For more on The Walk, read the spotlight on the film from the March issue of Vanity Fair.
You mention how this story lent itself to a cinematic experience.
“It was scary and I did experience that seizing up of my body and that tension, which only dissipated after time”.
Petit’s enthusiasm, determination and pig-headedness make him a fascinating and inspirational character, the cinematography – and the events it allows the big screen to portray – will take your breath away, and the recreation of the Twin Towers will bring back happy memories of a more innocent world before terrorism.
The Walk at War: When The Walk isn’t dealing with a meandering story and awkward narration, the visuals of the actual walk and sights from atop the Twin Towers, it feels like something truly special. Levitt’s French accent is on target and his constant twinkling eyes cable his I’ve-got-a-secret spirit.
The film is laced with humour – which comes from the representation of a man who was, to say the very least, a character. And this awesome caper. “You’re on TV.’ That just really felt awkward to me”, Gordon-Levitt told ABC’s Nightline. Expectedly homophobic, misogynistic, xenophobic, racist, and every other adjective you could predictably hurl at a Nick Swardson movie (and how, in 2015, is this man still getting film work, animated or otherwise?!), the film is draining to sit through. It was absolutely fantastic. The real figure has always come across in every interview as charismatic, witty and a generally enjoyable person to be around, and Gordon-Levitt captures that aspect of his personality quite well. Was he someone that you had always envisioned? “So I didn’t know what to expect”. Who can have the right physicality? I mean, just insufferable. But with this movie, we got to do something that finds that balance. He turned out to be the ideal guy.
“On paper you can image how dry that must look”, Zemeckis said. “An original film that’s made for a broad audience with spectacle but isn’t based on a comic book and isn’t a sequel; there aren’t any of those”. It’s unsafe, that sort of stunt – you’re on a wire hanging in the case of the World Trade Center towers over 1300 feet in the air – but it’s also dance. Were there any issues that you faced that you didn’t necessarily foresee? It’s a good question, and one I asked myself often after learning of the project. And when I walked out, I would have to walk backwards to get back. So I relish that. “He says he did and I believe him”, Joseph replied. This is what I’ve come for: to be reduced to a gibbering wreck.
But Zemeckis, who co-wrote the film with Christopher Browne, is the star. “My cameraman and my visual effects supervisor and I, we studied what the best way would be to evoke that feeling of vertigo”, said Zemeckis.
“When I hear him [Petit] speak about them, not as concrete, glass monoliths, but as breathing organisms, I thought that’s what I should do, that’s how I should present them, as if they were his partners”, Zemeckis said. The fictionalized version of the story, instead, is told chronologically in a flashback. I’ve never seen anything like it. I couldn’t detect a single join, not even on the unforgiving IMAX screen. But his first step on the wire that morning was all it took for Petit to gather up all his energy to finish the walk that he dreamed about for years.
Philippe’s forceful whimsy can’t be separated from his petty tyranny in commanding his “accomplices” (played by Clément Sibony, James Badge Dale, and Ben Schwartz, among others) to help him fulfill his dream of breaking into the Twin Towers before construction is finalized. So I kind of cut it together and formed the movie visually with Philippe telling the story. When we meet a young Philippe, in 1973 Paris, hes wearing a top hat and trying to gain attention and cash as a public performer.