How Bourdain’s favorite songs, movies and books inspired him to make a film about his life

Editor’s note – the premiere of “Roadrunner: Anthony Bourdain” will take place on Sunday, April 10, at 21:00 on ET on CNN. The film traces the rapid transformation of Bourdain from a chef to a writer to a presenter around the world.

(CNN) – His mission was challenging: to tell the intricate story of the late Anthony Bourdain, a man he had never met.

Documentary director Morgan Neville said that by researching the plot of the film, he tries to penetrate the person’s head as much as possible. Exploring “Roadrunner: A Film about Anthony Bourdain,” he found a treasure trove of content to sort out to understand what nourishes Bourdain.

“He was a real cultural vulture, and he absorbed books. He absorbed music and movies. I’m the same, ”Neville said. “I understood by the type of music he liked, by the type of books he liked, and by the type of movies he liked, how he saw the world to some degree, and it helped to understand how I could tell his story.”

Bourdain’s dark and sharp taste for music

Music was one way of associating Neville with Bourdain, who spoke very loudly about his tastes.

Neville tracked down every song Bourdain ever mentioned – whether it was featured in one of his shows, used in history on Instagram or mentioned in his works – and he put them all together in one playlist.

The 21-hour Spotify playlist features songs by a variety of artists, including New York Dolls, Sonic Youth, Snoop Dogg and Rihanna.

“I totally got his taste in music,” Neville said. “It was related to that energy after the ’60s, proto-punk and in your face.”

While working on “Roadrunner,” the team listened to a playlist to channel Bourdain’s energy. And a few songs got into the movie.

“Roadrunner: Anthony Bourdain Film” shows how Anthony Bourdain went from a chef at a New York restaurant to one of the world’s most famous and beloved food personalities and beyond. Don’t miss the movie on CNN this spring.

“I like to think that if Tony had seen the film, he would have been very impressed with the selection of music,” Neville said.

One of Neville’s favorite songs on the playlist is the one Bourdain posted in his Instagram story called “Forbidden Colors” by Riuchi Sakamoto. This is the main song for the 1983 film “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence”, a bittersweet story about the Sino-British War.

Neville wanted to use it in the film, so he wrote a letter to the composer explaining how Bourdain loved his work to get permission to use it. It worked, and the tune went into the documentary.

“Dave says in the movie it’s heroin music. I just think it’s music you want to listen to yourself. I think Tony was a lot alone,” Neville said.

No Wave, a post-punk scene in downtown New York that Bourdain witnessed in the late ’70s, is again and again on Neville’s playlist. Music captures the lawlessness and hopelessness of time. The songs are abrasive, confrontational and nihilistic.

Among Bourdain’s favorite No Wave performers were Iggy and The Stooges. Bourdain wrote about The Stooges’ first album, saying it was “an antisocial masterpiece of do-it-yourself aggression and raw, ugly, dirty rock ‘n’ roll.”

In 2015, he said he had never been so scared, more anxious, more shocked than when he met rock legend Iggy Pop on the set of the Miami episode “Parts Unknown”.

The episode ended with the song “Passenger,” one of Iggy Pop’s more somberly romantic songs.

“It’s such an obsessive song of someone who sees the world, but at the same time it’s somehow detached from it. And I think it’s a song that Tony can identify with,” Neville said. “It’s something more tired, in a sense tired of the world.”

However, Bourdain’s musical interests did not end in the 70s. Neville was surprised to see that the host of “Parts Unknown” liked Kendrick Lamar, Outkast and A Tribe Called Quest.

“There were songs that kind of broadened his rock ‘n’ roll, but I think they make a lot of sense,” Neville said of Bourdain’s love of hip-hop and R&B. “He realized that there was genius in these artists.”

How the big screen affected Bourdain’s view of the world

“Tony has absorbed movies like a lot of culture,” Neville said.

Bourdain did not travel much until the mid-40s, when he began working on his first TV show “Cook’s Tour”. Due to this, he perceived the world mainly through movies. When he first visited the places, he compared them to the display on the big screen.

Links to films were leaked to his show, often according to Bourdain’s own design.

For example, the Roman episode “No Reservations” was inspired by Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita”. Reflecting Fellini’s style, Bourdain filmed the episode in black and white.

“I don’t think it was the best idea. I’m sure there was a fight for black and white on the food show, “Neville said, laughing.

