It’s not that Sean Penn never takes roles in lightweight films, but his serious performances can be so commanding — to the point of overbearing, even — that his lighter work is easy to overlook. We once thought he would be among the new Three Stooges, and that didn’t happen. And, the lead in Milk aside (not a light film, but a radiant performance) it’s easy to overlook Penn’s roles in films like What Just Happened and This Must Be the Place.

Now Penn has a new comic role, and one that will probably generate more talk, as he’s in talks to play a supporting role in Ben Stiller‘s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

The film is a remake of a ’40s comedy, which in turn was an adaptation of a James Thurber story. This version will feature Stiller as the title character, a photo editor at Life Magazine who daydreams his way out of a boring existence. Shirley MacLaine plays his mother, while Kristen Wiig is a co-worker who becomes part of his daydreams, and Adam Scott and Patton Oswalt co-star.

In this version scripted by Steve Conrad (The Pursuit of Happyness, The Weatherman) Penn will play a photographer. So he’ll likely have a certain amount of interaction with or influence on Stiller’s character — perhaps Penn plays the photographer with an adventurous life that Walter Mitty wants to lead? [Deadline]

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