The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013 film)

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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
A side profile of a man running with a silver briefcase in hand. Behind him a cityscape.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBen Stiller
Produced by
Screenplay bySteve Conrad
Based onThe Secret Life of Walter Mitty 
by James Thurber
Starring
Music byTheodore Shapiro
CinematographyStuart Dryburgh
Editing byGreg Hayden
StudioSamuel Goldwyn Films
Red Hour Films
New Line Cinema[1]
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release dates
Running time114 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$90 million[3]
Box office$175,611,046[4]
 
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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
A side profile of a man running with a silver briefcase in hand. Behind him a cityscape.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBen Stiller
Produced by
Screenplay bySteve Conrad
Based onThe Secret Life of Walter Mitty 
by James Thurber
Starring
Music byTheodore Shapiro
CinematographyStuart Dryburgh
Editing byGreg Hayden
StudioSamuel Goldwyn Films
Red Hour Films
New Line Cinema[1]
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release dates
Running time114 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$90 million[3]
Box office$175,611,046[4]

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is an American romantic adventure fantasy comedy-drama film directed by, co-produced, and starring Ben Stiller.[5][6]

This is the second film adaptation of James Thurber's 1939 short story of the same name. The 1947 version was produced by Samuel Goldwyn and directed by Norman Z. McLeod, with Danny Kaye playing the role of Walter Mitty.[7]

The film premiered at the New York Film Festival on October 5, 2013.[8] It was given general release on December 25, 2013 in the U.S.[9] The film received mixed reviews from critics.

Plot[edit]

Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is a negative assets manager (photographs) at Life magazine who frequently daydreams of fantastic adventures, and has a crush on his coworker Cheryl (Kristen Wiig). Photojournalist Sean O'Connell (Sean Penn), who works closely with Mitty concerning his submissions, has sent him a package containing his latest negatives and a wallet as a gift in appreciation of Walter's excellent work. Furthermore, that package contains a special photograph, negative 25, that he says in writing captures the "Quintessence" of Life and that it should be used for the cover of the magazine's final print issue as it converts to online status. Unfortunately, that specific negative is missing from the package and Mitty is forced to stall the obnoxious corporate transition manager Ted Hendricks (Adam Scott) handling the downsizing. Using the other negatives as clues, Mitty figures out that O'Connell is in Greenland and flies there to try and find him.

Arriving in Greenland, Walter goes to a bar asking about Sean. The bartender explains that he is already gone on a ship, and to find him, Walter would need to go on the postal helicopter, and the pilot is drunkenly singing a karaoke version of "Don't You Want Me" in the bar. Walter declines to fly with a drunken pilot but imagines Cheryl singing to him "Space Oddity", gains a new confidence, and jumps on board the helicopter. Nearing the ship, Walter learns the helicopter cannot land onto the ship. Walter misunderstood the pilot thinking he had to jump onto the ship where there was a boat nearing to catch him but then dived instead into ice-cold, shark-infested waters before he can be brought on board. In doing so, he realizes this whole adventure is actually happening as opposed to his daydreams. Once on board, Walter learns that Sean is no longer on the ship although the sailors remember Sean, even offering Walter some cake he left behind - to his surprise, Walter's mother's clementine cake, her speciality. Walter discovers more clues in the wrapping paper. His journey continues to Iceland, where Sean has gone to photograph the volcano Eyjafjallajökull. The eruption prevents Walter from finding Sean and he is forced to break off the search after receiving a text message calling him back to New York immediately.

For his failure, his first professional loss in his long career with the magazine, Walter is fired and is even more disheartened to find that Cheryl, who was let go earlier, seems to have reconciled with her estranged husband. Walter returns home, thoroughly discouraged, and throws away the wallet when he visits his mother (Shirley MacLaine) and to his surprise she mentions having met Sean. She had told him before but while daydreaming he had failed to hear her. He then finds a new clue to continue to hunt for Sean. Mitty eventually tracks down O'Connell in the Himalayas, trying to photograph a rare snow leopard, and asks about the missing negative. Sean explains that the message about taking a closer look was literal: the negative was in the wallet. Walter joins him in a soccer game with some locals. He then flies to Los Angeles but is arrested by airport security, and calls the only person he knows in Los Angeles; Todd Maher (Patton Oswalt), a representative at eHarmony who has kept in contact through his adventures.

Walter returns home and helps his mother sell her piano, he mentions he does not have a wallet anymore. His mother says she always keeps his knick knacks and she produces the wallet he had thrown out. Without looking at the picture, an emboldened Mitty delivers it to Life magazine, tells management that it was the photograph Sean O'Connell wanted for the final issue, and berates Hendricks for disrespecting the staff that made the magazine so honored.

