Ellen: Tom Shadyac Happy Documentary & How To Be Happy


Ellen: Director Tom Shadyac

There are moments for all of us that can change the course of our lives. Tom Shadyac was the Hollywood comedy director behind Liar Liar and Bruce Almighty. But in 2007, he gave away most of his stuff and downsized from a mansion to a mobile home.

Now he’s making documentaries about life’s big questions, and the latest one is called Happy. Tom Shadyac sat down with Ellen to talk about his life philosophy and the new direction he’s been taking.


Ellen: Tom Shadyac Happy

Filmmaker Tom Shadyac told Ellen about his new documentary & what it takes to be happy. (Image Credit: s_bukley / Shutterstock.com)

Ellen: Tom Shadyac Lifestyle

Ellen recalled seeing Tom’s previous film, I Am, which she promoted last year on her show. She said it’s interesting how life has a way of leading us to our true paths, though that may not always be where we thought we’d be heading.

Tom Shadyac said that dying people’s #1 regret is they haven’t lived their own lives. He said he got wrapped up in the Hollywood lifestyle, and had 13 bathrooms in his mansion.


Once he started reevaluating his life and exploring what fulfills him and makes him happy, he slowly gave away many of his possessions and simplified his life to a 1,000 square foot mobile home. But he kept the downsizing a secret until the bike accident.

Ellen: Tom Shadyac Post Concussion Syndrome

After his 2007 bike accident, Tom Shadyac suffered Post Concussion Syndrome, which often affects athletes who take blows to the head.

“When I thought I was going to die, I said, ‘I can’t die with my story inside of me. I’ve got to share it.’ So that compelled me to make I Am,” he explained.

Ellen: Tom Shadyac Happy Movie

His latest film is called Happy, though he was a producer, not the director, for this new movie. He said the film centers around the principles of living a happy life by considering the perspectives of people around the world.

One of its subjects is a barefoot rickshaw driver who loves his job. Tom revealed that Denmark usually rates highest among world countries in happiness. But Okinawa, Japan, has the highest population of centenarians, people over age 100.

“They have a lot of community. Their life isn’t about acquiring things and stuff…our culture’s gotten off track,” he said. “It’s really about family.”

Though by Western standards the rickshaw driver may seem poor, he considers himself rich because he is surrounded by loved ones. Tom noted that this simplicity and joyfulness is part of why Americans are so struck by other cultures when traveling the world.

Ellen also recalled the triumphs of a communal group living in Denmark, which shared the responsibilities of cooking, childcare and life. “I think as we accumulate more and more things and try to compete…it never does fill you up,” Ellen said.

Ellen: Tom Shadyac How To Be Happy

Tom said that there are ways you can be happy any day of your life, no matter how rich or poor you are. One of them is as simple as dancing. He said you can also do something novel, such as a Dance Dare.

“Actually the most important thing you can do is to be kind, and if you’re kind and you serve others, they find your happiness level elevated more than anything,” he said. “It’s really about moving into your own heart, and what makes you feel good, what makes you come alive.”

Getting outdoors into nature and the earth can also help us reconnect with our passions. Ellen pointed out that doing good things for others makes you feel good. But so does watching others be kind. I guess that means shows like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition are like happiness porn.

Ellen: Tom Shadyac Advice

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change,” Ellen said, sharing one of her favorite Wayne Dyer quotes. She asked Tom Shadyac for his advice to people struggling with horrible life situations.

He said that everybody has something they enjoy in life, and the things that make us happy are usually free, so economic hardships won’t keep us from enjoying them. Spending time with kids, painting, or changing your perspective can all improve your mood.

“Do something different in your life. And again, how you look at it,” he said, echoing Ellen’s quotation. “It’s not for forever. It’s just for now, and it’s going to be different, and it’s going to get better.”

Watch Tom Shadyac’s documentary, Happy, online.


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