"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" -- the 1939 original short story by James Thurber -- is only about 2,000 words long, but the portrait it paints of a quiet man escaping into elaborate fantasy worlds that keeps resonating across generations. It was the basis for a loose film adaptation starring Danny Kaye in 1947 (which Thurber reportedly hated), and now after nearly two decades in development it is hitting the big screen again in a big-budget reimagining from director/star Ben Stiller.
Check out the new full trailer for "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" — premiering exclusively here on Yahoo Movies — and read on to learn where the new adaptation diverges from the original story and how the movie was received during its world premiere this weekend.
In Thurber's original story, Walter Mitty is a married man who engages in flights of fantasy to occupy his mind as he waits on his wife. In Stiller's movie, Walter is a single guy who is fixated on his coworker (Kristen Wiig) but can't come up with enough interesting facts about himself to fill out his eHarmony profile. Walter is a photo editor for "Life" magazine, but he can't find the one shot from a famous photojournalist (Sean Penn) that is meant for the cover of the final issue. So he finally breaks free of his humdrum life to see the world and track down the missing photograph.
The film received a "lengthy standing ovation" at its premiere during the New York Film Festival this past Saturday according to the Hollywood Reporter. Stiller noted after the screening that he grew up just 20 blocks from Lincoln Center where the premiere was held, and he called the movie a "valentine" to the city.
Originally, Stiller was approached to just star in the project that has been in development since the early '90s, with actors like Jim Carrey and different directors including Steven Spielberg attached at different times. Stiller said at the New York Film Festival press conference that he was hooked by the script written by Steven Conrad that tried to be a fresh approach to the story, and not a remake of the Danny Kaye original.
"We're all living in a world that's transformed from analog to digital," Stiller said, "and what gets left behind with that, I thought that was a really important part of the whole story." His Walter is a specialist in an outdated technology for a publication that is going out of print, so he's definitely a man out of time. And the film's fantasy sequences help show how out of place he is in reality. Stiller added, "Understanding how each fantasy leads to him becoming who he is and ultimately being able to realize his full self — that was really important."
"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" opens everywhere on Christmas Day.