Kinder, gentler Stiller

Kinder, gentler Stiller

It is the last scene of the film The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, and actors Ben Stiller and Kristen Wiig are shooting it on New York's busy Sixth Avenue in the middle of the day.

The leads are trying to get into the moment for the quiet, intimate scene, when a cry of "Yo, Focker" shatters the illusion. And Stiller, 48, goes: "I'm trying to act, man, not f*** her."

He is recounting this, with Wiig, 40, beside him, at Sydney Entertainment Centre after the premiere of the film on Nov 21. This is humour with an abrasive edge and it marks the roles that he is best known for as a comedian.

As nurse Gaylord Focker in the hit comedy Meet The Parents (2000) and its sequels Meet The Fockers (2004) and Little Fockers (2010), Stiller has suffered through all kinds of humiliation.

Then, there is There's Something About Mary (1998), in which he was the awkward Ted, whose prom date with Cameron Diaz gets cut short by an embarrassing, and painful, zipper incident. And as the titular dim-witted model in Zoolander (2001), he perfected his signature Blue Steel pose.

With Walter Mitty, however, it is a gentler and kinder Stiller. The comedy is less in-your-face and more low-key.

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, based on James Thurber's 1939 short story of the same name, opens in Singapore today. In it, Stiller plays the titular timid Life magazine employee and Wiig plays his love interest, Cheryl.

Given that Stiller also produced and directed the film, the change in direction seems most deliberate. And it makes sense when you meet him in person.

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