Anthony Bourdain’s death impacted me like a tonne of bricks. But here’s the thing: I never watched his CNN show, Parts Unknown. I’d never read any of his works before. However, there was something about him that I found to be far too cool. I’ve always appreciated the concept that, even in his sixties, Bourdain was still out there living his best life, doing what he loved every day, and looking to be having a great time. People tuned in to watch him “enjoy” life, and I believe he was an aspirational figure for many of us, made perhaps even more so by the fact that he didn’t achieve considerable success in life until he was in his forties.
“If Bourdain doesn’t think life is worth living, what hope is there for the rest of us?” I wondered to myself when he died. The truth about Bourdain’s life, however, was far more difficult than what we saw on TV or read in his books. We knew he’d fought with drugs, but there was also a severe attack of depression, as well as the fact that he’d frequently swapped one addiction with another throughout his life. People and relationships were frequently used to feed the addiction.
All of this is detailed in the wonderful new documentary ROADRUNNER: A FILM ABOUT ANTHONY BOURDAIN, which opens in theatres this Friday and will air on HBO Max and CNN later this year. Morgan Neville, who also directed the fantastic Mister Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? I spoke with Neville about his “warts-and-all” approach to Bourdain’s death and why he believes people who didn’t even know Bourdain’s work well were so affected by his death.