TIFF ’17: Spurlock tackles fast food industry in “Super Size Me” sequel

Inspiration can come from anywhere. For Morgan Spurlock, the inspiration for his feature Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken! came from an email he received from an ad agency, asking if the Super Size ...
September 12, 2017

Inspiration can come from anywhere.

For Morgan Spurlock, the inspiration for his feature Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken! came from an email he received from an ad agency, asking if the Super Size Me director would be interested in starring in an ad for a popular fast food restaurant.

The premise of the spot would have had Spurlock trying to expose the fast food company, only to find out that the food is actually healthy.

Naturally, the director was suspicious of the language being used in the fast food industry.

“There is something happening behind the curtain that we don’t know about,” he tells realscreen. 

The request was a springboard for Spurlock to tell a new story about the fast food industry.

Spurlock first delved into the food industry over a decade ago in his 2004 Oscar-nominated doc, Super Size Me — a gastronomic social experiment in which the director ate nothing but McDonald’s for an entire month. He returns 13 years later with the sequel Holy Chicken! which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 8.

For the sequel, Spurlock decided he would open his own fast food restaurant to learn more about the multibillion-dollar industry. Unlike the original, which was heavily focused on Spurlock, the director wanted to tell a story about the fast food industry from the corporate space.

But ideas are often far easier to come up with than execute, the director discovered.

Although Spurlock is a self-described hillbilly from West Virgina, he didn’t know anything about raising poultry, which was part of his plan in opening his own fast food joint. During his pursuit to become a farmer, Spurlock and his production team uncovered issues in the poultry industry, including terrible labor and compensation practices.

Unearthing these types of unpleasantness added another layer of complexity to filming the doc.

In his quest to find out how to raise chickens, Spurlock encountered various farmers who were afraid to speak out about the industry or be a part of the film.

“A lot of chicken farmers said ‘I would love to help you, but I can’t do this. I can’t be in this movie. I can’t have people seeing me help you – my career would be over.’ People were really afraid,” he says.

It wasn’t only the farmers who were afraid to be seen with Spurlock. Corporate entities ranging from research and development to ad agencies were afraid that being part of the project could hurt their bottom line with their fast food clients.

Spurlock says while the theme of his 2004 film was more about personal responsibility, Holy Chicken! is more about corporate responsibility.

But a constant throughout both docs is the knowledge that consumers have the power of choice when it comes to what they buy, and that they have the ability to influence their political leaders to make a positive change in the food industry.

“We can’t be passive consumers anymore,” he says.

All this talk about chicken could come to roost for Spurlock who, according to Deadline, is in talks with YouTube Red to acquire the doc for $US3.5 million.

“There are interested parties that we can neither confirm or deny who are circling the exciting chicken revolution that we are igniting. Hopefully, we will have some good news soon,” Spurlock says.


About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.