The Secret Life of Walter Mitty made its world premiere as the New York Film Festival’s Centerpiece Gala Presentation on Saturday, Oct. 5. Directed by Ben Stiller, the film stars the actor in the titular role of a man with a penchant for “zoning out,” who goes on a fantastical journey to save his job at Life magazine along with the job of the woman of his dreams (Kristen Wiig). Stiller and the cast, including Wiig, Adam Scott, and Patton Oswalt, came out to celebrate the film’s premiere screening at Alice Tully Hall.
For producer John Goldwyn, the long road to a Secret Life of Walter Mitty remake started with Pursuit of Happyness scribe Stuart Conrad’s script. “In every other version, the script skewed closely to the original film, and his didn’t,” said Goldwyn, whose legendary grandfather produced the 1947 musical-comedy version. The modern Mitty is now less of a hapless daydreamer and more of a man who takes it upon himself to step out of his head and into real life. “It gave the character clarity. That’s what got Ben on board, Fox on board, got the thing moving down the track,” added Goldwyn.
Said Stiller, “We just wanted to honor the material and tell the story pretty simply. But I think there’s a lot beneath the surface in the Walter character, like the idea of what people have underneath. That’s something everybody in the cast related to.”
Adrian Martinez, who plays Hernando, Walter’s co-worker at Life magazine, marveled at Stiller’s work ethic. “I can’t even imagine directing a film of this size and performing and producing and being so conscientious of every detail and staying present with his fellow actors in every scene,” he said.
Scott, for his part, relished the chance to play a bearded baddie who’s heading a downsizing team at Life. (He currently stars as supportive husband and all-around good guy Ben Wyatt on Parks and Recreation.) ”I really love A-holes,” said Scott. “I love watching them in real life, and I love watching pretend ones in movies. Heady s—heads are some of my favorite fake people to watch. I want to keep them out of my life, but I love watching them.”
Oswalt, who is featured in an undisclosed role (“I’m totally not being coy: Ben Stiller told me I can’t talk about it”), and newcomer Alex Anfanger, who plays one of Scott’s cronies, shared where they go in their minds whenever they “zone out.” Anfanger said, “I dream about what it would be like if I died. That’s a really morbid thing to say.” He quickly added, “It’s at least an epic, awesome death.”
Oswalt said his own daydreams involve imagining the continuation of scenes in movies. “I really would love to be Jerry Stiller, oddly enough, in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three when he’s standing next to Walter Matthau when the last robber sneezes and gives it away,” he said. “Matthau just puts his head back into the room like, ‘You just — Dude.’ Then they freeze it because they got him, but what happens [next]?”
Stiller’s wife, actress Christine Taylor shared a tidbit about a dream Stiller fans are hoping to see come true. When asked about the long-anticipated sequel to Zoolander, Taylor said, “Zoolander 2, you know, everyone wants to make it,” adding with a shrug, “There’s a script!”
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty opens nationwide on Dec. 25.