A documentary on the life and times of late celebrity chef and author Anthony Bourdain is in the works from the director of the Oscar-winning doc “20 Feet From Stardom” and “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” Morgan Neville.
CNN Films HBO Max and Focus Features are partnering for the documentary film, which Focus Features will release in theaters before it makes its TV premiere on CNN and streams on HBO Max. CNN Films and HBO Max will executive produce the film. Neville’s Tremolo Productions will produce the film.
“Morgan is the top of the game when it comes to documentary filmmaking and we’re delighted to be working with him again on this project with our great collaborators at CNN Films and HBO Max,” Focus Features chairman Peter Kujawski said in a statement.
Bourdain, who died as the result of suicide in June 2018, spent five years with CNN tapping into culture, cuisine and the human condition through his Emmy-winning travel documentary series “Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown.”
He first burst to prominence with his New York Times bestselling book, “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly”
“Anthony Bourdain did more to help us understand each other than just about anyone in the history of television,” Neville said in a statement. “He connected with people not in spite of his flaws, but because of them. To have the opportunity to tell his story is humbling. CNN is in the DNA of Tony’s work, and the perfect partners in this journey. I’m thrilled to be re-teaming with Focus Features after our journey on ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’. I am also happy that HBO Max will make sure Tony’s audience only continues to grow.”
Neville has spent more than 20 years making documentary films that illuminate and explore the struggles and triumphs of the human condition. In addition to “20 Feet from Stardom,” Neville’s acclaimed body of work also includes the Emmy-winning “Best of Enemies,” as well as “The Music of Strangers.”
“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” about the work and life of the incomparable Fred Rogers, is the number one highest-grossing biodoc of all time.
“It requires a filmmaker as expert and prolific as Morgan Neville to capture the essence of a raconteur and world explorer like Anthony Bourdain,” said Sarah Aubrey, head of original content, HBO Max. “We are honored to partner with CNN Films and Focus Features on this project that is so close to all of our hearts and give viewers the opportunity to celebrate his legacy.”
This project is the third announced film collaboration between CNN Films and HBO Max. Previously announced features include “The Scoop” and “Persona.”
“We are thrilled that Morgan will bring his singular voice to this film, revealing what we loved so much about Tony, CNN Films EVP of talent and content development Amy Entelis said in a statement. “Partnering with Focus Features and HBO Max ensures even more of Tony’s devoted fans will be able to celebrate him.”
Lydia Tenaglia and Christopher Collins, founders of Zero Point Zero Production (ZPZ), creative collaborators with Bourdain for nearly two decades, including the series “Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown,” will be consulting producers for the film.
Kimberly Witherspoon, Bourdain’s longtime agent and literary executor, will also serve as a consulting producer. The Bourdain estate will provide access to family photos, home movies, letters, music, and other content that will add greater insights into his work and life.
“Having worked with Anthony Bourdain for close to 20 years, Chris Collins and I felt very protective over the story of his life and the decision on who to direct it. In Morgan Neville’s hands, we are sure to get a nuanced portrait of the complex, wildly creative man we knew,” Tenaglia said.
The deal between CNN Films and HBO Max and Focus Features was negotiated by Stacey Wolf, senior vice president of business affairs for CNN Worldwide, and Stephanie Schroeder, senior vice president for business affairs for direct-to-consumer content for WarnerMedia, on behalf of CNN Films and HBO Max, respectively, with Carol Smithson, vice president for business and legal affairs for Focus Features.
CNN Films recently executive produced the Todd Douglas Miller-directed and produced “Apollo 11,” an archival documentary exploring the historic NASA mission that resulted in humanity’s first steps on the moon and safe return home. Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s “Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice,” about the life and musical journey of the legendary singer, was also executive produced by CNN Films, and is currently in theaters. “Scandalous,” about the history and cultural influence of the National Enquirer newspaper, directed by Mark Landsman will open in theaters Nov. 15.