Once the most celebrated comedy director in the business, having made a fortune with hits like “The Nutty Professor,” “Liar Liar” and “Bruce Almighty,” [Tom] Shadyac is now a Hollywood dropout.
Now 51, he hasn’t made a feature film since “Evan Almighty” in 2007. He sold a 17,000-square-foot mansion in Pasadena and moved into a trailer park in north Malibu. He’s been giving away most of his money and was well on his way to shedding his possessions several years ago when he took a serious fall while bicycling in Virginia, breaking his hand and suffering a concussion.
The hand healed, but Shadyac ended up with a nasty case of post-concussion syndrome, an ailment common among professional athletes that can cause depression, disorientation and has even prompted some victims to commit suicide.
It took Shadyac months to recover. When I visited him Friday at his trailer park home, he pointed to a closet in his tiny bedroom. “That’s where I would sleep a lot of the time,” he says. “Everything felt too loud and too bright because my brain had lost the ability to filter things out.”
When Shadyac finally returned to health, he decided that he needed to make a film that could explore why today’s culture is so obsessed with competition and separation instead of community and cooperation. Due in theaters early next year, “I Am” features interviews with all sorts of wise men and women, including well-known cultural figures such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the late historian Howard Zinn as well as lesser-known scientists, poets and evolutionary biologists.
They all grapple with Shadyac’s central theme, puzzling over why man is often more competitive than cooperative, more aggressive than empathetic — in other words more like Donald Trump than like Gandhi.
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