Filmmaker Morgan Neville borrows lyrics from a Kris Kristofferson song to describe the late chef, author and TV personality Anthony Bourdain: “Partly truth, partly fiction, a walking contradiction.”
“He was somebody who was slightly different in every situation,” Neville noted during a panel discussion at Deadline’s Contenders Film: Documentary awards-season event. “He was… a protean figure who had all these different façades to him and was always changing.”
Rather than try to resolve those contradictions—the charismatic writer who was paradoxically shy, the “cool” guy who had his nerdy side—Neville instead (borrowing the words from another song) let it be.
“I felt like we didn’t have to kind of tame the truth,” Neville said, “and we could just lean into that ambiguity because that was very much him.”
Bourdain shockingly took his own life in 2018, at the age of 61.
“Our goal, which was a challenge, was to make a film that was about his life and his legacy and not necessarily about his death, because I think that’s where everyone’s minds and questions go immediately when you say Anthony Bourdain,” said producer Caitrin Rogers. “We wanted to shift the focus of the film to the stuff that made him great… We wanted to figure out why he had such a big fan base and what it was about him that made people become fans.”
Check back Tuesday for the panel video.