“You’re probably going to find out about it anyway so here’s a little preemptive truth-telling: There’s no happy ending.” Those haunting words are spoken by Anthony Bourdain in the official trailer for “Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain.“
Scheduled for release in theaters Friday, July 16, the documentary is promoted as “an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at how an anonymous chef became a world-renowned cultural icon.”
Oscar-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville uses interviews and clips to interpret the life of the celebrity chef, author, foodie, and adventurous world-traveler.
Anthony Bourdain committed suicide on June 8, 2018 at the age 61 while working on his CNN series, “Parts Unknown,” shocking people all over the world. He was survived by a young daughter with ex-wife Ottavia Busia and had been in a relationship with Italian actress-director Asia Argento.
I wrote about it at the time. Bourdain seemed to have the perfect job, if not the perfect life, and his death had a global impact beyond the food and travel world. He illuminated his food and travel experiences, and was a gifted listener who could soulfully portray his surroundings. We felt we could could trust him.
And despite his keen mind, creative talents, philosophical bent and privileged celebrity we knew he was a reformed bad boy with a grin, who smoked too much and drank too much, fought substance abuse and took risks.
Bourdain was never just a foodie or a tourist — he seemed the ultimate traveler with the ultimate job. Food may have been what started his travels, but more and more he opened his own mind, and ours, to the people and places where he ate.
After rising to prominence with his tell-all book Kitchen Confidential in 2000, his TV shows “Parts Unknown” and the Travel Channel’s “No Reservations” made him famous.
He defined what a real traveler is, not just because he visited places where most of us had not yet been and probably would never venture to, but because he was open and authentic: “Tony”— the way we hoped we could be when maybe we got where we longed to travel
He could quip about noodles with President Obama over a beer in Viet Nam and share questionable stews with villagers in a mud hut in Africa, and hold his own. He dined on the finest cuisine in the world in the fanciest places, schmoozing with star chefs, but he loved street food in back alleys, real people and meat on a stick.
He wasn’t always comfortable or safe: He boiled eggs in volcanic sulpher springs, and wrestled with greasy tough guys in Eastern Europe, and ate fermented shark, and dived in murky waters, and didn’t always enjoy it and sometimes enjoyed it more than he thought he would.
And maybe because of it we traveled to places we didn’t plan on, and did things we didn’t think we could do and certainly ate and drank things we might not have tried.
He helped us all become better, more open observers.
Bourdain and his crew were trapped in Beirut in July 2006, during a war in Lebanon that lasted just 32-seconds. The unexpected show that came out of that experience was nominated for an Emmy, and seemed life-changing.
“I like food. It was the center of my life for thirty years and I’ll always look at the world through that prism, but it is not the only thing,” he said after.
In 2013, Peabody Award judges honored his CNN series “Parts Unknown” for as they said, “expanding our palates and horizons in equal measure.”
“If I am an advocate for anything, it is to move,” he said. “As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food. It’s a plus for everybody.”
Neville co-produced the Bourdain film with Cait Rogers. Both won an Oscar for Best Documentary Features, for “20 Feet From Stardom,” about backup singers. Neville’s credits also include “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” a 2018 documentary about Fred Rogers – “Mister Rogers.”
Focus Features is distributing it, and it’s being released at the Tribeca and Nantucket film festivals this month.