Spurlock, Morgan: Documentarian (Super Size Me) Profile

Morgan Spurlock is an American documentary film director, TV producer, and screenwriter, known mostly for the documentary “Super Size Me,” in which he showed the negative health effects of McDonald’s food by eating nothing but McDonalds three times a day, every day, for one month. Spurlock is also the exec producer and star of the reality TV series “30 Days.”

Morgan Valentine Spurlock was born November 7, 1970 in Parkersburg, West Virginia, and was raised in Beckley, West Virginia. Spurlock was rejected by the University of Southern California film school several times. He worked briefly as a stand-up comedian and claimed he was nearly homeless before going to film school. He graduated with a BFA in film from New York University in 1993.

Before making “Super Size Me,” Spurlock wrote the play “The Phoenix,” at the New York International Fringe Festival in 1999 and “Route 66,” for the American Playwriting Competition in 2000.

He created “I Bet You Will” for MTV, which began as a popular Internet show of five-minute episodes featuring ordinary people doing disgusting or embarrassing stunts in exchange for money, such as eating a full jar of mayonaise ($235), eating a “worm burrito”($265), and taking shots of corn oil, pink bismuth, lemon juice, hot sauce, cold chicken broth, and cod liver oil ($450 for nine shots). The webcast was a success: Over a million hits in the first five days. The show was later bought and aired by MTV.

Spurlock’s docu “Super Size Me” was released on May 7, 2004, and later nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary. He conceived the idea when he was at his parents’ house for Thanksgiving, and while watching TV saw a news story about a lawsuit brought against McDonalds by two teenage girls who blamed the fast-food chain for their obesity.

The film depicts an experiment he conducted in 2003, in which he ate three McDonald’s meals a day every day for 30 days, mandatory that he takes the “super-size” option whenever it was offered. The end result was a diet with twice the food energy recommended by the USDA. Spurlock attempted to curtail his physical activity to match the exercise habits of the average American (he walked about 3 miles a day). He underwent a full examination at the beginning of the experiment, and was monitored by different medical specialists.

He was of above-average health and fitness when he undertook the project, but his health declined: he gained 25 pounds, suffered severe liver dysfunction, and developed symptoms of depression. Spurlock’s physicians noted the effects caused by his high-fat, high-carb diet.

He married girlfriend Alexandra Jamieson, May 3, 2006. They have one son, Laken James Spurlock, born December 9, 2006. After the completion of the project, it took Spurlock 14 months to return to his normal weight of 185 pounds. His then-girlfriend and now wife, Alexandra Jamieson, took charge of his recovery with her “detox diet,” which was the basis for a book, The Great American Detox Diet.

Spurlock’s critics contend that his movie was a dishonest depiction of how fast food fits in with a regular diet. Spurlock deliberately ate 5,000 calories per day, more than twice what is recommended for a healthy diet. Biology professor Les Sayer has shown it is possible to eat a steady diet of McDonalds and not gain weight, though Sayer states he is not trying to recreate the Spurlock experiment and that his exercise level of 56 times a week is not typical of the average American.

Spurlock’s recent project is TV program “30 Days.” In each episode, a person spends 30 days immersing himslef/herself in a mode of life different from their norm (working at Wal-Mart, being in prison, living with a gay person), while Spurlock discusses the relevant social issues involved. FX began airing the show on June 15, 2005. In the premiere episode of the first season, “Minimum Wage,” Spurlock and his fiance lived for 30 days in the Bottoms neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio, earning minimum wage, with no access to outside funds.

In the second season finale, Spurlock spent 25 days locked in a Henrico County, Virginia jail to experience life as an inmate. He didn’t complete the entire 30 days in jail because the majority of inmates in the state of Virginia serve 85% of the sentence, so once Spurlock hit that benchmark, he was released.

Spurlock has an upcoming role in the film “Drive Thru,” about a fast food restaurant that has its mascot come to life and start killing people.

He has authored one book, Don’t Eat This: Fast Food and the Super-Sizing of America. New York, Putnam’s Sons, 2005.