Ben Stiller’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” remake opens this Christmas and has divided reviewers over its tone and story – some loving, some hating it. The basic story follows a fairly normal, lonely man who ultimately overcomes his risk aversion and goes out on a globe trotting adventure to become the best he can be.
Speaking at a recent Film Independent at LACMA Q&A session, Stiller revealed the film originally had an entirely different opening that he ultimately had to cut in favor of a scene with Mitty sitting at his kitchen table balancing his cheque book:
“We used to have an opening to the movie I ended up cutting. A little montage at the beginning of the movie of Walter’s morning routine. And it started out with him on this exercise bike – I like talking about this because I miss it – the first image was the LED screen on his exercise bike was in the shape of a mountain and he’s biking up this mountain and eventually he ends up going up this mountain.
But it’s him on this exercise bike and I thought it showed him as a guy who took care of himself, was ready to go, but was having a real life and is on a fake bike. That idea is, to me, very important that he’s not somebody that’s sort of odd or weird. He’s just a guy who, like a lot of people, isn’t quite the full version of what he wanted to be.
Throughout editing the movie I was really having to balance the pacing of the movie and I felt that, ultimately, it was a nice, kind of artful little sequence that was maybe too much of that. My producing partner said it was celebrating the movie too much. Ultimately, the reason I cut it was it made him feel a little more lonely then I wanted him to feel in the beginning.
And also the movie is about a guy just trying to get through everyday life, so to open with a guy trying to balance his check book is more to the point. And it’s also what Steve [Conrad] wrote in the script. I came up with this whole sequence, we shot it, sort of fell in love with it and then ultimately I ended up cutting it. Then when I looked back at a draft of the script and said ‘Oh [the cheque book] is what Steve wrote.’