Walter reunites with Cheryl when they receive their severance packages and learns that Cheryl's ex-husband was only at her house in order to repair the refrigerator. Heartened by this turn of events, Walter and Cheryl see the final issue of the magazine on the newsstand, with its cover saluting the staff. It is revealed that the photograph shows Walter sitting outside the Life building, holding a sheet of negatives up to the light and examining them with an eyepiece. Walter holds Cheryl's hand and they both walk along the street.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

Producer Samuel Goldwyn, Jr., whose father produced the 1947 film adaptation, originally conceived the idea of doing a remake in 1994 with Jim Carrey in mind for the title role. Walt Disney Pictures was enthusiastic to purchase the remake rights, but Goldwyn instead chose New Line Cinema,[10] who held a positive working relationship with Carrey on Dumb and Dumber and The Mask (both 1994).[11] The studio bought the rights in 1995 with the understanding that The Samuel Goldwyn Company would be involved in creative decisions.[12] Babaloo Mandel and Lowell Ganz turned in the first draft of the screenplay in July 1997. Ron Howard entered negotiations to direct that same month, as well as cover producing duties with Brian Grazer and Imagine Entertainment.[13] Howard and Imagine Entertainment eventually left the project in favor of EDtv,[10] and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty languished in development hell over the challenges of using a contemporary storyline.[11]

In May 1999, New Line hired The Mask director Chuck Russell to rewrite the script and serve as Howard's replacement. Filming was set to begin in early-2000, but was pushed back.[11] Around this time, Peter Tolan worked on rewrites.[10] In May 2001, Goldwyn filed a lawsuit against New Line over breach of contract purposes. Goldwyn claimed that the studio extended their 1995 deal until May 2001, but then announced that it wanted to transfer the rights for the remake to another company and have Goldwyn surrender his creative input.[12] In November 2002, New Line was forced to revert the film rights back to Goldwyn, who won his lawsuit and took the property to Paramount Pictures.[12] During pre-production discussions between Paramount and DreamWorks on Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (which starred Carrey), Steven Spielberg, head of DreamWorks, rekindled interest in working with Carrey; the duo previously considered Meet the Parents, but the outing fell apart.[10] In May 2003, Spielberg agreed to direct,[10] and brought in DreamWorks to co-finance The Secret Life of Walter Mitty with Paramount (who would acquire DreamWorks in 2006).[14]

By November, Zach Helm was rewriting the script,[15] but Spielberg and DreamWorks vacated the film in April 2004 in favor of War of the Worlds and Munich. "The goal is to go back to the short story and capture not only the content but the original spirit," producer John Goldwyn (son of Samuel) told The Hollywood Reporter. Screenwriter Richard LaGravenese entered discussion to write a new script following Spielberg's departure.[16] Sam Goldwyn commented that LaGravenese's script had a momentous and unique approach compared to others. "I'd always felt that unless we got a great script, the movie disintegrates into a series of wonderful gags," Goldwyn explained. "Writers always fixated on that. [Richard] worked for 10 months on umpteen drafts, and he solved it."[17] In March 2005, Paramount hired Mark Waters to direct LaGravenese's script for Walter Mitty,[18] but Carrey had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts.[17] He was soon replaced by Owen Wilson.[19]

Despite not having a final budget, Paramount scheduled a December 12, 2005 start date because their option on the remake rights was to end one week later; they would lose the rights if they did not start filming before December 20.[17] Wilson dropped out in October 2005 over creative differences. The Hollywood Reporter also speculated that Walter Mitty began to falter after Paramount failed to cast a female lead to star opposite Wilson. Scarlett Johansson had reportedly emerged as the front-runner after screen testing with Wilson earlier in October, but a deal was never signed with the actress.[20] Paramount executives Brad Grey and Gail Berman decided to put Walter Mitty in turnaround in November 2005.[21] Goldwyn found favor at 20th Century Fox and, in May 2007, it was announced that Mike Myers was attached to star in the title role. Jay Kogen was hired to write a new script that would be specifically tailored for Myers.[22]

In April 2010, Sacha Baron Cohen was offered and accepted the lead role.[23] Later that month, The Pursuit of Happyness writer Steven Conrad was hired to pen the screenplay,[24] with Gore Verbinski announced as director in June 2010.[25][26][27]

In April 2011, it was announced that Ben Stiller had been cast in the lead role, though no director was attached.[28] The following July, it was announced that Stiller was also due to direct the film.[29]

Pre-production[edit]

In January 2012, it was announced that Kristen Wiig would play the female lead,[30] with Shirley MacLaine attached to play the mother of Ben Stiller's character.[31] This was followed by reports in February that Patton Oswalt and Adam Scott joined the film.[32][33] In April 2012, Kathryn Hahn was cast as Odessa, Walter's sister, and Josh Charles was cast as the ex-husband of Kristen Wiig's character,[34] though he was replaced by Kai Lennox. Later that month, Sean Penn was cast in what was described as a "small but pivotal supporting role"[35] as photojournalist Sean O'Connell.

