Looking Back on Anthony Bourdain and Asia Argento’s Roller-Coaster Romance
When Morgan Neville was making Roadrunner, his documentary about Anthony Bourdain, the Oscar-winning filmmaker spoke to many in Bourdain’s inner circle about the TV personality’s final months—specifically about Bourdain’s romantic relationship with the Italian actor Asia Argento.
Michael Steed, a Parts Unknown director, recalled how Bourdain met Argento in 2016 while filming a season-eight episode set in her home town of Rome. At the time, Bourdain was rebounding from his second divorce, and seemed to immediately fall for Argento, who was about 20 years his junior.
“When Tony met Asia, he was like, ‘She’s the best. My God, she’s so great.’ You know, like high school when you get laid for the first time,” Steed says in the documentary. The relationship quickly escalated, with the chef turned TV personality gushing about Argento in interviews and on Instagram, publicly championing her as she emerged as a #MeToo leader, privately paying off Argento’s own accuser, and even pushing for his girlfriend to direct an episode of Parts Unknown when another director fell ill. Another Parts Unknown coworker theorizes that Bourdain, a recovering heroin addict, “turn[ed] a lifelong addictive personality to another person, and that was extremely dangerous.”
Though the final act of Roadrunner features various friends and family members speaking about Argento’s hold over Bourdain, and the tabloid photos that some suggest may have catalyzed his suicide, Neville said that he actually pared down coverage of the romance.
“The Asia story is insanely complicated,” said Neville, who did not interview Argento for his documentary. “And if you go and read all the news stories, and kind of go into it, every question you bring up…brings up 10 more questions.… What I included was a fraction of what was there. So if people think there’s a lot, let me tell you, there is very little compared to what’s there.… And I think I was very fair with having seen all the facts. I’m very comfortable with what I did.”
Ahead, in an effort to understand the complicated nature of the relationship that Roadrunner outlines, we look back at Bourdain and Argento’s ill-fated romance.
It didn’t take long for Bourdain to develop feelings for Argento. After filming the Rome episode of Parts Unknown, Bourdain gushed to CNN:
The episode would not have been possible—or be anything like it is without the truly magnificent Asia Argento.… She told us about “stornaro,” the bawdy, profane Roman folk songs we feature at various times during the episode. She introduced us to the batshit crazy boxing club where we ate pasta ringside as gladiators pounded one another and the crowd hooted and roared. She allowed us to shoot at her favorite little restaurants, where she takes her kids on the weekends for homemade fettuccine and polpetti.… She arranged for her sister Fiore to cook for me at her home—with her delightful children, daughter Ana and son Nicola (who pretty much steals the show as he struggles with his tripe).… But most importantly, she was herself. Always honest, completely unsparing. If you ask Asia a question, you are going to get an answer—and she doesn’t care if it reflects badly on you—or on herself.… Asia has never given a fuck. Her admission that she never votes is both terrible and true—and about as close to home as it gets. The last word, appropriately, is hers.