THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY
The Nightmare in Management
Walter Mitty's greatest nemesis in his everyday life is the new Managing
Director in Charge of The Transition: the consummately arrogant, presumptuously
inconsiderate and endlessly intimidating Ted Hendricks. Screenwriter Steve
Conrad says he wrote the character to push all of Walter Mitty's buttons. "Ted
Hendricks is a kind of a feeling to me," Conrad describes. "He's the way you're
always made to feel by coaches or older brothers, teachers, policemen - that
feeling where the best thing you can say back to them you can't think of until
two minutes after they've left the room, and when they're in front of you,
nothing useful comes out. Or the worst thing comes out. Ted embodies that
Taking the role of Ted is Adam Scott, who plays Ben Wyatt on the hit
television comedy Parks and Recreation. "In real life, Adam is just the
sweetest, nicest guy," says Kristen Wiig. "But in this movie he's the biggest
douchebag. And he's so good, he makes that a lot of fun."
Stiller had him in mind from the beginning. "I always wanted Adam in the film
because he's so funny and he also has a very specific kind of presence," the
director notes. "There's a reality to Mitty's world but it is slightly stylized
and I thought Adam could really play to that tone. He gives you who Ted is -
cold and mean but also ridiculously self-involved - very quickly."
Scott was instantly drawn to the screenplay. "I thought it was amazing the
way that Steve and Ben had taken this classic story and let it blossom into
something that feels very epic and very now," he says. "The script felt like
something special - funny yet also truly moving. The depth of the writing was
something I think a lot of people aspire to."
As for who Ted is, Scott describes: "He's basically a heartless corporate
ghoul roaming the halls of this great American institution. He has absolutely no
regard for the humanity of this wonderful magazine that has been a marker for
American culture for so long. And in Walter, he mostly sees a guy who he thinks
is pathetic in a very funny way. He gets a kick out of him, because Walter makes
his bloodletting even more interesting. I think he rather enjoys Walter, until
the point where he begins to ruin Ted's life!"
Scott says that in calibrating the role, he used Stiller as his measuring
stick. "I think Ben is one of the funniest men ever in Hollywood, so just
getting him to laugh even once or twice through my performance was a huge deal
He also buried himself beneath a rather extensive statement beard that came
to define Ted. "Wearing that huge beard felt a bit like I had cake frosting on
my face every day. But it was worth it because it was the perfect look. It
really adds to the impression that this guy is a human bullet," he laughs.
Stiller was also awed by the facial hair. "I felt it gave Adam this unique
thing that we really haven't seen him ever be in a movie before," he says.
Ted might be just the kind of guy Walter Mitty would like to escape, but he
is at the very center of Mitty's most elaborate fantasy - an elevator encounter
that transforms into a flying battle through mid-town Manhattan. For Scott, the
experience of shooting that scene was a first.
"The battle sequence was absolutely one of the most incredible experiences
I've had," the actor confesses. "Ben and I were hanging from wire rigs, battling
it out, while the streets were just teeming with tourists. It was really, really
intense - I've never done else anything like it."
Despite the newness of it all, Stiller made it seem exhilarating, says Scott.
"Ben has a way of talking with actors that really makes you feel so comfortable
and so taken care of," he summarizes. "And yet, no matter how precise his
preparation was, once we were filming everything felt very alive. I think part
of what makes him able to do that as a director is that he's a great actor in
his own right."
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