NEW YORK - Ben Stiller's commonality with the hero of his new film hasn't gone unnoticed.
"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," starring and directed by Stiller, is adapted from James Thurber's classic short story that first appeared in The New Yorker in 1939. Since then, Walter Mitty (a mild-mannered man who enlivens a mundane day with a series of fantasies) has been synonymous with daydreaming and flights of imagination.
Stiller, too, hopes for something a little different for his life: He wants to direct more movies and make films outside of the comedies he's best known for.
"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," a kind of remake of the 1947 Danny Kaye version, is a big-budget, big-scale shift for the 48-year-old Stiller. It's his fifth time directing a movie (from "Reality Bites" to "Tropic Thunder") but his first time helming a film that, while funny, isn't quite a comedy.
Having just wrapped shooting on another film with "Greenberg" director Noah Baumbach in Brooklyn, Stiller recently met with a reporter in New York to discuss his new trajectory.
AP: With "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" opening on a crowded Christmas for moviegoing, do you feel particular pressure?
Stiller: (Laughs.) Honestly, I think I feel the same thing that I feel every time a movie comes out - which is it's a lot of pressure and, at the same time, it's really, totally out of my hands.
AP: Are you comfortable at this point directing and acting at the same time?
Stiller: I don't think you ever get totally comfortable with it. You get into a rhythm with it. But I always feel like every time you start up, it's always figuring it out. There's always that frustration that's going on where you're like: I just wish I could be behind the camera also.
AP: That must be especially difficult when you're, as Mitty, floating in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean.
Stiller: There was this moment where they dropped me in the water and the boat went away to get a POV shot coming back at me, and I was just totally alone in the water. It was that thing: Wow, this has gone beyond making a movie now. This is just me, the ocean.