There have been plans to remake The Secret Life of Walter Mitty for more than a decade. Just about every hot (as in popular, not sexy) young comedian has landed the title role. Many a good director — including Steven Spielberg — has taken the gig before exiting on to other projects. The last incarnation had Gore Verbinski directing, and Sasha Baron Cohen starring. They too left, like so many others.
So it’s with a sort of yawn that I write about the latest incarnation. According to Deadline, this time it will really, really happen because Ben Stiller is in talks with 20th Century Fox to take the role. Steve Conrad wrote the latest screenplay, which is attracting a lot of excitement, enthusiasm, and certainty that it will happen this time.
Honestly, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a story I’d like to see again. I worship Danny Kaye, but the original took a few liberties with James Thurber’s story, and the author was always disappointed in it. There’s a lot of potential in a retelling. Mitty could speak to the redefinition of the modern man, and the frustrations and neuroses they are prey to. (I’m pulling that from all those “Man Up” type of essays that pop up every year, usually in election time.)
But Deadline is describing it as “action with a PG rating” so it’s probably going to stick to the original film, which gave Mitty more of a The 39 Steps angle, and missed the point. But with Kaye, you can forgive that. But today, you just can’t, not when you could reinvent it, and make it fun and bitterly thoughtful. Fingers crossed Stiller is in a Tropic Thunder mood, and not A Night at the Museum one so its a remake with some guts.