Film Interview: Director Susan Walter talks about her debut feature, “All I Wish”


After almost three decades working behind the scenes on other people’s films, Susan Walter has finally gotten to sit in the big chair.  As writer and director of the new film “All I Wish,” she called the shots and achieved a dream.


While promoting the film, which is now in theatres and also available on Video on Demand, she took time out to talk with me about finally being in charge.


Mike Smith:  Please tell me that Tony Goldwyn isn’t really that bad of a singer. (NOTE:  In the film, Goldwyn tries his hand at karaoke, much to the chagrin of anyone in earshot.)


Susan Walter:  (laughs) Tony Goldwyn is a brilliant singer!  The first time I talked to him about that scene, he said to me “you know I can sing, right?”  He wanted everyone to know that he could sing.


MS:  Where did you get the idea for the film?


SW:  I’m a huge fan of “When Harry Met Sally.”  It’s one of my favorite films of any genre’.  And what I love about it is that it takes these two characters and looks at how the spend time together over a long period of time.  So I thought what would happen if I showed characters that not only got to know each other but got to know themselves over a long period of time.  And I picked each period beginning on a birthday because your birthday is a time when you look at your life.  The stakes are super high on your birthday.


MS:  Most people, when they think of romantic comedy, don’t readily think of Sharon Stone, who is more known for tougher roles.  What made you cast her?


SW:  Sharon cast herself.  (laughs)  Literally.  She got the script originally when it was written for her character to be in her 20s, and I wanted somebody tough and vibrant to play the mother.  I sent her the script and offered her the mother and she called me and said, “I’m not playing the mother…I’m playing the lead!”  And I got chills all over my body because I knew that she was right.  She felt really connected to the character and she really spoke passionately about why she had to do it.  So that’s the version of the movie that got made.


MS:  Which also became a bonus because you got to work with Ellen Burstyn.


SW:  We were so lucky that Ellen responded so well to the script.  Sharon was so passionate about having her and when we sent it to her she responded right away.  Though Ellen’s character appears tough as nails in the film she also has a vulnerability that you can feel.  You can feel the love that she has for her daughter and it was something beautiful for me to watch.


MS:  You’ve spent decades working behind the scenes until you finally got the opportunity to direct a feature.  Was the experience everything you thought it would be?


SW:  I have to tell you, I was totally nervous into the lead-up of the movie.  I was worried.  Could I do the job?  Did I have the energy?  It takes an incredible amount of stamina to direct a feature film.  You’re on your feet all day and you need every corner of your brain to do the job.  I got so much incredible support from my cast, especially Sharon.  They made it effortless.  It was like being weightless.  I entrusted them with their characters.  I was just there as a sounding board if they had a question about a line or a moment.  The experience of directing was almost effortless.


MS:  You’ve worked with several name directors in the past, including the late Garry Marshall.  Did you learn anything from them that you used on your set?


SW:  The one thing I learned from Garry in regards to actors is to just let them play.  Make them feel safe and let them play.  And when they had an idea, it was always “yes.”  He may not have agreed with it, but he would always say, “let’s try it.”  That was the way he worked and I think some of it rubbed off on me.  I said “yes” a lot to my actors.  We played a lot.  And I think you can feel how free they felt when you watched the film.


MS:  What are you working on next?


SW:  I wrote a movie with a friend of mine who is an actress and an extremely hilarious human being.  It’s an “R” rated ensemble comedy that we’re putting together now.  Hopefully we can start it soon.  I hope it doesn’t take another fourteen years.

Blu-ray Review “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”

Actors: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Adam Scott
Director: Ben Stiller
Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: April 15, 2014
Run Time: 115 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” was released last holiday season and basically lost in a sea of films. The film boasts an incredible cast. Ben Stiller is fun yet also inspiring in this film, also takes on director duty as well. I love his more dramatic work. Kristen Wiig is also growing on me quite a bit recently. When you watch this film you are just blown away by the shooting locations. When you find out that this costed $90+ million you easily understand why. For those people that are daydreamers wishing for an adventure daily, this is a great film to check out. It may not be for everyone since it isn’t your typical film but I really enjoyed it and I have a feeling this is going to have a life after theaters.

Official Premise: With sweeping cinematography and stellar performances “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, tells the story of a timid magazine photo manager who lives life vicariously through daydreams and when a negative goes missing must embark on an incredible true-life adventure. With stand-out performances from Ben Stiller (“Night At The Museum”, “Meet The Parents”), Kristen Wiig (“Saturday Night Live”, “Bridesmaids”), Adam Scott (“Parks and Recreation”) and Shirley MacLaine (“Wild Oats”).