One of Bourdain’s favorite films was “Chunkin Express,” a 1994 romantic crime comedy-drama. Bourdain was a fan of writer and director Wong Kar-wai, and he liked his rich view of Asia.

Neville said Bourdain was looking for grimly romantic films that were beautiful at the same time.

Another favorite film of all time was the 1973 film “Friends of Eddie Coyle” starring Robert Mitcham and directed by Peter Yates. The film tells the story of brutal criminals from the working class, and Bourdain used the Boston film as the inspiration for the Massachusetts episode “Parts Unknown.”

“It’s a film where moral compromise is in the air and the characters try to do everything they can and probably fail,” Neville said.

He also thought Bourdain liked the nuances of the story.

“He loved movies that didn’t tell you what to think and what to feel when you get out of it,” he said. “You know, movies that can be argued about.”

Neville went on to say, “We can’t talk about Tony and the movies and we can’t talk about the Apocalypse Now.”

The 1979 war film tells the story of a fictional Captain Willard’s journey from South Vietnam to Cambodia during the Vietnam War with a top-secret mission to assassinate the renegade colonel Kurtz, who won the trust of a local tribe. The film, based on Joseph Conrad’s book “Heart of Darkness”, which takes place on the Congo River in Africa, served as a visual reference for Congo’s episode “Unknown Parts”.

The main questions presented in the film resonated deeply with Bourdain: what does it mean to be a traveler abroad? Were these relationships troubled or poisonous?

“I think so much about Tony’s life [was] about this balance, am I an observer or am I the protagonist? said Neville. “Am I someone who is trying to find out the order in the world, or someone who is trying to live in the world with pleasure and not worry about anything from the consequences of the real world?”

During the filming of “Cook’s Tour” in Los Angeles, Bourdain revived a scene from the 1950 film “Sunset Boulevard”, where he swam in the pool as actor William Holden at the beginning of the film. Holden played a struggling screenwriter who narrated the film from Behind the Grave.

Neville said “Roadrunner” was deeply inspired by the storytelling style of this film.

“I immediately thought that’s exactly how I want to make this film,” he said.

The documentary used Bourdain’s story, taken from television, radio, podcasts and audiobooks, to tell the story of his life, reminiscent of both Sunset Boulevard and the emotional feel of Bourdain’s own shows.

“From the beginning, I just had the idea to make sure Tony could help tell the story, and it was 100% influenced by Sunset Boulevard.

Neville II’s use of Bourdain’s written lines to narrate a few lines of controversy caused controversy when the film hit theaters.
“It was a modern storytelling technique that I used in a few places where I thought it was important to revive Tony’s words,” Neville Variety said.

Bourdain loved books that make you wonder

Bourdain was also a voracious reader.

Random house

“It was something that checked all the boxes for him. It was smart, it was funny, it was disrespectful,” Neville said.

Thompson’s Gonza journalism, a style of writing where authors become part of history while experiencing first-person reports, has had a major impact on Bourdain.

“No booking” owes much to Hunter Thompson, Neville said. As in the book, the show was about a character who rushes into a new world and comes out the other side with a deeper understanding.

Sailor’s books

“Down and in Paris and London” is a romantic book about how to be young, have these incredible experiences and survive to tell a story from the other side, like Bourdain’s memoir about all the problems he experienced in the restaurant industry and what- either managed to stay in the game.

Books about penguins

Harper Collins

“But when I find myself in a hole in scripture? I always go back to Elmar Leonardo. He was a professional,” Bourdain said in an interview with The New York Times in 2017 about his reading habits. Bourdain found his work inspiring.
Because of the nature of his work, Bourdain also sought books on the consequences of colonialism, such as Graham Greene’s The Silent American, a work on colonial Vietnam that he brought with him when he visited the country.

Classic penguins

The book, Neville explained, is about being a colonial outsider in a country that treats you with suspicion, but for some reason you are still inextricably linked to it, even if you never fully understand it.

Bourdain told The Times that the “Silent American” made him cry. “It always gets me,” he said.

Bourdain’s deep connections with the surrounding media allowed Neville to connect with how he perceived the world and interacted with the late Parts Unknown.

“I’ve been thinking for a long time about making the film so that it was my audience,” Neville said. “I wanted him to know himself and to know these little things.”

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