Though the film says Greenland, it is in fact Iceland[36] that has been used, including the sequence where Walter Mitty follows Sean in Afghanistan which is nothing but the Vatnajökull National Park in Iceland.

Distribution[edit]

In April 2013, nearly 20 minutes of footage was presented by Fox at CinemaCon in Las Vegas followed by a theatrical trailer release in July, both of which began to spark awards speculation.[37][38] The trailer features a short segment of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody". The song is not used in the film.

The film made its world premiere as the Centerpiece Gala presentation at the New York Film Festival on October 5, 2013.[8] It was also selected to serve as the Centerpiece Gala presentation at the 2013 AFI Film Festival.[39]

Marketing[edit]

Twentieth Century Fox hired filmmaker Casey Neistat to make a promotional video based on the theme of “live your dreams” but Neistat suggested instead to spend the budget on bringing disaster relief to the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan. Fox agreed and gave him a budget of $25,000.[40][41]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

The film has received mixed reviews. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 50% based on reviews from 169 critics, with a rating average of 5.9/10. The site's consensus reads: "It doesn't lack for ambition, but The Secret Life of Walter Mitty fails to back up its grand designs with enough substance to anchor the spectacle."[42] Metacritic gives the film an averaged rating of 54/100 based on reviews from 39 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[43] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a B+ rating.[44]

Peter Debruge of Variety magazine criticized the film for lacking the satirical tone of the original story, comparing the film to "a feature-length 'Just Do It' ad[vertisement]" for the middle-aged audience the film is targeting. Debruge notes that the script downplays the comedy, and that a scene inspired by The Curious Case of Benjamin Button show the film could have been made funnier, but that the more serious emotional dimension ultimately makes the film feel more substantial.[45]

Accolades[edit]

Awards
AwardDate of ceremonyCategoryRecipients and nomineesResult
National Board of Review[46]December 4, 2013Top Ten FilmsThe Secret Life of Walter MittyWon
Satellite Awards[47]February 23, 2014Best CinematographyStuart DryburghNominated
Best Original ScoreTheodore ShapiroNominated

