The premise of Tom Shadyac's latest film, 'I Am,' about a man who bangs his head and suddenly begins ridding himself of possessions and money, sounds perfectly in tune with the director's past works. But unlike 'Evan Almighty,' 'Patch Adams,' 'The Nutty Professor,' 'Liar Liar' and other high-concept comedies he's helmed, this one is a fairly serious first-person documentary. And it's based on his own spiritual awakening following a cycling accident and subsequent post-concussion recovery during which his "brain had lost the ability to filter things out."
In an interview with Patrick Goldstein at the L.A. Times blog The Big Picture, Shadyac talks candidly about his decision to sell his mansion three years ago and move into a trailer home, in addition to giving most of his money and possessions away. With 'I Am,' he goes through a related process of self-discovery while also exploring the materialistic nature of man. In Goldstein's words, why we're "more like Donald Trump than Gandhi." Shadyac also quotes Gandhi's famous line, "you have to be the change you wish to see in the world."
Some of the filmmaker's charity has gone to environmental causes, including his 2008 donation of $2 million to a Telluride, Colorado, effort to save 550-acres of natural land to be used as public space rather than commercial developments. More recently he's tried to put similar consciousness into his movie career. In a bid for the directing gig for the 'Incredible Mr. Limpet' remake, he consulted with the makers of the Oscar-winning documentary 'The Cove,' but he tells Goldstein that it's unlikely the studio will go with his eco-friendly vision. In fact, Kevin Lima ('Enchanted') was hired last year. Meanwhile, Shadyac regular Jim Carrey was previously attached to the project but was recently been replaced with Zach Galifianakis.
So the guy hasn't totally lost his interest in doing studio comedies. But his last one, the disappointing 'Bruce Almighty' sequel, 'Evan Almighty,' was back in 2007, before his accident. And we haven't heard anything more on his follow-up project, 'Mr. Sensitive' (and we can assume his interest in cycling spoofs is gone forever). Perhaps he can adapt 'I Am' into a third 'Almighty' installment in which Morgan Freeman-as-God enlists a man to go around preaching that you can't take it with you?
For now he's at least trying to communicate that wealth and possessions are "insidious" by way of the documentary, which features interviews with Desmond Tutu, Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky, and is reportedly set to open early 2011. Stay tuned to the film's website for a trailer and clips, said to be coming soon.