Fact-Checking ‘The Walk’ Movie On The Twin Towers Tightrope Walker

By  //  October 2, 2015

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Film Opens Worldwide Oct. 9

Forty one years after Philippe Petit gaining fame by crossing a high wire between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City,will walk on air again. This week, a movie about Petit’s stunt, titled “The Walk”, opened in theaters worldwide. Below is an overview of facts regarding Petit’s feat, which set a world record in 1974. Today’s current world record for the highest tightrope walk isat 11,752 feet by Freddy Nock.

Photo credit: AP
Photo credit: AP
world trade center highwire walker airplane
Photo by AP

Director Robert Zemeckis , who also directed “Castaway”, “Flight”, “Forrest Gump” and “Back to the Future”, among other feature films, did a remarkable job of keeping “The Walk” as accurate as possible to Petit’s feat and person background story. Below are scenes from the movie that were factually accurate:

  • The highwire was hung at the top of the twin tower’s respective observation decks, at a height of 1,350 feet.
  • Petit walked the highwire’s 140-foot length between the two towers to eight times.
  • Petit did not use a safety net or harness.
  • Petit bowed to the audience below.
    Petit laid down on the wire during the stunt.
  • Petit’s inspiration to walk the towers occured in the waiting room of a dentist office when he noticed  an article about the construction of the “World’s tallest buildings” in New York City..
  • Petit and his team spent six months to make 200 visits to the twin towers where they inspected the towers’ architecture and rooftops.
  • Petit and his team hid two tons worth of equipment at the top of the towers.
  • Petit’s stunt lasted 45 minutes.
  • A few weeks prior to the stunt, Petit accidentally stepped on a nail, seriously injuring his foot, yet he proceeded with his plan.
  • Petit walked between the towers of Notre Dame in 1971.
  • One major element Petit had to work with was the WTC’s natural sway. During his training, his assistants violently shook his wire to prepare him for the sway.Petit escaped legal prosecution in exchange for a promise to stage a free aerial performance at Central Park.
  • Petit was arrested after he completed the stunt, but a judge dropped the charges on Petit’s agreement to perform a tight rope walk for children in Central Park.
  • The owners of the World Trade Center forgave Petit and gave him a lifetime pass to the observation deck.

On the day of Petit’s walk, they posed as architects, concealing a bow and arrow in a cardboard tube meant for blueprints. They shot the arrow which carried a hemp cord between the towers and progressively wrapped sturdier lines across it until they were able to lay the steel cable on which Petit would walk just after dawn.

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Photo by AP

Sony Picture’s official synopsis: “Twelve people have walked on the moon, but only one man – Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) – has ever, or will ever, walk in the immense void between the World Trade Center towers. Guided by his real-life mentor, Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley), and aided by an unlikely band of international recruits, Petit and his gang overcome long odds, betrayals, dissension and countless close calls to conceive and execute their mad plan. Robert Zemeckis, the director of such marvels as Forrest Gump, Cast Away, Back to the Future, Polar Express and Flight, again uses cutting edge technology in the service of an emotional, character-driven story. With innovative photorealistic techniques and IMAX 3D wizardry, The Walk is true big-screen cinema, a chance for moviegoers to viscerally experience the feeling of reaching the clouds. The film, a PG-rated, all-audience entertainment for moviegoers 8 to 80, unlike anything audiences have seen before, is a love letter to Paris and New York City in the 1970s, but most of all, to the Towers of the World Trade Center.”

ABOVE VIDEO: Critics across the globe raved about “The Walk.”, based on Petit’s book: “To Reach the Clouds: My High Wire Walk Between the Twin Towers.”

ABOVE VIDEO: Trailer of “Man on a Wire”, an award-winning documentary about Petit’s feat.


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