Walter Mitty is a daydreamer who escapes his anonymous life by disappearing into a world of fantasies filled with heroism, romance and action. When his job along with that of his co-worker are threatened, Walter takes action in the real world embarking on a global journey that turns into an adventure more extraordinary than anything he could have ever imagined.
The exuberant hilarity and bittersweet poignancy of people chasing crazy dreams has always underscored Ben Stiller’s comedic storytelling approach. As an actor, he has become one of the world’s biggest comic stars with a chain of Everyman characters facing outrageous circumstances - whether a man trying to impress his terrifying in-laws in the Meet The Parents series, a lonely museum night watchman who can’t believe his eyes in the Night At The Museum romps, or a guy who gets a second chance with his high school dream date in the boundary-pushing comedy There’s Something About Mary.
As a director, he has garnered critical acclaim for his own brand of sharp yet sweet comedy, including his affectionate send-up of the fashion world in Zoolander and his triumphant satire of action movie madness and camaraderie in Tropic Thunder. But THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY (rated PG for mild language and action; and with a running time of 114 min.) took Stiller to places he has never been before, both in front of and behind the camera. It is at once his most visually adventurous epic and his most stirringly human tale.
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’s shaky, 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."
—taken from the production notes of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, courtesy of 20th Century Fox