Patricia Sheridan's Breakfast With ... Tom Shadyac
After a bike accident in Virginia, film director and producer Tom Shadyac suffered debilitating concussion symptoms. When he had recovered, he wrote and directed the documentary "I Am" about our consumer-oriented society. It explores two questions: What's wrong with our world, and what can we do about it?
Originally from Falls Church, Va., the 53-year-old began as a comedy writer for Bob Hope when he was just 24. In 1994, "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" catapulted him into the spotlight as a comic director along with star Jim Carrey. He went on to direct "Liar, Liar," "Bruce Almighty" and "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry," among others. "I Am" is now available on DVD.
In the film, you explore competition vs. cooperation. You have always been a high achiever. Were you driven to do so to please your parents, or was it just in your DNA?
I think there's a certain amount of competitiveness in all of us, but the way we define competitiveness is what I call into question. As long as competitiveness is about bringing out excellence -- because I love to see who can run the fastest, jump the highest -- that's wonderful.
We have added a deadly poison to that, which is: You must win that competition to survive in our culture. Many indigenous cultures did not swallow that poisonous pill, but our culture has.
For you happiness was getting rid of a lot of your stuff, scaling back. But you had stuff to give away. There are people who will say, "I still need to get it before I can give it away to be happy."
[Laughing] That may be their path, but whether a person has it or not, there are many who did not have stuff, who understood that things would not bring you happiness. I just don't like to look at it as giving up stuff. I feel like rather than giving up something, I moved toward something, gained something.
When I gave up the walled estate, I gained neighbors and friends. I gained community. When I gave up all this stuff that had to be maintained ... I moved toward lightness and enlightenment. I got lighter because I wasn't carrying around a lot [laughing].