Earlier this week, fans once again mourned the death of Anthony Bourdain, who died by suicide three years ago on June 8, 2018. He was 51.
Now, the late chef and TV personality is memorialized in the emotionally searing new documentary “Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain,” which premiered Friday night at the in-person Tribeca Film Festival in New York. It will be released in theaters July 16.
Directed by Morgan Neville (who helmed the Oscar-winning documentary “20 Feet From Stardom”), “Roadrunner” is a captivating portrait of Bourdain as a restless spirit and live wire: a man whose romantic ideas of relationships and fatherhood clashed with his impulse toward extremes. The movie charts his rise from struggling restauranteur to New York Times bestselling author to renegade star of CNN’s “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” which used global cuisines as a window into other cultures.
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In addition to interviews with Bourdain’s close friends and family, Neville pulls from home movies, TV segments and never-aired footage of the beloved celebrity chef. Collaborators recall being drawn to his brazen style and endless curiosity, but also how he struggled with loneliness and depression, joking about death and suicide frequently. He grappled with drug addiction as a young man, but later found some solace in therapy and jiu jitsu.
His second wife, Ottavia Busia, is a mixed martial arts fighter. The two married in 2007 and had one daughter, Ariane, 14, together before splitting in 2016. Busia, who is interviewed in the doc, says they grew apart due in part to Bourdain’s constant traveling, while Bourdain was heartbroken after their divorce that he couldn’t be the ideal dad he had always hoped to be for his daughter.
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“I’d like to live like a normal person but I don’t even know what that is anymore,” Bourdain says at one point in the film.
Although Busia appears prominently in interviews throughout the doc, Neville told Variety that he chose not to speak to Asia Argento, Bourdain’s girlfriend of two years, whom he dated before his death. Bourdain’s collaborators describe the couple’s passionate relationship, with very high highs and low lows that they say made Bourdain sometimes manic and unpredictable at work. They say he was deeply infatuated with her — at times excessively so — and was fiercely supportive of the Italian actress when she spoke out in 2017 about being sexually assaulted by Harvey Weinstein in the 1990s.
But days before his death, Bourdain was reportedly upset after magazines published paparazzi shots of Argento and another man. When asked how he was feeling about the tabloids, one friend says a visibly distraught Bourdain asked for “a little discretion” and said “I don’t wanna deal with this,” seemingly alluding to Argento.
But his collaborators say they do not wish to place blame on Argento, and ultimately, it was Bourdain who took his own life. They theorize that it was a “momentary lapse” and he hadn’t “weighed the pros and cons,” but recognize that no one will ever truly know the immediate circumstances leading up to his death.
The Tribeca Festival continues in person in New York and virtually through June 20.
If you or someone you know may be struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) any time day or night, or chat online.
Crisis Text Line also provides free, 24/7, confidential support via text message to people in crisis when they dial 741741.