It’s hard to believe its been fifteen years since Morgan Spurlock attempted to eat nothing but McDonald’s for a month in a reckless bid to expose the ills of the fast-food industry.
In fact, while his cinematic stunt was dangerously unhealthy, 2004’s Super Size Me was also incredibly impactful — so much so that it sent burger buyers running for the health store and fast-food franchises frenzied into damage control. Hell, it even forced McDonald’s to abandon their “super-sizing” policy (although the burger empire denies it was due to Spurlock’s blockbuster documentary).
Certainly, times have changed — restaurant franchises like McDonald’s now emphatically boast “healthy” and “socially-responsible” products, but just how has fast-food actually improved since Spurlock got super-sized? Well, in a long-awaited sequel, Spurlock returns to cast a spotlight on the industry – this time from the inside out. Instead of playing an overindulgent consumer of cheeseburgers however, Spurlock goes behind the scenes and attempts to open his own franchise called Holy Chicken!
You may have to wait until Sept. 9th to see how Spurlock’s Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken! exposes another angle on fast-food when it screens as a special event at Eau Claire Market Cinemas, but we caught Spurlock in advance to talk about the long-awaited sequel, the super-sized success of his first film and whether the documentary filmmaker may actually be thinking about getting into the restaurant business.
Q: How does this sequel differ from the first Super Size Me from 2004?
A: A lot has changed in the world. A lot has changed in how we look at food; a lot has changed in the industry and I think that just from a storytelling standpoint, I’m in a different place. To kind of revisit this now is interesting and exciting. Now I’ve got two kids — it’s a much more relevant time for me to be diving into this as a sequel.
Q: And I’m sure you are in a different place. I mean, you couldn’t scarf down burgers for 30 days.
A: (Laughs) My body would not handle it.
Q: So how was your mandate different with this sequel?
A: We really wanted it to be from an industry point of view. If you look at the first film, Super Size Me is a great look at the food industry told from a consumer perspective. What we wanted Super Size Me 2 to represent was to have an industry perspective: how does the industry view consumers, how does it almost view us as commodities, how does it view their role in what they do? I think the film does a great job in telling that story.
Q: Where did the idea come from to start up a pop-up chicken shop?
A: Chickens are the most farmed animal on the planet (and) part of the premise is we go in to tell this story and go to the farm and it’s a large deep dive into this world. So for me it was: how do we tell this story that’s most effective? We consume so much chicken as people; it is a part of our daily lives so I thought it was something — in the same way McDonald’s is something — everybody can relate to and everybody utilizes and has some level of interaction with. It’s almost the same with chicken.
Q: With your films and your TV series like 30 Days or Inside Man, you usually highlight many aspects of an industry from an insider’s perspective. Pardon the pun, but what is the one take-away here in Holy Chicken?
A: Buyer beware! (Laughs) It’s almost a similar message to the first film, but I think that sometimes when it comes to the choices we make or what we’re being sold we don’t see the forest for the trees. We get to a position of trust when it comes to the companies we buy things from (and) sometimes having a large dose of honesty somewhere along the way is a good cure-all.
Q: There was a rumour that you may actually start Holy Chicken! as a real restaurant chain – any truth?
A: You’ll have to wait and see … It was remarkable what happened once the pop-up opened; I think once people come and see the film, they’ll have a better understanding of why that is but time will tell. Right now the focus is just on getting people in to see this movie.
(Photo courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films.)
Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken! screens Sept. 9 at Cineplex Odeon Eau Claire Market Cinema. It will also be released nationwide Sept. 13 on digital and VOD.
Steve Gow has spent a good amount of his time conducting interviews for a variety of publications as well as on television. Most notably, he was a film reporter for The Movie Network/HBO Canada and his written stories that were regularly featured in Calgary’s former “go-to guide” FFWD weekly, as well as Metro, Toronto Star and more.