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There’s something surreal about hearing your name in a movie. Like, your full name, spoken by a movie star in a feature-length film. Has it ever happened to you before? Once, in Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York, the name "Sean O'Connell" (which happens to be my name) was yelled out in the background of a scene. But that's nothing like this. In Ben Stiller’s new dramedy, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Sean Penn's character is actually named Sean O'Connell. And they use the name often in the film. It even popped up in this full trailer. Give it a listen:
"We have ahead of us the privilege of publishing the very last issue of Life Magazine. And, for the final issue, we just received negative 25 from Sean O’Connell for the cover."
The quote belongs to Adam Scott, setting up the premise of Stiller’s film. He’s talking about a world-renowned photographer played by Penn in the movie. Again, it's very strange.
Walter Mitty is Stiller’s fifth directorial effort, following darker and more bizarre hits like Reality Bites, The Cable Guy and the hysterical war comedy Tropic Thunder. This holiday effort is adapted from a short story by James Thurber, casting Stiller as a mild-mannered office drone who – inspired by a crush he has on a co-worker (Kristen Wiig) – embarks on a globe-trotting mission to locate Sean O’Connell, retrieve a missing photo negative, and start living his life.
I was lucky enough to sit down with Stller in New York City to talk about Walter Mitty, and his approach to this material. We discussed the filming of the daydream sequences that plague Walter, as the character is prone to these zone-outs that consume his day-to-day existence. We talked about his "been there/done that" list, which is a series of accomplishments Walter is trying to fill out as he works with an eHarmony representative. And, of course, we had to start with the fact that my name is Sean O’Connell… something that made Stiller belly laugh as our interview began. Watch for yourself:
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty rolls into theaters on Dec. 25, giving audience members an escape from the holiday crush for a sweet, exciting and sometimes romantic journey for one man to find himself. Check out the initial trailer for Stiller’s directorial effort, which gives you more insight into the unusually character. Will you see Walter Mitty when it opens later this week?