Morgan Spurlock tends to live his life in terms of extremes. For his first documentary, 2004's Super Size Me, the filmmaker notoriously ate nothing but fast food from McDonald's for a month, gaining 25 pounds -- and countless critical kudos -- in the process. Four years later, the handlebar-mustached instigator has a far more heady goal for his second feature doc: tracking down Osama bin Laden. Supported by only a skeleton crew, Spurlock spent four and a half months trekking across the Middle East for Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden?, and shot over 900 hours of footage, which he eventually whittled down to a neat 90 minutes. The Huffington Post recently spoke to Spurlock about his journey.
Huffington Post: So how on earth did you get permission from your then-pregnant wife Alexandra to shoot in some of the world's most dangerous locales?
Morgan Spurlock: Well, we were about 2 months into pre-production when we found out that she was pregnant. It was a real hold-the-phone moment, like, stop the presses, am I really going to do this? She and I talked for at least a week about why this movie was important to me and why I wanted to make it and the more we talked about our child, she said "I want you to go." But she made me promise two things: one, that I'd be back in time for the birth and two, that I wouldn't go to Iraq while we were filming.
HP: How did your wife's pregnancy change the focus of the film?
MS: The original angle was that we were basically going to go and find out why we haven't found Osama yet, where is he, what's the search all about. Once she got pregnant, however, it turned into a larger kind of scope. We still wanted to go on the search, but for me, with fatherhood looming, I really wanted to start to talk to people who were in my shoes, and had like-minded views that might enlighten me on parenthood.
HP: How did you get the idea for this film in the first place?
MS: I first got the idea in 2005, but it wasn't until the beginning of 2006 that my team got some money to begin pre-production and we started putting together real ideas about where we wanted to go and who I wanted to meet.
HP: Speaking of financing, how did you manage to get insurance to cover this film?
MS: It was really hard! Believe me, it was not easy. We had to go through a few different underwriters and there are certain places where they won't insure you, but we got some people for even the worst places we went to.
HP: How big was your security detail while abroad?
MS: Most of the time we tried to stay really lean and mean. The more people you have, the more attention you draw to yourself, so we really tried to stay under the radar with local cars and small numbers of people. Basically it was just myself, Daniel, our security advisor, and maybe our local producer, a local fixer and a driver.
HP: In addition to the locals, did you try to talk to government officials?
MS: We had good interviews with some of those people, and we had a great interview with Mike Sawyer, the former head of the bin Laden unit at the CIA. We ended up cutting Sawyer's segment, however, because a lot of the stuff he talks about is basically what I discover over the course of the journey and it really gives the movie away. It's unfortunate, because it's such a great clip. He was like our Deep Throat, giving us information and we filmed him in the garage of the Watergate hotel, basically recreating our own All the President's Men shot by shot. As for politicians, what we found is that what you get is a lot of the same old rhetoric: politician speak. Whereas there was something really natural and honest about the people on the street because what they were saying was personal to them.
HP: What percentage of the locals were willing to talk?
MS: I would say the majority of the people we went to. It was surprising. I personally had bought into the idea that the media machine shows us, that everybody hates us and nobody wants to talk to us. And that blew up in my face. People really did jump at the chance to sit down and express their feelings.
HP: Obviously the entire trip was dangerous, but how many times were you genuinely fearful for your life?
MS: There were countless times I was scared, especially when we were embedded with the military. Here we were getting yelled at in a village, and it turns out there was a Taliban ambush on the governor. Then at one point, there was an IED discovered in a road and we got diverted while the explosives experts went ahead and basically detonated this IED. There are always scary things out there, and those guys, who are putting their lives on the line everyday, were around to help and protect us. They're heroes for what they do.
HP: Did you actually think you were going to find Osama?
MS: When we started, of course, we had the hope of finding him, but as we traced his his path through Afghanistan and Pakistan, we started to see all the elements that helped to create Osama, and at that point, it became much more about the process. When I came home, which seemed like a wise decision at the time, I started to realize, as everyone says, he's just one man. There are so many other problems in the world.
HP: Despite all the serious topics involved, you frame the conversation with a light theme: video games.
MS: I wanted to try and make a film that was accessible and entertaining for the majority of the country and gaming culture is a huge part of our world now. I grew up a big gamer -- I still love video games -- and thought it would be a great way to push the story along and bridge scenes from one to the next but at the same time be something we can all relate to. I also think there's some sort of metaphor that can be married to the film from this whole political game that's being played out around us right now.
HP: Does that mean you're supporting a specific candidate?
MS: The jury's still out for me. I'm a registered independent.