THE IMMENSELY talented Kristen Wiig stars opposite Ben Stiller in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” where Stiller plays the titular character about a modern daydreamer inspired to live out his dreams to save not just his job but that of the woman whom he secretly cares for.
Mitty is an ordinary magazine photo editor who takes a regular mental vacation from his ho-hum existence by disappearing into a world of fantasies electrified by dashing heroism, passionate romance and constant triumphs over danger. But when Mitty and the co-worker Cheryl (Kristen Wiig) whom he secretly adores stand in actual peril of losing their jobs, Walter must do the unimaginable: take real action – sparking a global journey more extraordinary than anything he could have ever dreamed up.
Stiller saw Wiig’s role not just as a 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.
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.”
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 together.”
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.”
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.”
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” opens this January 22 from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.