Friday, January 3, 2014

'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty': Ben Stiller on hyperreality and losing yourself in the moment

Australia's Movie Guy, Marc Fennell dubbed 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty' as "the best 2 hour Travel Agent ad you've ever seen". So its only fitting that I found this Ben Stiller feature on the Delta Airlines inflight magazine 'Sky'.

Delta Airlines' Magazine 'Sky' (December 2013): The Ben Stiller Magic
The profile written by a forgivably gushy Steve Marsh, injects some psychoanalysis of Ben Stiller
The Ben Stiller Magic
Stiller, at least in the movies he directs, has always seemed obsessed with reality --specifically with how reality is shaped (or warped) by the stuff we watch when we’re on the couch... 
"So why are you so interested in this notion of reality? It seems like your entire career has been obsessed with this idea."
"Wow," Stiller says. "I never really analyzed it. That’s interesting you say that, because I’ve never thought about it that way." He pauses.
As someone drawn to Dreams and Reality this was right up my alley.
I ask him if he ever daydreams. "No, not really," he says. "When you're making a movie like this, or any movie really, you're so in the moment, you’re not really daydreaming. But I do try to take time to appreciate the experience of doing things you wouldn't normally get to do."

He remembers one moment on the set of Mitty: "This wasn't really a daydream, but it was just kind of a moment of realization. I was in the water and we had to do a shot where the Zodiac boat is approaching me to pull me out of the water, and the only way we could get the shot was to put the camera in the boat, because it's like a POV of the boat coming at me. We were a mile or half a mile out to sea in the ocean off Iceland, and the swells were pretty big, so they dropped me in the water and just drove away. It was just a funny, surreal moment. Cause I'm really in the ocean here by myself. I couldn't see anything; the boat went far enough away that it was gone, the swells were at four feet. And I was like, This is crazy, this is actually... this is happening. I'm really in the ocean. If that boat doesn't come back... I mean, I know they know I'm here but... It's like the funny crossover of reality and movies, where you do real things but somehow you think because you're doing it for a movie that everything is OK. And, actually, the weird thing that you're doing is as dangerous or weird as it would be if there was no camera there; you're still really doing it." 
Whether its an Astronaut going about his routine or a backpacker off to his next destination there is an element of being outside yourself that is necessary to accomplish "extraordinary" things.

'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty' (2013)
Whilst walking around Cartagena I spotted this perch by the water. Not being scared of heights and with my fondness for climbing things I decided to scale it. I could be like a Pirate of the Caribbean.
Only at the top did I realise how precarious and foolish the endeavour was. What was I thinking?
From Below: Crow's Nest in Cartagena, Colombia
From above: Probably not the best idea 
We "get into the zone" or are under so much pressure we forget to appreciate the moment. When you're caught up in the moment or swept by momentum, things you never thought possible can be mundanely achieved.
We just have to remember not to appreciate them mundanely.


  1. That's why I whip out my phone and happy snap the pain away!

  2. The pain of mundanity? They don't call them smartphones for nothing