The legendary Shirley MacLaine hasn’t been in a movie since Richard Linklater’s Bernie, which very few people managed to see thanks to a limited distribution model. So when her name’s attached to a high-profile comedy, even when it’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, we find reason to get excited.

Deadline reports that the Oscar winner is in talks to play Ben Stiller’s mother in the adaptation that’s being set up at 20th Century Fox. Stiller also will direct the film, which is based on the James Thurber short story about a daydreaming man who goes off on adventures of the mind to escape the humdrum doldrums of his everyday life. Some of Mitty’s escapades find him impersonating a Navy pilot, a brilliant surgeon, a war hero and the victim of a firing squad.

The bossy woman in Mitty’s life, according to Thurber’s story, is his wife. I wonder of that means screenwriter Steve Conrad is shifting focus to Mitty’s mother, giving MacLaine a potentially juicy role? Stiller’s movie will be a remake of the 1947 film with Danny Kaye in the lead, so this one might end up being an amalgamation of many different versions compacted into one.

No matter, it’s exciting that MacLaine’s in the running for a significant role in what could be a major comedy. Stiller likely will have to ramp up his casting, as the films is eyeballing a 2013 release date (likely in the summertime). I hope MacLaine gets a beefier role than a walk-on cameo, because she deserves so much more.

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