’re dealing with a similar demographic — the poor and the undereducated.
That is true, but not all the hijackers on 9/11 were poor. It’s also dependent upon how Al Qaeda manipulates religious teachings to lure people in. I went over there expecting that people wouldn’t want to talk to us, that people would say, “Oh, it’s one of you Americans, we hate you.” That’s really not the case. People really drew a distinction between their vision of America, what it stood for and who its people are, and their dislike of the American government. America is seen as an aggressor that invades other countries and drains them of resources, that eradicates the entire religion of Islam. That’s a real PR nightmare as we move forward.
And in the end, you did not find Osama bin Laden.
We did not. New York Magazine can let the cat out of the bag.
How would you respond to the people who are criticizing you for presenting yourself as this innocent American?
Well, it was my first time in the Middle East. Ninety-nine percent of us are never going to go to the places I went to in this film. I think there’s a real honesty that comes out of a situation in meeting those people as just another guy. I don’t think that it’s fake: It’s different there, and you are a fish out of water. People can say whatever they want, but I don’t think that’s a situation in which most people would magically feel comfortable.
Your wife seems pretty accepting of all this. Were there any marital disputes that wound up on the cutting-room floor?
My wife is the most patient woman on the planet. She’s incredibly supportive, and I am still making it up to her. There were times when she was very upset, and it was hard. She was hormonal from the pregnancy, and here’s her husband off in Afghanistan and other dangerous places.
I bet she was longing for the days when all you did was eat Big Macs.
[Laughs] Oh, the salad days!
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