Morgan Spurlock, Oscar-nominated “Super Size Me ”director, dies at 53

The filmmaker often placed himself at the center of his experimental and immersive documentaries.

Morgan Spurlock, the charismatic filmmaker-slash-subject of the Oscar-nominated 2004 documentary Super Size Me, died Thursday at the age of 53 from complications from cancer.

Spurlock's representative announced the news on Friday. “It was a sad day as we said goodbye to my brother Morgan,” said Craig Spurlock, who worked with him on several projects. “Morgan gave so much through his art, ideas, and generosity. The world has lost a true creative genius and a special man. I am so proud to have worked together with him.”

Born in Parkersburg, W. Va., in 1970, Spurlock began his entertainment career in theater, working as a production assistant on Broadway and earning an award for his play The Phoenix at the New York International Fringe Festival in 1999.

<p>Neilson Barnard/Getty Images</p> Morgan Spurlock in 2017

Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Morgan Spurlock in 2017

After creating and hosting the show I Bet You Will for MTV in 2002, Spurlock began production on his first immersive documentary project. Inspired by a lawsuit from two teenage girls claiming food from McDonald's had made them obese, Spurlock launched an experiment in which he ate three meals a day from the fast-food franchise for 30 days while his film crew documented its effects on his body.

The resulting film, Super Size Me, was a breakout hit at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004, and it later earned Spurlock an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature.

In his review, EW film critic Owen Gleiberman called Super Size Me "a deliciously amusing socio-culinary prank," and noted that while as a filmmaker Spurlock "has taken a page or two from Michael Moore," he was also "a far more benevolent muckraker."

"From the outset," he wrote, "he establishes that his true subject isn't McDonald's but addiction — the vast, ruthlessly advertised national religion that fast food has become."

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Super Size Me sparked a national conversation about America's unhealthy obsession with fatty, highly processed foods. Though McDonald's disputed many of the claims Spurlock made in the film, the chain did stop offering supersize portions of its meals after its release.

Spurlock followed up the success of Super Size Me with more immersive and experimental documentary work. He returned to TV with FX's 30 Days, which chronicled individuals as they took on an unfamiliar lifestyle — for example, a Christian man living with a Muslim family — for a month. His subsequent big-screen projects included 2008's Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden? and 2011's The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, in which Spurlock explored the role of product placement in entertainment, detailing his efforts to secure sponsorship for the film itself.

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In 2017, in response to the growing #MeToo movement, Spurlock published an essay titled "I Am Part of the Problem," in which he admitted to being accused of rape by a woman in college and settling a "sexual harassment allegation" in his production office. "I would call my female assistant 'hot pants' or 'sex pants' when I was yelling to her from the other side of the office," he wrote. "Something I thought was funny at the time, but then realized I had completely demeaned and belittled her to a place of non-existence."

The filmmaker also revealed his struggles with alcohol, saying he drank "consistently" since the age of 13, adding, "I haven’t been sober for more than a week in 30 years." Spurlock stepped down from his production company in 2017, and YouTube Red later canceled the release of Super Size Me 2, which was scheduled to premiere in 2018.

Spurlock, whose later work included his 2016 "documentary horror" film, Rats, about rodent extermination in large urban areas, is survived by his sons, Laken and Kallen; his parents Phyllis and Ben; his brothers Craig and Barry; and his former spouses, Alexandra Jamieson and Sara Bernstein, the mothers of his children.

Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.