Ben Stiller plays a man who steps out of his comfort zone in The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty.

Struck by the notion presented in James Thurber’s 1939 short story – that everyone is a hero inside who goes unnoticed – Ben Stiller decided to make The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty. Directing and starring in the film, Stiller described it as one of the most challenging and meaningful films of his career.

In a transcript provided by the film distributor, Twentieth Century Fox Film, Stiller theorised why the classic tale about a daydreamer who escapes his unremarkable life by entering a world filled with fantastic adventures still resonates with people. “It is the idea that we all have so much inside that nobody knows about. Walter sees so much but nobody really sees him. I thought that was a beautiful idea.”

For the film, Stiller expanded the idea a little bit. “This film is not just about a guy who has crazy daydreams. It is about a guy who is trying to get in touch with himself. I liked the idea of the guy stepping out into the world and actually trying to make a change.”

Walter (Stiller), a photo editor at Life magazine, took on the responsibility of being the man of the house after his father died when he was just a teenager. While he enjoys his current job, Walter longs for something more, especially a relationship with a colleague, Cheryl (Kristen Wiig). So he dreams about a life in which he is the greatest hero Cheryl would know.

However, his comfortable bubble faces real jeopardy when the magazine is bought over and is going digital. Walter is tasked with developing the negative of the photo taken by the magazine’s most famous photographer (Sean Penn) who thinks it should be the cover of the last issue of Life.

Only problem is, the negative is missing, leaving him with no other option but to travel to the ends of the world to find the photographer and get the negative. Hence, begins Walter’s amazing journey for real.

The clear message in the film is to live in the moment and appreciate it – something 48-year-old Stiller has come to realise is true. “It’s one of life’s biggest challenges. First of all it’s challenging to become aware of it. I think most of us go through our lives not even aware that we’re not in the moment.

“I think maybe I relate to Walter’s story at this point in my life because I’m getting to an age where I’m becoming more aware of those things. As you get older you start to think more about time and how short life is and you start wanting to take advantage of the moment.” 

  • The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty opens in cinemas nationwide tomorrow.