THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY
Mitty's Dream Girl
While Walter Mitty ponders the problems with his eHarmony profile, his
romantic dreams hone in on his co-worker in accounting - the easy-going Cheryl
who frequently morphs into the object of his heroic rescues and escapades.
The role as Stiller saw it was not just comic relief, but a major catalyst
for Mitty's journey. "It is Walter's tenuous connection with Cheryl that becomes
the impetus pushing him out into the world," he explains.
As such, it demanded someone who could leap from the everyday world of a
single mom in fear of losing her job into the high-wire drama of Walter's
daydreams and back again, without ever losing a beat, or the core of who Cheryl
is. To do all this, while also creating the snowballing effect of a relationship
in its first throes of attraction, the filmmakers cast one of today's most
intriguing comediennes: Kristen Wiig, who cut her teeth as one of "Saturday
Night Live's" biggest stars before kick-starting a wide-ranging screen career.
Stiller had her in mind from the get-go. "Kristen is someone who is so, so
relatable," he comments. "She's so real, and so naturally funny, and I also
really wanted to see her doing something like this - something that's not quite
the broad, crazy comedy we're used to. Her personality is so likeable and warm,
I felt she could instantly give the audience a shorthand as to why she and Mitty
might actually belong together."
He continues: "Kristen is also terrific at playing many different attitudes
and characters. She was able to juxtapose that kind of comedy with Cheryl's very
real personality where she's just a little bit intrigued by Walter. I think her
character gets to something that audiences really connect with: the idea of that
some of the littlest things that happen to us in life - even just saying hello
to somebody when they give you a certain look - can affect us in big ways."
Wiig says that her initial conversations with Stiller were key to winning her
over. "The script was absolutely wonderful but it's hard to go on script alone
because there are so many ways to interpret a story like this," she notes. "So
the tone of our conversations was really important. I felt that what Ben wanted
to do with Walter Mitty was very interesting. I loved that he wanted to take
this classic story, modernize it in a fun way and really touch on elements of
our lives right now."
She goes on: "It's one of those stories that leaves you feeling like there's
a great big, world for you out there - and that if there are things in life we
really want to do, whether it's connect with our families or travel the globe,
it's worth trying to go out and do them."
It was easy for Wiig to see why Cheryl might have just the tiniest twinges of
interest in Walter that blossom into something more as they embark together on
solving the mystery of the lost negative. "I think she likes that he leads a
quieter kind of life and that he also kind of sees something better out there,"
she explains. "They both are leading lives that maybe they wish were a little
spicier, so it's perfect that they end up going on this unexpected adventure
Wiig especially enjoyed bursting into Mitty's daydreams, with Cheryl
appearing in numerous thrilling scenarios that took Wiig to new places.,
including performing a one-woman Bowie song. "I loved doing the fantasy
sequences," she says. "In one of Walter's first fantasies, he runs into a
burning building and saves my three-legged dog. I'd never been in a scene like
that before - one involving big explosions and fires -- and it was really
exciting for me as an actor."
Wiig says that excitement was continuously stoked by Stiller no matter the
scene. "I don't really know how Ben could have done so much on this whole
project," she muses. "He was intensely involved with every single aspect of the
movie, wearing all these hats and then he'd step into the scene as an actor,
too. It was inspiring to watch and I felt that I learned a lot from him."
Stiller's visual aplomb amazed Wiig as well. "The look of the movie is so
very specific and beautiful, which is part of what makes it so special. Ben had
a vision for every single shot, every frame," she says.
Wiig was especially impressed by what Stiller brought to Mitty. "His Walter
Mitty is a guy who really does have a voice -- he just doesn't quite know how to
use it yet. Ben brings so much warmth to the character that you just want to hug
him and beat up everybody who's mean to him."
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