Movie Feature

A dash of whimsy: The music of 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty'

By Zaki JufriMovies - 22 December 2013 12:00 AM | Updated 26 December 2013

A dash of whimsy: The music of 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty'

From Rodgers & Hammerstein’s now classic ‘The Sound of Music’ (1965) to Hans Zimmer’s rousing ‘Flight’ from the recent ‘Man of Steel’ (2012), a film’s soundtrack is as crucial an aspect of filmmaking as everything else that goes into a movie.

A good soundtrack, especially a particularly catchy song or tune, can linger in your mind long after you’ve left the theatre.

From fantastical lyrics and buzzing scores to choice cuts from artistes that capture the musical zeitgeist of the moment, the music of ‘The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty’ may just be the soundtrack of the season, and perhaps of this generation.

'Step Out' - Jose Gonzalez

Directed by and starring Ben Stiller, the movie is adapted from a 1939 short story by James Thurber and follows the exploits of a serial day-dreamer who spends more time in his make believe world than in real-life. The movie also stars Kristen Wiig, Sean Penn, Adam Scott and Patton Oswalt.

The soundtrack features a list of songs from the movie as well as some originals inspired by the story itself.

This is not the first time that music from a Ben Stiller movie stood out even before the film was released. Movie fans will remember the comedy-actor’s 1994 directorial outing ‘Reality Bites’ which featured Lisa Loeb, Dinosaur Jr, The Posies, Juliana Hatfield and Crowded House.


‘Walter Mitty’s’ soundtrack captures the adventurous spirit of the movie with its own whimsical charm. It features Jose Gonzalez, Rogue Wave, Grace Mitchell and even a version of Davie Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ with vocals from Kristen Wiig.

Also on the soundtrack, ‘Dirty Paws’ is an artfully catchy staple from Icelandic alternative folk impresarios Of Monsters and Men, while Jack Johnson contributes his own fresh take on ‘Escape (The Pina Colada Song)’ alongside tunes from Bahamas, Junip, and more.

'Dirty Paws' - Of Monsters & Men

Ben Stiller personally curated the soundtrack.

“When you’re directing a movie, that’s one of the things you do,” Stiller told at the movie’s premiere in Sydney.

“We had a playlist of about 30 songs that I gave to the crew, the cast — basically everybody to listen to. And we played it on set sometimes. And then we started to hone it down. One of the songs was by Jose Gonzalez and I wanted his voice to be sort of the voice of Walter throughout the movie” Stiller added. 


Helping him go through the music is frequent collaborator and composer Theodore Shapiro. 

The composer had composed the soundtrack for five of Stiller’s films. “He (Stiller) started kicking around the idea of having a voice serve as Walter’s inner voice, and that led to us working with Gonzalez who I have been a fan of for a long time and Ben got into,” Shapiro told the ‘Wall Street Journal’ in an interview.

'Stay Alive' - Jose Gonzalez

Known for songs like ‘Heartbeats’ and ‘Teardrop’, the Swedish-Argentine singer-songwriter performs three songs in the soundtrack including ‘#9 Dream’, ‘Step Out’ and ‘Stay Alive’. Gonzalez is also prominently featured in the main score of the film.

Stiller met the singer in New York after showing Gonzales an early cut of the film.

“He (Gonzalez) came to New York and started to collaborate with Teddy (Shapiro). He started humming the tune with the orchestra. And so, you hear him humming throughout the movie and we also used a bunch of songs from his group, Junip. And then he sang the song that Ryan Adams wrote for the end title,” Stiller explained.

Gonzalez’s wistful vocals, gentle guitar strumming and songs complemented each scene they were in and Shapiro called the singer “the perfect collaborator”.

‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ opens in cinemas 25 December