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Morgan Spurlock Talks Idols, Comic-Con and '50 Documentaries to See Before You Die'

by Maggie Furlong, posted Aug 9th 2011 9:00AM
Morgan SpurlockEver since his first documentary, 'Super Size Me,' swept the festival circuit and got nominated for an Academy Award, Morgan Spurlock has made a name for himself by telling it like it is.

That quality alone makes him the perfect host for Current TV's five-part series, '50 Documentaries to See Before You Die' (Tuesdays, 9PM ET), featuring commentary from some of the biggest names in the business. Part 2, airing tonight, counts down from #40-31, including 'March of the Penguins' and 'Jesus Camp,' but did Spurlock's favorite make the cut?

We caught up with the opinionated filmmaker to get his own take on Current's list (he's just hosting, and had no part in the actual selection or ranking) and what his personal favorite documentary is.

He also dished about his own filmmaking idols, his much talked about Comic-Con documentary and what's next on his to-do list. Keep reading for more and tell us: Which documentaries do you recommend people see before they die?

'50 Documentaries to See Before You Die' -- honestly, how do you narrow it down?
Well luckily I didn't have to do the narrowing, so it wasn't all on my shoulders. If it was up to me, it'd be like, "5,000 documentaries to see before you die!" [Laughs] Current did a great job of putting together this amazing panel of experts -- people from the International Documentary Association, professors, authors, people who come from the filed -- they basically voted what the films were and these were the top 50.

In your very humble opinion, what's the biggest miss? One that should be on the list, but didn't make the cut?
You know, one of my favorite movies of all time is a film by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky called 'Brother's Keeper.' When I was in film school, I'd just transferred to NYU from Southern Cal and I'd just started watching docs as part of a film class I had, and I literally fell in love with documentaries. I actually saw that movie in a movie theater, and I was so blown away by how smart and powerful and beautiful that movie was, and the way it twisted and turned just like some sort of dramatic thriller would ... it was a mind-blowing movie. So, for me, that's probably the one I was most shocked wasn't on the list.

[Editor's note: Spurlock saying this might've changed some minds on the committee -- rumor has it 'Brother's Keeper' might be featured this week afterall.]

Has there been a moment in the past couple of years where you've been able to step back and say, "Damn, I wish I'd thought of that" about a documentary?
Oh man, I think about movies all the time, like I wish I'd thought of that. Whether it's an experiential movie or something that was just a good idea, there's projects all the time where I'm like, "That's a very good idea." I meet people all the time who say that they heard about 'Super Size Me' when we were at Sundance and they were like, "I had that idea literally a month before I heard about your movie!" I'm a real believer that there's no original ideas. The minute you have an idea, there's five other people that have the idea and then it's a race to see who can get it done first. You've gotta have the wherewithal and the potential to make it happen.

What's next for you?
We're finishing a movie all about San Diego Comic-Con, which is the super pop culture comic book convention that happens every July in San Diego. We filmed it last year in San Diego. It's a film that I directed, that we produced with Thomas Tull, the CEO of Legendary Pictures, with Stan Lee, with Joss Whedon, with Harry Knowles ... it's like this little geek dream team. We're in the home stretch of finishing that movie right now.

So were you there for the stabbing?
Yes! Last year was the stabbing in the eye ... the person got stabbed in the eye! You can't shoot everything, and we had a massive crew -- we had 26 cameras that were rolling at any given time, and we literally had four days to shoot the whole movie. So we were there shooting, and we made a decision that day: it was the 'Resident Evil' panel and I was like, "You know what? We don't need to shoot the 'Resident Evil' panel," and sure enough, that's the panel somebody gets stabbed in the eye. That could've been my Rolling Stone moment! We could've been right there.

But those are the moments you can't plan for ...
That's right. We got such a wealth of riches from last year's Comic-Con in the film. It's phenomenal.

Even with your success, do you still have a filmmaking guru?
There are so many people that I look at like that. In the doc world, I love Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky ... I love those guys as filmmakers. Steve James is an idol of mine -- he is one of the most humble and gifted filmmakers and people you'll ever meet in your life. Then in the scripted world, I want to have a career like Ang Lee or Scorsese. I want to be able to make very different movies, and jump back and forth between docs and narrative movies, and be able to make movies up until I'm like 70.

Are there plans for you to direct more scripted movies soon?
Yeah, there's a couple of films I'm attached to. You know, after 'Super Size Me' came out, I got sent the worst scripts you could imagine. People were like, "Oh my god, this movie is so funny! We've gotta send this guy some funny scripts! This guy'll do anything!" So I got sent like a 'Revenge of the Nerds' remake, a new Deuce Bigalow script, and I was like, "Absolutely not. [Laughs] These are so not what I want to be doing with my time." Over time, the scripts got better, more things came in, so now I'm attached to a couple of movies, one of them at Leonardo DiCaprio's company that, you know, fingers crossed will work out.

Well I can't wait to see how that plays out, but for now I'm excited to see what makes the cut for the top 50 ...
It's amazing. What's great is there's so many movies on the list that you'll be like, "Ah yeah, that's such a great film, I'm so glad that's on the list," and there's gonna be films like, "Oh my god I never saw that -- I heard so much about it." And at the same time there's gonna be movies that you're gonna be so angry about, like "How could that not be there? How come that one's higher than this one?"I think it's gonna spark a lot of conversation. It's gonna be cool.

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