“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is released as a combo pack including a Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Ultraviolet copy. The 1080p transfer on this film is absolutely stunning. They really shot this in some amazing locations and it really transfer well to Blu-ray (though I am sure it was more beautiful in theaters). The DTS-HD-MA 7.1 is a nice surprise as well and really adds a lot to the film’s experience. Between the action and the score, I was in love with this track. Also included inside this combo pack is a special gift of a Shutterfly 20-page 8×8 hardcover photo book which is valued at $29.99. Honestly, love the movie or hate it but if you can pick this up cheap at Target or Amazon, it is worth the purchase alone.

In the special features section, there is a nice in-depth look on the behind-the-scenes of the film. It is split up into nine different sections including a look into the following “The History of Walter Mitty”; “The Look of Life”; “That’s A Shark” (my favorite); “The Music of Walter Mitty”; “Icelandic Adventure”; “Nordic Casting”; “Titles of Walter Mitty”; “Sights and Sounds of Production” and “Pre-Viz”. There is also a collection of five deleted scenes, two extended scenes and two alternate scenes. For photo buffs there is an amazing Reference Photography Gallery included. Then wrapping up the extras is an Music Video for “Stay Alive” by José González and a Theatrical Trailer.

Enter to Win “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” on Blu-ray [ENDED]

To celebrate the release of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” on Blu-ray, Media Mikes is excited to giveaway one (1) copy of the film on Blu-ray. If you would like to enter for your chance to win one of this prize, please leave us a comment below or send us an email with your favorite Ben Stiller film. This giveaway will remain open until April 25th at Noon, Eastern Time. This is open to our readers in US and Canada only. One entry per person, per household. All other entries will be considered invalid. Media Mikes will randomly select winners. Winners will be alerted via email.

With sweeping cinematography and stellar performances “THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY”, tells the story of a timid magazine photo manager who lives life vicariously through daydreams and when a negative goes missing must embark on an incredible true-life adventure.

With stand-out performances from Ben Stiller (*Night At The Museum, Meet The Parents) *Golden Globe** and six-time Emmy Award*** nominated actress Kristen Wiig (*Saturday Night Live, Bridesmaids, How To Train Your Dragon*), Adam Scott (*Step Brothers*) and Shirley MacLaine (*Wild Oats*), the THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY Blu-ray and DVD is loaded with more than an hour of behind-the-scenes special features, including deleted, extended and alternative scenes, featurettes that dive into filming in Iceland and Walter Mitty history, a gallery of exclusive reference photography, and music video “Stay Alive” by José González, and more.

Film Review “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”

Starring: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, and Shirley MacLaine
Directed By: Ben Stiller
Rated: PG
Running Time: 114 minutes
20th Century Fox

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

Walter Mitty (Stiller) has lived a dry life. His dating profile is barren. Not because he’s shy, but because he draws a blank when asked if he’s ever gone anywhere or done anything exciting. Ironically he is a long time photo department employee for the magazine “Life”. He’s lived a longer and more fulfilling life in his head. As his sister says, he zones out and begins to image a complex fantasy sprawl out in front while blocking out the real world. He sees himself as a true hero, constantly in the throes of battle or immersing himself in a wild adventure. Instead he’s spent years developing the photos of world traveler Sean O’Connel (Sean Penn) in the basement of the “Life” building.

Today he learns that “Life” has been acquired and will become an all online magazine. The company has brought in a new smug boss, Ted (Adam Scott). He’s a hot shot who’s clueless about how the company is run. Ted says the magazine’s final publication will feature an image that Sean has deemed as the quintessence of life. What is that image? Don’t know. Mitty has lost the negative and is quietly scrambling to find it. The beginning may not sound exciting, but the tapestry that is Walter’s imagination, is a saving grace. He saves animals from exploding buildings and in a light hearted moment, skews Benjamin Button.

His love interest in the movie, Cheryl (Wiig), seems to be the driving factor behind Walter’s sudden change of direction. Instead of accepting defeat, he pushes himself to globe trot in order to find Sean and ask what his final negative was. The film does begin to lose a major component of storytelling when Walter’s vivid imagination begins to phase out as he begins to encounter his own fanciful situations. How many people can say they’ve fought a shark in the water or sped away from a volcanic cloud of ash? As neat as though actual adventures are, I’d much rather watch Walter surf on gravel and duel Ted over a Stretch Armstrong.

Give ample credit to Ben Stiller for painting such a beautiful world for Walter, real and fake. Behind the camera, Stiller is smart enough to let the beautiful countryside of Iceland speak for itself in multiple scenes, but fails to give Walter a big enough playground even in the realm of his own visions. In front of the camera, Stiller puts his usual movie goofyness aside and plays the humble Walter well. Kristen Wiig is equally charming in her role as a single mom willing to let Walter into her life. One of my favorite parts of this movie is the fantastic indie soundtrack. The music meshes well when used as a simple bed for the scene to nestle on or when it overtakes the sound of everything.

