Meet Walter Mitty, an ordinary person given to adventurous daydreams far grander than his real life. Directed, produced and starred by the widely-known blockbuster actor and filmmaker Ben Stiller, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” follows a modern day-dreamer, an ordinary magazine photo editor who takes a regular mental vacation from his ho-hum existence by disappearing into a world of fantasies electrified by dashing heroism, passionate romance and constant triumphs over danger. But when Mitty and the co-worker he secretly adores (Kristen Wiig) stand in actual peril of losing their jobs, Walter must do the unimaginable: take real action – sparking a global journey more extraordinary than anything he could have ever dreamed up.
“What I love about this story is that it can’t be categorized,” Stiller says. “It has comedy, it has drama, it’s an adventure story, it’s real and it’s fantastically hyper-real. Yet at the heart of it all is a character who I think everyone can connect to – someone who appears to be just going through the motions of modern life but is living a whole different life inside his head. To me, he embodies all those things we imagine about ourselves and the world but that we never say.”
The film lovingly winks back at the great American humorist Thurber’s timeless fable about a mild-mannered man’s need to turn his failures into something far more astonishing in his head. But Stiller’s Mitty is very much a man of our times. Like so many of us, he feels hemmed in by an increasingly depersonalized, electronic world that is rapidly changing everything– one that is making his very way of life obsolete. His only out is a madcap barrage of reveries that keep him a constant hero battling for a better, fairer world. It’s his own private realm he shares with no one . . . that is, until his search for a famous photographer’s (Sean Penn) missing negative gives him an unexpected chance to connect with another.
It was the tug-of-war between Mitty’sshaky, uncertain reality and the beautiful impulses behind his eye-popping dreams that first drew Stiller to Steven Conrad’s adaptation of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” He’d seen other attempts at re-visiting the story, but none had hit home.
“Steve’s script wasn’t trying to revisit the 1940s Danny Kaye classic, which was so wonderfully unique to its time. He found a different way of telling the story, one that was smart and compelling but that created a modern context for this character that audiences can relate to,” says Stiller. “I loved that the script honored the idea of an ordinary guy as hero in a way that’s lyrical, soulful and funny. Steve said to me, ‘inside the breast of every American man beats the heart of a hero’ — and I wanted the film to have that kind of respect for all the things ordinary people go through and how challenging life is for all of us whether you’re a guy that nobody pays attention to or you’re the President of the United States. Walter’s journey celebrates the potential that everybody has.”
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” opens January 22 in theaters nationwide from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.