The Story Behind the Photo That Inspired Walter Mitty’s Journey

In the new movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, our protagonist goes on a journey to find a missing photograph, which was taken (in the movie) by a photographer played by Sean Penn. In reality, the photo was taken by National Geographic photographer Marcus Bleasdale. Sonia Harmon talked to Bleasdale about his career and how a picture he took in Congo ended up as a major plot point in a movie.

Were you surprised when they contacted you?

Most of the process went through my agent so actually, I only found out when my photo editor at National Geographic contacted me to say she’d seen a preview of the film and she thought that they were using some images of mine. That was the only notification that I had, really. I didn’t know that my photo was going to be the one that entices Walter Mitty to do what he does, which is very cool.

Have you ever lost a negative?

I have not lost one, but I’ve had them confiscated in eastern Congo by the authorities. Four rolls of film. I still remember it and I have nightmares closing my eyes, thinking of the images that are on those rolls of film.

Bleasdale's life, like that of many NatGeo photographers, would make a pretty good movie in itself. Read the rest of the interview at NatGeo's Pop Omnivore. -Thanks, Marilyn Terrell!

(Image credit: Marcus Bleasdale)

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