How do you take a book that's non-fiction and make a fictional movie about it? Real-life stories are made into movies all the time, of course: Erin Brockovich, The Insider, All the President's Men -- all took real events and made them into films. But Fast Food Nation, the book, is not a story about a person. It's a painstakingly researched documentation of the history of the fast food industry and California car culture, and their collective impact on the way entire industries are run, the way people eat, and the way their food is produced. How to translate the vast amount of information Eric Schlosser presented in his book nearly a decade ago into a cohesive fictional film? The answer: It's not easy.
Schlosser's book, which started out as an article for Rolling Stone as a behind-the-scenes look at fast food, covered everything from suburban sprawl and changes in the meat industry destroying the American rancher; the meat-packing industry morphing from a crappy, but well-paid job with union benefits, into a crappy, poorly paid job with no benefits, mostly occupied now by illegal immigrants; teens becoming an underpaid and easily exploited workforce; and the rise of an entire industry marketing to children. The heart and soul of Schlosser's book is the focus on the plight of illegal immigrants -- a topic dear to his heart, as he previously spent a year following immigrant migrant farm workers for an article for The Atlantic on illegal immigration and its relationship with the produce industry. Schlosser's passion for this facet of the fast food industry comes across clearly in the book, and in the film adaptation, it's the segment imbued with the most passion as well.