In his last documentary Super Size Me, Oscar-nominated producer/writer/director Morgan Spurlock took on McDonald’s, living on a diet of the franchise’s food for 30 days.
Now he faces an even more lethal opponent – Al Qaeda, in his new movie Where in the World is Osama bin Laden? With no military experience, he sets off to do what the CIA, FBI and US military have failed to do: find the world’s most wanted man.
Q: When did you come up with this idea?:
Morgan Spurlock: It was 2005 when we started to talk about it. Bush was in his second term and Osama had released a new tape somewhere around there. Suddenly he was out there on the airwaves again and people were saying, where is this guy? Why haven't we found him? Why haven't we brought him to justice? Where in the world is Osama bin Laden? I was like, that's a great question. We should think about doing that as a movie, and start talking about making that happen. It was spring of 2006 where we got a little bit of money for pre-production. About two months after that we found out Alex (he’s wife) was pregnant and we took a little pause, and I asked myself should I be doing this movie? Is this the smartest thing to be doing right now? She and I talked for about a week. She said why do you want to make this movie? It was around that time where it began to shift focus for me. It wasn't about Where is Osama bin Laden and what kind of world creates OBL, but what kind of world am I about to bring a child into? It became a much more personal movie for me at that point, which ultimately for me makes the movie better.
Q: More than Super Size Me?
A: It's a much more personal movie than Super Size Me. In Super Size Me there was a lot of personal information that was shared when Alex started talking about our sex life. But in terms of it being personal and how (the movie) affected me, it was much more personal, emotional, life-changing journey.
Q: When you were with the military guys in Afghanistan, what did they say about the war on terror and not catching Osama?:
A: These guys that were there on the ground, they're doing their job day in and day out. They're job right now is to fight the Taliban and stop the insurgency. Those guys aren't about to search for Osama bin Laden. There are guys in the 10th mountain division who are over on the further side of Afghanistan who are basically patrolling that border but nobody's going into the tribal area to look for him. The idea is that this guy is not that important. He's in an area where he's not going to cause much trouble. He's cornered in this little tribal area. As you travel around, you see his influence, his ideology; it's like the guy's everywhere and nowhere. You can see Osama's influence in every country I traveled to.
Q: Was there one place where you felt most fearful?
A: When we were embedded with the military, it's frightening because these guys are putting their lives on the line every day. Something catastrophic can happen to them the minute they roll out of the gate. Sometimes even before that. The base where we were staying there was a rocket attack, a mortar attack, on that base the week before we got there. We roll out with these guys and we're out interviewing people in the village and people start yelling, and (the military guys) say, ‘We gotta go,’ so we start running out of there because (the same day) there'd been a Taliban ambush on the governor's convoy. You see the Taliban guy get shot in the film. They take him away. Another day, we're rolling along and they get a call that we have to get out of the way because they've discovered an IED about a kilometer away from us on the path, so they divert us back to the base while the explosive experts go on ahead to detonate the bomb. There are scary things that can happen out there all the time. Your heart's in your throat a lot, (even though) you're riding around with them and feel safe because these guys were protecting us.
Q: Did you feel like an American Michael Palin?
A: [he laughs] I’m a massive Monty Python fan. Anytime I can be put in the same sentence as somebody from Monty Python it makes my day.