Stiller's fourth directorial endeavor is set to hit theaters this Christmas, and it'll apparently be far less straight-up comedic than his previous efforts The Cable Guy, Zoolander, and Tropic Thunder.
“I’ve always wanted to direct different kinds of movies,” Stiller tells Empire, where the images debuted. “I just haven’t really done it.”
This take on The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, based on the original 1939 short story by James Thurber, has been in development for sixteen years, with directors like Steven Spielberg, Gore Verbinski, and Ron Howard coming and going, along with potential Walters like Jim Carrey, Johnny Depp, Owen Wilson, and Mike Meyers.
Apparently Stiller was offered the title role back in 2005, before Steve Conrad came along with a script that got him on board. “This version is more different than similar to the original,” Stiller explained. “That’s what appealed. The 2005 version was just an updated version that wasn’t a musical. All it was ever going to be was ‘not as good as the original’. We were aiming for something indefinable, a movie that left you with a feeling at the end. I’ve never made a movie like that, and it’s a really hard target to hit. It’s hard to put into words.”
Empire saw thirteen minutes of this new The Secret Life of Walter Mitty at an exhibitors' convention in Barcelona, describing the footage as "fucking magical."
Still stars as Mitty, a timid Life photo editor who escapes into daydreams of heroism, romance, and adventure while his coworkers are mocking him and the woman he loves is oblivious to his longing. Kristen Wiig plays the object of his affection, while supporting roles are played by Adam Scott, Patton Oswalt, Shirley MacLaine, Kathryn Hahn, and, according to scuttlebutt, Sean Penn.
It sounds like a tricky balancing act between real quiet drama and outsized fantasy sequences, though without the musical numbers of the Danny Kaye original.
On finding the sweet spot between the movie's two modes, Stills says, "What I learned as I was editing the movie is that people love the fantasy sequences but they also get invested in the real-life aspects of the movie too. They want to enjoy the fantasies, and for them to be fun and funny, but there’s also this natural desire for the story to go forward. A little goes a long way.”
Inspirations for this The Secret Life of Walter Mitty include The Apartment, Forrest Gump, It's a Wonderful Life, and Life of Pi. We'll see how the remake compares to those lofty inspirations when it hits theaters on December 25th.