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'Roadrunner' director: Anthony Bourdain wanted to be the 'perfect' dad

Though he spent most of the year traveling, Bourdain "loved being a father" to daughter Ariane.

In the upcoming documentary "Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain," fans of the late chef and television personality will be able to get a glimpse at the way Bourdain talked about family and fatherhood.

The documentary, directed by Morgan Neville, traces Bourdain's path from his early career in New York City to his time as an author and adventurer traveling the world before he died by suicide in France in 2018. It will open in theaters Friday, July 16.

"He was always about trying to understand how other people, unlike himself, thought, and that is something that we don't get enough of and something that I think his death leaves a massive vacuum," explained Neville to TODAY's Carson Daly.

Neville said he thinks people felt so much affection for Bourdain because of his authenticity and the sense that "everybody felt like they knew him." While Bourdain might have been a public figure, he often kept his home life private. He had one daughter, Ariane, born in 2007 to ex-wife Ottavia Busia-Bourdain.

Anthony Bourdain appears with his ex-wife Ottavia Busia in Morgan Neville's documentary.
Anthony Bourdain appears with his ex-wife Ottavia Busia in Morgan Neville's documentary.Focus Features

"He loved being a father so much," Neville said. "When he was home and with his family, he was there 100%, and he loved devoting everything he could, but at the same time, you know, he travels 250 days a year and I think there was something about that that made him feel like he couldn't be the dad that he expected was the perfect, you know, the romantic ideal of a dad, which is what Tony was always wanting everything to be.

"And I think when he couldn't do that, that was something that just really ate at him in a major way."

The documentary also provides a look at Bourdain's dark sense of humor. Carson pointed out that Bourdain made many jokes about taking his own life, including dying by hanging.

"Tony had a pitch-black sense of humor, and we have a couple examples in the film about him joking about suicide," Neville said. "There were many, many more examples, and he wrote about it too. But I think people decide, 'Oh, that's just Tony,' but obviously, there was something underneath all that, too. I think there was also a sense of Tony was always dancing on the edge, and I think that's where he got his creative juice, but it's also where the darkness lay."

Neville said the film also incorporates interviews from Bourdain's collaborators and confidants, bringing together friends who are keeping the chef's memory alive more than three years after his death.

"I can't think of anyone who's shown more of the world to the rest of the world on television than Anthony Bourdain, and that is so valuable," said Neville. "He was an ambassador for curiosity, you know? If there's anything we need more of it's to be curious about other people in other parts of the world. He was, you know, absolutely a one-of-a-kind person."

If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or go to for additional resources.