EXCLUSIVE: Ben Stiller is in talks with 20th Century Fox to play the title role in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty after the previous script was finally dumped and a new approach and screenwriter was put on the project. That produced a reboot that Stiller wants to make his next film. Stiller sparked to the new take by Steve Conrad, writer of the Will Smith hit The Pursuit of Happyness. Now that Stiller is coming aboard, Fox will move quickly to lock in a cinematic director who can mix action with a PG rating, and get the picture ready for a late fall start. Stiller is repped by WME.
Mitty is still based on the 1947 Danny Kaye film from the James Thurber short story first published in The New Yorker in 1939. The story of a perpetual daydreamer had been in development so long that it seemed like it might never be more than a daydream. Everyone from Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell and Sacha Baron Cohen flirted with that previous script, and directors who have circled include Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and Gore Verbinski. Mitty‘s problems stemmed from that script which was never quite right. But then Conrad started fresh and Stiller felt he knocked it out of the park. Stiller, who has starred in the lucrative Night at the Museum and Meet the Parents franchises, might have another big one on his hands. His Red Hour Films banner is based at Fox. Samuel Goldwyn Jr. and John Goldwyn have been shepherding the project as producers for years.
Stiller right now is preparing for an April 25 opening of The House of Blue Leaves, starring with Edie Falco and Jennifer Jason Leigh in the David Cromer-directed revival of the John Guare comedy that Scott Rudin is producing. Ben is playing the lead role of Artie Shaughnessy, a frustrated zookeeper who dreams of making it big as a songwriter; Stiller made his Broadway debut in that same play back in 1986 playing Shaughnessy’s son. The play takes place in 1965 on a day that Pope Paul VI is visiting New York. Falco plays his wife, Bananas, a schizophrenic who is headed for a mental institution. Leigh plays his mistress. It has a 1960s-centric storyline, with political bombings and the Vietnam War among the plot developments. The 1986 production won the Tony and Drama Desk Awards for Best Revival.