In The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Patton Oswalt plays an eHarmony online customer service provider – one who continually checks in on Ben Stiller’s Walter Mitty to help him update his profile and make himself sound a little less dull. But does such a service really exist?
“I can’t speak from experience – I don’t know if they have reps like that,” Oswalt laughs. “I’ve never been on a dating site. I’ve always done face-to-face.”
So no method acting for Oswalt here. But in a script full of fantastical scenes – bored film-processor Walter has a tendency to dream-up action movie fight scenes and running-into-burning-buildings heroics in order to escape his mundane darkroom – it’s Oswalt’s Todd character who keeps him tethered to reality.
“He keeps the irony going, no matter how far Walter actually travels. He’s the one guy who keeps calling him – the guy who’s trying to connect him with the rest of the world.”
And even though Oswalt’s performance is almost entirely voice work (calling to help Walter update his lackluster dating profile is time consuming!), it’s not like he phoned it in. “Ben always wanted me on set so that we could riff scenes, so I was very rarely ever just on the phone with him,” Oswalt recalls. “I even went to Iceland to work off-screen with him. So as much as it was a voice-over performance, it was very active in terms of being present.”
Being present is big theme in the movie, and one that Oswalt thinks came across beautifully. “Ben’s made an epic level comedy, and it’s amazing how as big as the film gets, it still feels so intimate,” he says. “I’ve never seen that juxtaposition done so effortlessly in a film before.”
But back to Iceland. . . does that mean they had cast bonding parties on the volcano?
“Ha, no, that didn’t happen, though I imagine being on a mountain with Sean Penn would be a very elevating experience.”
So do we, Patton. So do we.