Walter’s a likable guy and he’s very relatable since we’ve all had our fair share of daydreams. Who doesn’t wanna show up their boss in front of their co-workers? It’s easy to become disinterested and tired of the story as it stumbles beneath it’s frantic feet, but if your hearts in the right place, you’ll have a smile on your face as you exit the theater.


Related Content

Eric Walter talking about directing "My Amityville Horror"

Eric Walter is the director of the new film surrounding Long Island, NY’s famous haunted house with the documentary  “My Amityville Horror”. The film gets a first hand revisit the former house resident Daniel Lutz, who was only 10 during the events back in the 70’s. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Eric about the film and working with Daniel Lutz.

Mike Gencarelli: What made to you want to get involved with “My Amityville Horror”?
Eric Walter: To present a new perspective on the events in Amityville was my initial motivation. Daniel Lutz is the first of the Lutz children to come forward with his entire account of what he claims happened inside that house, so this was an extraordinary opportunity to explore these allegations with someone who was there. However, once I got to know Daniel, it was apparent he still wears the scars of The Amityville Horror to this day and has been unfortunately forever damaged by whatever happened to his family inside that house. I’ve also had an obsessive interest with this case since I was child. Reviewing the years of heated debates surrounding both the DeFeo murders and the Lutz haunting, I couldn’t help but be fascinated by the personalities that surround it and their apparent desire to defend their part of the story. This controversy would have never continued if the original participants weren’t still so entangled within it. In January of 2007, I launched, an enormous online archive of Amityville-related research. I wanted to create an unbiased presentation of the known facts surrounding the case – somewhere people who are interested in these events could go and read through the original newspaper articles, view media and essentially draw their own conclusions on what they believe went down in that house.

MG: What are your thoughts on the events that took place at 112 Ocean Avenue?
EW: I believe that something very real occurred to the Lutz family that truly frightened them. I believe that they believed the house was haunted. I don’t believe their account was a complete hoax created for profit or attention, however there are inconsistencies that make it a difficult picture. How many of their stories were real or possibly elaborated upon, no one will ever know. Their accounts have been lost in over 35 years of misinformation about the story and media exposure that have clouded the truth. This is why I felt it very necessary to allow Daniel Lutz to speak openly in the film, giving him an objective stage to do so. In many ways, I think his account has only deepened the mystery.

MG: How did you get in touch with Daniel Lutz?
EW: proved to be the calling card for what became “My Amityville Horror.” I was contacted by a contractor in the New York area who claimed to be a friend of Daniel Lutz. Despite being very intrigued, I didn’t necessarily believe this man’s claims until I was able to see a picture of Daniel. After this, I knew this had to be him and I went about engaging in conversation with them. In 2009, I traveled to New York and conducted nearly 12 hours of audio recordings with Daniel.

MG: Tell us about your experience working with him.
EW: Working with Daniel has been very challenging at times. He’s very angry and difficult to approach at first. My immediate impression was that his willingness to speak to me was almost therapy for him — a way of unburdening himself of these stories that have lived inside his head for over 35 years. He was struggling to differentiate his point-of-view from the public’s perception of the story. Many of his memories seem to be skewed by the media fiction that surrounds these events. The subject of memory came heavily into play when listening to his account. For me, this started to transcend the Amityville topic and touch on a broader issue – the challenge of someone attempting to comprehend the unexplained. That’s what I hope people really take away from the film. This is something that has psychologically damaged and impacted this person. Whether it’s true or not, he believes it’s true.

MG: Some of the questions you approach him with are quite tough—were you ever concerned about that?
EW: There’s such intensity with him about this topic that I was constantly aware of how far to push him on certain questions. I never shied away from asking hard questions, but it was process of being conscious of when to ask certain things. He definitely does not like discussing Amityville and becomes very tense and angry when exploring those dark areas of his childhood. Looking back, I’m amazed I was able to capture as much as did within the film.

MG: What was your biggest challenge with working on the documentary?
EW: I’d have to say bringing all of the subjects together into one film was the greatest challenge. We tried very hard to interview Daniel’s other two siblings, but there’s such pain surrounding this time in their life, the remaining family members choose not to speak about it anymore. As filmmakers, we had to respect this, but it’s difficult because you desire that corroboration for the film. They seemed to have moved on from it more than Daniel apparently has. For me, obtaining all of the necessary witness testimony was the greatest challenge in producing this film.

