After Man of Wire Oscar for best documentary in 2009, the history of French tightrope walker Philippe Petit is in honor of the movie Robert Zemeckis The Walk – Dreaming more up , in room Wednesday. Exclusive interview with an artist not quite like the others – and knows it well
The Point: How Robert Zemeckis convinced he has you to participate in The Walk
Philippe Petit : That’s exactly right, he had to convince me. Because at the first call, there are nine years old when he phoned me from Los Angeles, I was not really interested only because I was working already Man of Wire . Then he invited me to LA for me to see it at work on two or three films he was doing motion capture. And I was captivated by seeing the work with all these stunning techniques and technology.
Are you surprised that both films have been devoted to your story?
I’m not at all surprised that this story touches people straight in the heart and inspires. There is a fairy tale side. The young artist who falls for two towers built not even … He was not born in the world of showbiz, one learns to do magic, passes his hat on the streets to survive. When the cops arrive, he fled with his unicycle … All this is a little spring of legend. And many people have a kind of nostalgia for the time when the two towers were a symbol of New York majesty, grandeur and after my crossing, humanity and joy. Because before my time the towers were not really adopted by America, many people found them very ugly. I have humanized.
You have trained actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the art of tightrope walking …
Yes, the I saw one on one for eight days. I told the director that I was able to put Joseph on the wire, but he did not. After eight days, Joseph was alone on a wire 10 feet high (3 meters), 30 feet long (9 meters). It was very tough and had an open mind, a great physical and emotional talent. It was very hard because we worked from 9:00 to 5:00 p.m. with a small sandwich at noon. I did not teach him just to walk on the wire, I wanted to teach him to walk with my style, my style is unique because I was not born in the circus. He managed to catch it, the way I move, my accent …
An American camp for the French you are, it does not bother Does not you?
No, I think that when one tells a story, you can have all the freedoms we want. There are people who find that the focus of Joseph’s horrible and others, most of which are the formidable and, at times, it’s really me on the screen.
What did you think of the movie?
The first time I saw it, it was in a completely empty IMAX theater with just him and his producer. I had not seen before and I had not been invited to collaborate with him in the last years as I had been at the beginning. So I was a little on my guard … and, in fact, I loved! After I saw him several times with the public, and it is quite extraordinary because every time I finish my first crossing, the whole room applauded. They do not applaud the director nor the young actor, they applaud the tightrope walker. So it’s a great tribute to my artistic career, it is a great joy to see that.
You have done many other crossings, but we do not talk more often than that of the two towers. Not too frustrating to live in the shadow of this feat?
It’s true that I would develop with journalists or with my fans a discourse on art in general, my crossings on other things. It’s a bit simplistic to think of an artist only in relation to his masterpiece and his most publicized move. The players also have that problem, they are sometimes summarized in this or that film because this film was ten times better known than other obscure films that, for them, no doubt, have the same artistic importance. I smiled politely when told me every time, “then how was it between the towers?”. First, I wrote a book about it, so it would be enough to read; Then, there were two films, so just go see them. It is true that there are deeper questions that “what were you thinking there?”. But at the same time, it has so touched people as it is beautiful, in a sense, they keep asking me that same question.
Does Fame changed your career?
Yes, after the towers, my phone rang day and night. Throughout America and the world offered me … but rarely shows France! I stayed in the United States because it is the country that welcomed me with open arms and mine did not greet me at all, so it was natural to stay a year, ten years and now more than thirty-five years in New York.
How have you experienced the attacks of September 11?
We can not talk about the disappearance of two tours when we know that, that day, there was the disappearance of thousands of lives. But what I can say is that I had those towers alive inside of me, just like human beings. I had chosen, or perhaps it was they who chose me, to make a completely impossible dream. I had this dream even before the towers are not out of the ground. Then I saw the birth and growth as two human beings. And as adults, I have married my thread. And then I went to their death.
Other impossible dreams?
For 66 years, I continue to walk on the wire. I spend three hours a day in training on a cable in my property in upstate New York. And I have lots of projects. One of my dearest projects is Easter Island. I have not gone yet, but I have a friend who lives there and who sends me pictures. The only thing I need is a check from a producer so I could make the trip recognition and then a beautiful spectacle that would be seen around the world and would have to do with the moai statues. I would like my thread revolves around them and make them homage. Everyone out there waiting for me.
Also read our interview with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Robert Zemeckis.