When Anthony Bourdain, the chef, bestselling author and globe-trotting television star,, the news stunned those close to him. New York chef Gabrielle Hamilton was devastated: “I had to go home and lay down on the floor, I mean, actually for weeks,” she said.
Lydia Tenaglia, who produced her hit show “Parts Unknown”, was puzzled: “Why someone who apparently has the best job in the world, the most amazing life, why would he make the decision, you know, to check it out? ? “
Her brother, Christopher Bourdain, struggled with so many other emotions.
Correspondent Jim Axelrod asked, “Did you know he was in such pain? “
“No. I didn’t know he was in so much pain. I miss him terribly and still love him. And he was so brilliant, and he meant so many people. And, like, you know, I’m in. mad at him! Like, why did you do that? “
But filmmaker Morgan Neville knew the shock was also shared by legions of Bourdain fans who never met the man. “I want people to be able to make sense of his death,” Neville said.
Axelrod asked, “Do you think there was a bit of ‘Be careful what you wish for’ in Tony Bourdain’s life?”
“Absolutely. The story we tell is that of someone who in middle age, who has worked as a chef for 25 years, suddenly has a worldwide fame, a fortune and the chance to travel the world. everything he ever wanted. The question is, what happens when you get everything you ever wanted? ”
His new documentary, “Roadrunner,” which hits theaters July 16, is Neville’s attempt to answer this question, exploring this complexity brought about by the life and death of Anthony Bourdain.
To watch a trailer for “Roadrunner”, click on the video player below:
Neville said, “I hope the film somehow gets people to start seeing him as a whole person again, at least dealing with some aspects of his death, but also of his life.”
Anyone who knows Bourdain’s extraordinary life trajectory, from the $ 800-a-week line cook in sweaty New York City kitchens to a president’s invitation to dinner in Viet Nam, knows that it means examining multiple dimensions. .
Hamilton, whose Prune restaurant was one of the hottest in pre-pandemic New York City, met Bourdain as his bestseller “Kitchen Confidential” pitched it as a bold name.
Axelrod asked, “Was Tony a good cook?
“He would be the first to tell you that it wasn’t his number one strength!” Hamilton responded.
He was a loyal but complicated pal. “It was a one-sided friendship,” she said. Which way? “He would love you. He would be generous to you. “
Bourdain was quoted in a 2017 New Yorker article saying, “The kind of care and nourishment required from friends, I’m frankly incapable of… I’m not going to remember your birthday.”
“Come on, that’s very Tony,” Hamilton laughed. “And it’s so blunt and blunt. So who cares if it’s like, ‘I don’t remember your birthday’?”
Neville said, “Someone described him as the nicest ****** they’ve ever met.”
“What do you think they mean with that nice description?” Axelrod asked.
“I think he could be really hard on people, especially the people he worked with, but because he was even harder on himself.”
This high priest of camaraderie and connection, who built a brand by shrinking the world one exotic meal at a time, has also spent much of his life avoiding loneliness and isolation, going through phases and dependencies.
“Sometimes his addictions were good, like jujitsu and exercise, or family,” Neville said. “But sometimes they could be destructive, like smoking and drinking cigarettes and even, I would say, the workaholic. I think there was even this deeper psychological reason for being static; being at home means that you are alone with your thoughts and, I guess, your demons. “
But as the documentary hauntingly portrayed in a music video featuring one of its heroes, punk rock icon Iggy Pop, the one recipe that always seemed to elude Bourdain – that of lasting contentment – was actually not so complicated.
Bourdain: “What makes you vibrate?
Iggy Pop: “It’s very embarrassing, but to be loved and to appreciate the people who give it to me.”
Axelrod said: “When he walks with Iggy Pop to ask him about happiness? It’s heartbreaking.”
“Yes, yes, absolutely. Absolutely,” said Christopher Bourdain.
The saddest perhaps for those who miss him the most is that he died without really understanding all the lives he touched. Take the wall full of notes left after his suicide in a restaurant where Bourdain once cooked.
Lydia Tenaglia said: “When this outpouring happened after his death, and all these people in the world reacted in this incredible way, I just wish he could have seen it. Look at the incredible impact you have. have had by connecting humanity. That, to me, is like his very beautiful legacy. “
While the film deals in detail with the circumstances surrounding Bourdain’s death – following a breakup with Asia Argento, an Italian actress he had become infatuated with, it is a film that examines what happens to the legacy when a high-profile life ends in suicide. .
Axelrod asked Christopher Bourdain: “What do you think the meaning is for all those people who still remain dedicated to the memory of Tony Bourdain?
“One of the unfortunate things about someone who obviously has some sort of tragic part is, does that somehow undermine or diminish the message they were trying to get across? Does that do what he was trying to show us by going to places like, you know, Libya and Congo, does it diminish what he was trying to show us and tell us? do not have an answer, I hope not.
Morgan Neville recalled what that message was: “Tony was THE advocate in our society for how we can treat people on the other side of the planet as dimensional people who have their own dreams, loves, families and more. hopes “. he said. “And I think that’s the biggest achievement he’s had.”
A message and messenger that people haven’t had a chance to connect with in a while.
Tenaglia said: “I think a lot of people are going to come to the movie because they need this dose of him again. I just miss him. I miss him.”
YOU’RE NOT ALONE
If you are in crisis, please call National lifeline for suicide prevention at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis text line by sending TALK to 741741.
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Story produced by Gabriel Falcon. Publisher: Carol Ross.