In the new dramedy “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” Ben Stiller plays a “Life” magazine employee who uses heroic fantasies to deal with less-than-pleasant realities. As a negative asset manager, Mitty oversees the photo library required by the magazine. When a crucial negative goes missing, Walter leaves fantasy behind in order to take control of his real world.
The wonderfully adept Adrian Martinez plays Hernando, Mitty’s co-worker who stays at the office while Walter travels the globe. When reached by phone, Martinez, who also has a role in ” American Hustle,” talked about working on the adaptation of the James Thurber story.
You’ve been so busy lately, you must be the hardest working man in show business. It’s good to see your name attached to this project.
It’s a special film. Ben Stiller really has, I think, been able to combine all the elements of his vast repertoire of talent and put all those things in this picture. I really hope audiences are receptive to it. I hope they walk into with an open mind because it’s not like “Zoolander” or “There’s Something About Mary.” It’s an altogether more nuanced performance and I think audiences are in for a nice treat.
The film is based on a short story by the acclaimed James Thurber. I was wondering if any schools are still teaching the works of Thurber.
He’s a writer who definitely deserves a contemporary audience, if you will. I think the movie is very faithful to his story. It’s not like the Danny Kaye version, but it is faithful to Thurber. I think a lot of people will rediscover him. I hope so.
How do you decide which roles to take as an actor? It seems like you land in a lot of great projects.
Well, I will tell you: I’ve been working hard and, at this point, I really just try to not do what I just did.
I just worked on a film with Will Smith called “Focus,” which should come out next year. It’s so funny because it’s 25 degrees and windy here in New York right now. Last week, I was literally in my t-shirt in Buenos Aires.
In that movie, I was sort of a funny guy. I’m looking for something to do that would be completely different: more frightening, more intimidating. We’ll see what happens. I like mixing it up; that keeps it fresh for myself. Otherwise, you get into a rut. I don’t like ruts. Some days, you have your coffee with milk. Maybe on another day, you want to mix it up and have some tea-or a Heineken.
I understand that before you were an actor, you started out on a more athletic career path.
Actually, I lettered in football and track. You wouldn’t know it looking at me now, but I was definitely a sprinter. That’s how I got my first job right out of high school: they needed a sprinter to appear on an episode of “Unsolved Mysteries.” They literally were looking for a guy who could run as fast as me.
I got the job, which required me to scream “Open the door! Open the door!”. I still don’t know why I had to scream that. I never got the script, but I got my SAG [Screen Actor’s Guild] card, though. Then I did all these weird reenactment shows like “America’s Most Wanted.” I built a career one brick at a time.