Morgan Spurlock, filmmaker behind McDonald's documentary 'Super Size Me', dead at 53

Morgan Spurlock, director of Super Size Me, in 2004.
Morgan Spurlock, director of Super Size Me, in 2004. Photo credit: Getty

Morgan Spurlock, the filmmaker and former CNN series host whose McDonald’s documentary Super Size Me was nominated for an Academy Award, died of cancer complications Thursday (local time), according to his family.

Spurlock, who was 53, died in New York, surrounded by family and friends, his brother said in a statement.

"It was a sad day, as we said goodbye to my brother Morgan," Craig Spurlock said. "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."

Spurlock’s directing career was varied and unpredictable. He was best known for Super Size Me, which sparked a national conversation - and no shortage of controversy - over America’s relationship with fast food. The film involved his experiment in consuming only food from McDonald’s for a 30 days and required him to "super-size" his food order if prompted in the sales transaction.

But he also made a satiric documentary about searching for Osama bin Laden, directed a One Direction concert film and even made a movie about Homer Simpson and baseball.

For several years, Spurlock served as host of a popular CNN Original series, Morgan Spurlock Inside Man.

Born in Parkersburg, West Virginia, the future filmmaker was raised in Beckley, where he graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School. He went on to graduate from New York University in 1993.

Spurlock was the founder of the New York-based production studio Warrior Poets and his first film, Super Size Me, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004, where it won him a best director honour.

The film went on to win the inaugural Writers Guild of America best documentary screenplay award, as well as garner an Academy Award nomination for best feature documentary.

Spurlock’s willingness in that documentary to use himself to experiment with the effects of eating fast food for breakfast, lunch and dinner fascinated audiences. He gained 25 pounds and documented the negative effects it had on his body.

His film Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken was released in 2019.

Propelled by the success of his first project, Spurlock delved into other documentaries, including 2008’s Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden? and 2011’s POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. He also created the reality television series 30 Days in 2005 and helped Hulu dive into original programming with the platform’s first series, A Day in the Life.

In 2017, as the #MeToo movement accelerated, Spurlock admitted to sexual misconduct in his past in a statement posted on social media.

"I've come to understand after months of these revelations, that I am not some innocent bystander, I am also a part of the problem," he wrote at the time, referencing the recent wave of sexual misconduct allegations against prominent men.

He stepped down as CEO of his production company.

Spurlock was also a prolific writer and producer. Some of his other credits include Rats, 7 Deadly Sins, and No Man's Land.