Amazon is giving away a free new audiobook edition of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It’s read by Ben Stiller, the star of the big Hollywood remake of the story that was just released in December. “Discover the story that inspired the film,” reads an announcement posted on the front page of Amazon — and it looks like the whole project was a labor of love.
You can listen to it on any Kindle Fire tablet, or even on your smartphone, using Amazon’s “Audible” app. And I thought the audiobook was surprisingly effective, with Ben Stiller giving a thoughtful performance and showing some real affection for the characters. He not only starred in the new $90-million film — he was also the movie’s director. I wondered what it must’ve felt like to be involved in such an elaborate project that’s all about realizing your dreams – and you can tell from the audiobook that Stiller’s given this a lot of thought!
He’s reading the very first version of this story by James Thurber, which appeared in The New Yorker in 1939. But it’s interesting to remember that Hollywood spent the last 20 years trying to create a worthwhile movie remake for this classic American short story. Steven Spielberg was interested in the project, according to Wikipedia, and so were other famous Hollywood directors like Ron Howard and Gore Verbinski. Actors considered for the lead included Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, Owen Wilson, and even Sacha Baron Cohen… But when all the dust had finally settled, it was Ben Stiller who was starring in the movie — and directing it.
“We all have something inside us waiting to get out,” Stiller says, adding that “all it takes is the courage to stop dreaming and start living.” And then there he is, at the center of a story about a man who spends his life looking at photographs of other people’s journeys — and daring to imagine something more. I just have to say that having seen the movie, I really loved all of its new plot twists. (And especially the way Stiller used the song “Major Tom”…)
One of the most inspiring things about the movie was its artwork, and it’s nice to see it used as the icon for this audiobook. But there’s something special in this audiobook, as the narrator seems to show a special fondness for the same character that he’d played himself. It must’ve been fun to read, since you get to act out all the dialogue from Mitty’s elaborate fantasies. (Stiller delivers a good reading of the line “ta-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa….”) But as his voice changes to suggest the transition from daydream to reality, I also thought I detected some real affection for the gentle domestic moments of the 1939 couple.
“Not too fast! You’re driving too fast,” says Mrs. Mitty. But whether you’re hearing the original story or watching the 2013 remake, the message is the same.
“We all have something inside of us waiting to get out…”
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