MG: What do you have planned next?
EW: I’m currently in development on another feature documentary concept. The realm of the unexplained is what fuels my desire to make films, so I plan to stay in this field of study. I’m very interested in the combination of narrative and documentary and how these styles can be used to enhance the storytelling process. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to explore a variety of different subjects in the future and expanding my palette of work.

Interview with Lisa Ann Walter

Lisa Ann Walter just released her first book titled “The Best Thing About My Ass is That It’s Behind Me”. Lisa has also appeared in films such as “”Bruce Almighty”, “The Parent Trap” and “War of the Worlds” to name just a few. Movie Mikes had a chance to speak with Lisa about her book and what it was like working with Richard Gere and Tom Cruise.

Adam Lawton: Can you tell us about your book that came out recently?
Lisa Ann Walter: The book is called “The Best Thing About My Ass is That It’s Behind Me” and it’s been described to me as kind of the best girls night out with the widest conversation you could ever have. It’s not any kind of self help book or anything its’ much more of a self maintenance type book. (Laughs) The attitude I had behind the book was that I had not only experienced but also witnessed among every American woman that it seemed like their birth right was a life time of self loathing. It seems as though woman have to be sexy until they are dead! Now you not only have to be a member of the PTA but you also have to be a pole dancer! (Laughs)

AL: What made you decide to write the book?
LAW: I live in a town I like to call “the land where prom queens go to die”. Beauty is very skewed where I live as it seems once a girl has a crown popped on her head she moves out here to become an actress. Maybe 3 out 5 make it and the rest end up in Hugh Heffner’s grotto swimming with the diseases or they are working at Denny’s. There are really just a bunch of gorgeous people out here and that is what is presented to women in America as to what they are supposed to look like. I wanted to show how hard it is to keep up with this type of thinking while still being ok with yourself.

AL: What was it like working on “War of the Worlds”?
LAW: That was probably production wise the biggest movie I have ever done. It was extremely exciting! The first day on set I got to meet Steven Spielberg and he was giving me direction for my scene and referencing Tom Cruise. I turn around and there was Tom with that “Risky Business” smile. Well after Steven was finished I told him he would have to tell me again what he wanted because I was just so taken back that I was on a set with him and Tom Cruise. (Laughs) Steven laughed and told me everything again. Tom Cruise was delightful! He was my own personal hero because Spielberg had asked me to bring one of my kids with me to be in the scene. During the scene there were so many people running and moving that my daughter got hit and had a bloody nose. Tom Cruise comes across the set after scaling this wall to check on my daughter. He was there in like 30 seconds. I don’t know how he got there so fast? He asked her what happened and then started taping it saying it was going to be for the lawsuit. (Laughs)  He also let me video tape him for my daughter’s birthday and after we were finished he reached into my purse for the camera to reshoot himself because he thought it wasn’t good enough. Tom is really a great guy. I have been lucky and had some really great experiences with everyone I have been able to work with.

AL: You also worked with Richard Gere correct?
LAW: Richard was very helpful and kind to me. I worked with him for over 3 months and within like 30 seconds of meeting him we were touching naughty bits to naughty bits. (Laughs) I was blushing from head to toe and Richard was telling me to be relaxed as I had the gig, but I knew it wasn’t true because the job really hinged on whether or not he liked me. I couldn’t believe I was meeting an Officer and a Gigolo with the ass that ate Tokyo! They made me get fat for “Shall We Dance” and I had a scene where I would lose the bottom half of my skirt and I was mortified. I actually ran off set the first time we did that scene and it just so happened that Ben Affleck was there visiting Jennifer Lopez which made matters worse as I have a lifetime of ass issues! I must have been green when I got back as Richard asked me what was wrong. Now at the time I was having trouble with my husband which didn’t help matters. So I told Richard that not only do I have to show my ass to the same guy I had a poster of on my wall when I was in high school, but also Ben Affleck and the crew for Extra was there to interview Richard. I was thinking why don’t we get every hot leading actor guy in Hollywood to come and look at my gelatinous ass! Richard was great and told me he would take care of it. Within one minute everyone was gone. Richard is just really a great guy.

AL: You have done a lot of different role in the movie making business is there one that sticks out as a favorite?
LAW: I really enjoy directing. I think I have always been a director even though I used to get in trouble for it. From getting sent out of class when I was in school to when I had a sitcom, I just wanted to be part of the process. When you are directing you get to piece the movie together into the film you want to make. I also really love to do stand-up comedy and most recently I started doing a radio show two times a week which I am really enjoying. I just really like to work and to stay busy.

AL: Do you have any other projects in the works you can tell us about?
LAW: I can’t tell you too many specifics but there are 3 projects that I am working on as an executive producer that are reality driven. I also have another project we are setting up for that is very chick centric. I am really excited for this project!