Dark Star: Anthony Bourdain's Life Explored in Documentary

Anthony Bourdain at Les Halles in New York (left) and in "Roadrunner" (right).

While the 2021 posthumous Anthony Bourdain book World Power steers away from the author's death in 2018, Morgan Neville's Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain dives right into it.

Bourdain hosted back-to-back adventure food travel series first on The Travel Channel (No Reservations) and then on CNN (Parts Unknown). A chef by trade, Bourdain became famous when he penned Kitchen Confidential in 2000. This led to the travel shows and a new life away from home and the kitchen. 

At first, Bourdain enjoyed the experiences of eating unusual food in foreigh countries. This evolved into a more political approach, combining ascerbic commentaries with all sorts of dining, from fine to street stalls. Sometimes the local situation got really hot like when they were in Beirut as war with Israel broke out or after the devastating earthquake in Haiti. 

Bourdain was married twice and had a daughter. His second wife Ottavia discusses their relationship, which waned in the last couple of years of Bourdain's life. In 2018, he began dating Italian actress Asia Argento

A former heroin addict, Bourdain says pointedly: "Drugs were a perpertual fuck-off to my parents for loving me." He probably used illegal drugs to try to balance off his manic depression. Pot, coke, heroin, beer, cigarettes - he liked them all. During a scene in Hong Kong, Bourdain jokes: "Proceeed to smoke weed."

Years on the road took their toll on Bourdain's marriage and ultimately on his head. Either he was super up and into it or he was way down in the pits. "Tony was dark as fuck," one friend relates.

Bourdain's relationship with Argento - at 61, he was 19 years her senior - was his last hurrah. He thought he found a great new love, but that soon soured.

If you follow the logic of the movie, Bourdain hung himself after he learned that Argento was seeing someone else. Also, Argento took over directing the Alsace episode of Parts Unknown, which went bad. Disraught, Bourdain, who discusses suicide several times in the movie, took his own life in a hotel room in France.

Bourdain's friends and associates piece together the story in interviews and all get choked up at the end. However, Argento is not interviewed, which some critics think is a serious ommission. Director Neville explains: "It made me feel like I was sinking into this rabbit hole of she said, they said, and it just was not the film I wanted to make. I just want to know why he was who he was and felt like the balance of the film would have tipped over if I had put her in it.”

That's really not an acceptable answer. Painting Agento with a Yoko Ono brush is not fair to her and the film. At least she should have had the opportunity to participate. 

Roadrunner turns into a mediation on suicide. No particular advice is given on prevention. People around him saw Bourdain slipping into depression, but no one could snap him out of it or perhaps even tried. They all have to live with that.

Bourdain revered other outsiders like William S. Burroughs, Hunter S. Thompson, Keith Richards and Iggy Pop, who makes an appearance. Unfortunateley, he followed Thompson's lead (he shot himself in 2005), rather than Richards or Pop's, who are both alive and relatively well. 

One of Bourdain's favorite movies Apocalypse Now is reenacted to some extent in the Congo episode. Was Bourdain the deranged Col. Kurtz or just one of the stoned soldiers on the boat? He may have been a combination of the two. 


More Bourdain Links

A Top CelebStoner, Bourdain was popular at the site. We posted 13 different articles about him dating back to 2013. Here are five faves:

High in Uruguay

Stoned in Seattle

Making Majoun in Morocco

Dope Confessions

Wins Two Final Emmys


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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of CelebStoner.com, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.