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Morgan Spurlock Discusses 'Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?'

Interview with Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock

By Fred Topel

Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden poster

Poster for Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden.

© The Weinstein Company

April 17, 2008 - Morgan Spurlock follows up his critically acclaimed documentary Super Size Me with something completely different – the search for Osama Bin Laden. Spurlock began the documentary process believing he could actually find the terrorist and personally visited some of the most dangerous places in the world. “That was the plan in the beginning,” explained Spurlock. “The plan was, ‘Come on, we've got as good a shot as anybody else. Why not?’” Of course, Bin Laden hasn’t been found which means that as of now Spurlock’s question has yet to be answered.

Morgan Spurlock Interview

Where did the idea come from?
“It was 2005 when we first started talking about what my next movie would be. We'd just finished shooting the first season of 30 Days. Supersize Me did something that none of us anticipated, which was play in about 75 countries around the world. It kind of went so beyond our borders. It was something I didn't anticipate, and the way that it did that made me realize that my next movie I wanted to be something that dealt with something that was much more of a global issue, on a global scale and wasn't just an American issue, of which this was.

I live in New York City so this question is constantly out there. I was there on 9/11 so this is something that's brought up consistently. Bush had just been elected to his second term and Osama had released a tape and suddenly the tape was everywhere. It was on every news channel, every radio station, people were talking about him again. He was completely ubiquitous. Newscasters were like, ‘Where is Osama? Where is he? Why haven't we found him? Why haven't we brought this man to justice? Where in the world is Osama Bin Laden?’ And I said, ‘That's a great question. I'd like to know that as well.’

We started just formulating how would we even make a movie like this. How would we start going about trying to find those answers or tackle this topic? We raised a little bit of money to do some preproduction on the movie from a guy named Adam Dell. I was out one night and he said, ‘I just met with your lawyer about a movie that I'd like to make. I'd like to try and go find Osama Bin Laden.’ I said, ‘You and I should sit down and talk immediately.’ So he helped us raise the first bit of seed money, just to even formulate an idea around this film. About two months into that process was when we found out [my wife] Alex was pregnant. At that point, the film took a real shift for me personally. It really went away from just being where in the world is Osama Bin Laden and what kind of world creates an Osama Bin Laden, to also, what kind of world am I about to bring a kid into? I think that kind of shift made it much more personal for me. And I think ultimately made the journey that we went on and the people that we went to talk to in addition to politicians and people in the military, ultimately made the film better.”

How much of an eye opener was it to see how America is perceived?
“I think they don't like America's foreign policy as much as they used to. I think people still have a tremendous amount of hope in what America means and what America is. America is a dream and an ideology and a hope that things can always be better. That's how a lot of people see the United States still. I think that a lot of that has been shattered over the course of, for some people it's been five years, some it's been 10-15 years, but as you heard consistently and we spoke to people consistently, it was, ‘We don't hate the American people but we hate what's happened to the American government and what's transpired.’

I think we're still taught that people hate us and it's this they hate us, them, those people and everybody's grouped into this one thing. Islam is a monolithic thing. Those people are a monolithic thing and that's just not the case. We like things to be very simple and in a little package and I think it's much more broad than that. I think over the course of the film, even when I go in my travels, you see that from different places where we go, from all the countries we go to, there's a much more diverse, even brand of Islam in all of these countries and how it's practiced.

For me, I personally also thought that I was going to be met with a lot more hostility, a lot more resentment, that people weren't going to want to talk to me because I was an American. They weren't going to want to sit down and open up. It was completely the opposite. People really were eager to sit down and share their feelings and share their outlooks and share their opinions. These are people who don't get to speak in a lot of these countries. These people live in countries where if you speak out, you'll go to jail. That's terrible, so I think for them to be able to sit down with somebody from what they see as the Western media and actually being able to express their thoughts, knowing it could potentially reach people back in America, is very brave.”

So where is Osama Bin Laden?
“He's up in my hotel room. He's just hanging out getting room service. I think he's still in the mountains of Waziristan or somewhere in that area. When we got to the end of our trip, when we were in Pakistan, people were pointing to a direction up in those mountains that I think, by the time we got to the border, was probably about 50-75 miles away - guestimating. Whether he's still there or has moved on to somewhere else, because I think he's mobile within that area personally, who knows? I think he's still there, somewhere.”

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