How Ben Stiller landed the Walter Mitty lead (you’ll be surprised)

You would think with all of Ben Stiller’s fame and box office success he would be a shoe-in for any Hollywood role he wants.

But this would be a false assumption.

In fact, Ben Stiller was not even on the short list for the Walter Mitty lead, no less landing the director gig.

But the Walter Mitty remake really inspired Stiller.  After he read the script, he decided he wanted this movie.

In fact, Stiller had to be as creative as he’s ever been in his career to land both the lead role and directorship of this studio blockbuster.

Sizzle Reel?

After Stiller met with Fox executives, they told him he was one of a handful superstars being considered for the new Walter Mitty script.

So they asked him to create a “sizzle reel” – a compilation of his best movie clips that would be relevant in showcasing how he could make Walter Mitty a winner.

A “sizzle reel”?  For a veteran actor who has become synonymous with box office smash hits?  Really???

It would have been easy for him to scoff at this request and to simply rely on his past performance.  Or easier yet to just tell Fox to “buzz off.”  After all, he doesn’t need the money.

But Stiller wanted this.

So he created an experience that Fox executives simply couldn’t ignore.

Iceland, anyone? 

Part of the Walter Mitty script puts the character in the wintry mountains of Iceland.  And it was Iceland that gave Stiller his inspiration.

On his own dime, Stiller hired a professional photography team and flew to Iceland.

He led his team to the mountains where he shot unforgettable footage and showcased his inspired vision for this part of the script.

The trip cost him tens of thousands of dollars and he had no guarantee whatsoever that he would get the role or be named director.  But he didn’t care.  This was his movie to lose, he thought, so he decided to put the outcome in his hands.

When the Fox executives watched Stiller’s “sizzle reel” they were blown away.  Not just by the footage itself, but that he took it upon himself to fly to Iceland to demonstrate his desire to be a part of the movie and his inspired vision for the film.

His commitment to the movie exceeded everyone’s expectations and as a result he was unanimously named both the director and the lead actor.

The # 1 Mistake Salespeople Make

All too often salespeople assume they know what is valuable to their prospect.  Presentations are canned; interactions are boring.  Opportunity lost.

Stiller demonstrates a beautiful example of creating real value.   Through his upfront relating with Fox executives, he understood that they were looking for leadership in this film.

The script had been re-written and adapted and Fox was taking a sizable risk in its investment.  Without the right director with the right vision, the film would miss its mark.

So Stiller did what only the most elite salespeople understand: he created tangible value by offering a completely unique experience that demonstrated real leadership.

In hindsight, had he delivered a run-of-the-mill demo reel of his past performances, the chances of him landing the directorship and the lead role were likely zero.

The takeaway is to look at how you’re creating experiences for your partners and clients.  Do you really know what they want?  Do you really know what’s important to them?  Do you deliver service based on what you think is valuable?

If you want to create more opportunities, go to the ends of the earth to find out what is truly valuable to your partners and clients and then deliver an experience that demonstrates what is possible for them in a way they never imagined.

Whatever you do, don’t be ordinary!

If you struggle to differentiate yourself and experience inconsistency with your referrals partners, contact me and we’ll analyze your approach and create a powerful value proposition for your partners and clients.




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