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty". Hollywoodreporter.com. Retrieved 2013-05-05. 
  2. ^ "THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY (PG)". 20th Century Fox. British Board of Film Classification. November 18, 2013. Retrieved November 19, 2013. 
  3. ^ http://variety.com/2013/film/news/ben-stiller-on-hollywoods-long-journey-with-the-secret-life-of-walter-mitty-1200911759/
  4. ^ "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  5. ^ "Ben Stiller, At Tribeca, Talks 'Secret Life Of Walter Mitty': 'I Don't Sing & Dance'". Huffingtonpost.com. 2013-04-21. Retrieved 2013-05-05. 
  6. ^ Hammond, Pete. "CinemaCon: Fox Unveils Ben Stiller's 'Secret Life Of Walter Mitty' Which Could Be Oscar Bound". Deadline.com. Retrieved 2013-05-05. 
  7. ^ "Ben Stiller To Join ‘Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ Remake". Screenrant.com. Retrieved 2013-05-05. 
  8. ^ a b Fleming Jr., Mike (1 August 2013). "New York Film Fest Locks Ben Stiller’s ‘Walter Mitty’ For Centerpiece Gala". Deadline.com. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  9. ^ "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) - Overview - MSN Movies". Movies.msn.com. 2013-04-18. Retrieved 2013-05-05. 
  10. ^ a b c d e Michael Fleming (March 11, 2003). "Paramount giddy over 'Mitty'". Variety. Retrieved July 16, 2009. 
  11. ^ a b c Michael Fleming (May 25, 1999). "Russell to make 'Mitty'; Reiser's 'Mad' no more". Variety. Retrieved July 16, 2009. 
  12. ^ a b c Janet Shprintz (November 5, 2002). "Goldwyn settles suit on 'Mitty' NL rights". Variety. Retrieved July 16, 2009. 
  13. ^ Staff (July 11, 1997). "Howard mulls 'Mitty'". Variety. Retrieved July 16, 2009. 
  14. ^ Dave McNary (March 27, 2003). "2 studios split 'Mitty'". Variety. Retrieved July 16, 2009. 
  15. ^ Dana Harris (2003-11-19). "Senator meets 'Stranger'". Variety. Retrieved 2009-07-16. 
  16. ^ Brian Linder (2004-04-01). "Secret Life Changes". IGN. Retrieved 2009-07-16. 
  17. ^ a b c Michael Fleming (2005-07-17). "Everyone had mitts on 'Mitty'". Variety. Retrieved 2009-07-16. 
  18. ^ Dave McNary (2005-03-28). "Waters will man 'Mitty'". Variety. Retrieved 2009-07-16. 
  19. ^ Dave McNary (2005-07-12). "Wilson's A-O-Kaye as new witty 'Mitty'". Variety. Retrieved 2009-07-16. 
  20. ^ Staff (October 31, 2005). "Mitty Moves". IGN. Retrieved July 18, 2009. 
  21. ^ Dave McNary; Chris Gardner (November 6, 2005). "Extreme Makeover: The Par edition". Variety. Retrieved July 16, 2009. 
  22. ^ Michael Fleming (May 22, 2007). "Mike Myers to star in 'Mitty' remake". Variety. Retrieved July 16, 2009. 
  23. ^ Fischer, Russ (April 19, 2010). "Sacha Baron Cohen in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty?". /Film. Retrieved July 31, 2013. 
  24. ^ Fischer, Russ (April 23, 2010). "The Pursuit of Happyness Scribe to Write The Secret Life of Walter Mitty". /Film. Retrieved July 31, 2013. 
  25. ^ "Gore Verbinski to Direct 'Secret Life of Walter Mitty' Remake". The Wrap. June 29, 2010. Retrieved July 31, 2013. 
  26. ^ Bettinger, Brendan (June 30, 2010). "Gore Verbinski Intrigued by THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY". Collider.com. Retrieved July 31, 2013. 
  27. ^ "Verbinski's Next Will Be 'Walter Mitty' Remake". Spill.com. June 30, 2010. Retrieved July 31, 2013. 
  28. ^ Fleming Jr., Mike (April 7, 2011). "Ben Stiller Turns Fox’s ‘Walter Mitty’ Reboot From Daydream To Reality". Deadline.com. Retrieved July 31, 2013. 
  29. ^ Barnes, Henry (July 20, 2011). "Ben Stiller to direct and star in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty". The Guardian (London). 
  30. ^ Kit, Borys (January 19, 2012). "Kristen Wiig in Negotiations to Star With Ben Stiller in 'Walter Mitty' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 31, 2013. 
  31. ^ White, James (January 14, 2012). "Shirley MacLaine Up For Walter Mitty". Empire. Retrieved August 2, 2013. 
  32. ^ Sneider, Jeff (February 9, 2013). "Patton Oswalt in talks for Fox's 'Walter Mitty'". Variety. Showblitz. Retrieved July 31, 2013. 
  33. ^ Fleming Jr., Mike (February 13, 2012). "Adam Scott Joins ‘The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty’". Deadline.com. Retrieved July 31, 2013. 
  34. ^ Fleming, Jr., Mike (4 April 2012). "Kathryn Hahn And Josh Charles Join ‘The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty'". Deadline.com. PMC. Retrieved 8 October 2013. 
  35. ^ Fleming Jr., Mike (April 23, 2012). "Sean Penn In Talks To Join Ben Stiller's ‘The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty’ Remake". Deadline.com. Retrieved August 6, 2013. 
  36. ^ ""Shooting locations for Walter Mitty"". filmapia.com. 
  37. ^ Ford, Rebecca (July 30, 2013). "'Secret Life of Walter Mitty' Trailer: Ben Stiller's Dreamy Awards Contender (Video)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 31, 2013. 
  38. ^ Kaufman, Amy (30 July 2013). "Trailer for Ben Stiller's award-season hopeful 'Walter Mitty' debuts". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 31 July 2013. 
  39. ^ Pond, Steve (September 30, 2013). "AFI Fest Selects 'Out of the Furnace' Premiere, 'Walter Mitty' Screening, Bruce Dern Tribute (Exclusive)". TheWrap. Retrieved September 30, 2013. 
  40. ^ Francesca Bacardi (December 16, 2013). "Fox marketing/advertising funds used for Philippines typhoon relief". 
  41. ^ Video on YouTube
  42. ^ "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 3, 2014. 
  43. ^ "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved December 28, 2013. 
  44. ^ Steven Zeitchik (December 26, 2013). "'The Wolf of Wall Street:' Is it too polarizing for the mainstream? (2013)". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 28, 2013. 
  45. ^ Peter Debruge (October 6, 2013). "Film Review: 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty'". Variety. 
  46. ^ "National Board of Review Chooses ‘Her’ as Best Film, Will Forte and Octavia Spencer Land Wins". The Awards Circuit. December 4, 2013. Retrieved December 4, 2013. 
  47. ^ International Press Academy (December 2, 2013). "The International Press Academy Announces Nominations For The 18th Annual Satellite Awards™". PR Newswire. Retrieved December 3, 2013. 

External links[edit]