The film director talks about Osama bin Laden, geek love and staying off camera in his latest project.
Morgan Spurlock celebrates Comic-Con in his latest film
When Osama bin Laden was fatally captured earlier this year, it was hailed as a triumph for US intelligence and military precision. The assault on his compound in Abbottabad may have been textbook in terms of stealth and "shoot first, ask questions later", but the affair could have been settled years earlier, had only the Pentagon paid attention to one US documentary maker.
"People threw it under the bus and ripped it apart," says Morgan Spurlock of his critically panned 2008 documentary Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden?, in which he went on the hunt for America's Most Wanted. "But when they found him in Pakistan everyone started calling and saying: 'Oh my God, you were right'. At one point, near Islamabad, we were probably within 15 miles of where he was."
In any case, Spurlock doesn't appear bitter, and Where in the World was a mere blip in the increasing portfolio of work for the guy who only burst on to the scene in 2004, shoving more McDonald's fries down his throat than is medically advisable for the Academy Award-nominated Super Size Me. He's bringing his latest documentary, Comic-Con IV: A Fan's Hope, to the Doha Tribeca Film Festival for its regional premiere tomorrow. And followers of Spurlock will notice one major difference to his other films: he's not in it.
"I'm not in one frame. So if you hated every movie I did up till now, you'll love this one," he laughs.
A behind-the-scenes look at the world's largest comic book convention, Comic Con IV: A Fan's Hope follows the journey of several devoted followers on this annual pilgrimage of geekdom in San Diego. The spark for such a documentary came from the comic book legend Stan Lee, who Spurlock - a self-confessed geek - met when he visited Comic-Con for the first time in 2010. "When I shook Stan Lee's hand, I thanked him for helping me become who I am today. He looked at me, smiled that Stan Lee smile, and said: "You know what, Morgan? We should make a movie together. We should make a documentary about Comic-Con."
And so an idea was born, and Spurlock and Lee assembled a "Geek Dream Team" that includes the Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Wheldon, the fanboy king Harry Knowles and Thomas Tull, the founder of Legendary Pictures, to help tell the story. But although he confesses that Comic-Con plays to everything that shaped his life ("every bit of geekiness, nerdiness, weirdness and the things that made me not have a girlfriend for so many years"), Spurlock decided that while his other documentaries feature him in the starring role as the cheery (and handlebar mustachioed) protagonist, this was the right time to remain behind the camera.
"In the end, it all came back to the fans," says Spurlock. "As much as it's personal to me, it's so much more personal to the people we followed in this film. It's better to tell the story of this place through them and their relationship to it than it is to [explore] my relationship to comics."
With the stories he gathered from Comic-Con, which attracts some 140,000 people each summer to the San Diego Convention Centre, Spurlock says he could fill several sequels. "It could be an ongoing saga - that's part of what the title of the film makes fun of. It's also one of those things you set up to make not just sequels, but prequels."
But could Spurlock make a prequel to the documentary that, playing on its Star Wars reference, ultimately ends up disappointing his previous fan base?
"Only if all the characters were animated."
- Comic-Con IV: A Fan's Hope screens on Friday at 5.45pm at the Katara Opera House's Drama Theatre in Doha. The film will be followed by a Doha Talks session with Morgan Spurlock
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