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Going Inside the Production Design Secrets of 'Walter Mitty'

Interviews
by Bill Desowitz
January 8, 2014 2:05 PM
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Ben Stiller in 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty'

Designing the "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" was a new experience for Jeff Mann, known for working on such "blunt instruments" as "Tropic Thunder" with Ben Stiller and "Transformers" with Michael Bay. But Stiller definitely had a different mind set for the daydreaming Everyman, full of whimsy and wistfulness, and Mann visualized that world in a graphic and poetic way that's certainly worthy of Oscar consideration.

From Mitty's orderly New York apartment to the iconic Time-Life Building to the exotic landscapes of Iceland and Afghanistan, Mann had plenty of opportunity to juxtapose Mitty's inner and outer worlds. The trick was tying them together and so the production designer found ways of providing signals or clues in Mitty's daydreams or yearnings while also planting visual cues that define his linear personality.

"It was quite the variety of environments where we got to build and contradict and have similarities to his fancies and reality," Mann explains. "We wanted a commonality that carried through, but all the imagery had to be resonant and have graphic and compositional beauty, even if it was something mundane or routine."

It was hard enough for the Southern California native to find fresh locations in New York City, but he managed to surprise the local crew with an apartment complex exterior in the Bronx around 168th Street that was new to them. The interior of Mitty's apartment is full of hard lines and his shelves are lined books and LPs indicative of his analog preferences.

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