Thursday, 11 December 2014


Release: October 2015
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, Charlotte Le Bon

THE WALK: Robert Zemeckis’ High Wire Act
Montreal Set Visit
By Steven Goldman

On a vast Montreal sound stage, director Robert Zemeckis is hard at work recreating a lost place and time. Here his leading man, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, stands on the ledge of a gigantic rooftop set built of steel and concrete, gazing out to a similar precipice over a football field away amidst a sea of green-screen. Yet his character, notably, doesn’t have the special powers found in your typical multiplex superhero. Instead, he’s equipped with a dream and the belief that anything is possible - as he sets off to walk a high-wire stretched between two of the tallest buildings on the face of the earth.

Zemeckis’ chosen moment in history is the morning of August 7, 1974,     when a lone French aerialist, Philippe Petit, captured the world’s     imagination with a seemingly impossible high-wire walk between the     Twin Towers of New York’s World Trade Center. Some forty-years  later,    utilizing the latest in state of the art visual effects, 3D  and IMAX    technology (and massive set construction), Zemeckis and   Gordon-Levitt,   with the aid of a small army of technicians and   craftsmen, are   recreating that moment as The Walk enters its final   week of   production. They too are accomplishing the seemingly   impossible:   bringing the lost towers back to glorious life.

Only in film is such a feat possible now.

On set, Gordon-Levitt (Inception) talks of his part in the enterprise     and how he can relate to the undertaking.  “There’s a lot that’s     similar about it,” he says, comparing wire-walking to acting. “When     you’re acting in a movie there’s all this chaos going on around you…     You have to just compartmentalize and not think about it. It’s the     same on the wire. I’ve learned a little bit about how to walk on a     wire and it’s the same. If you start thinking, ‘I’m up high,’ or ‘I     could lose my balance,’ you’re done for.”

Seen by Zemeckis as both a mad cap caper film and a love letter to the     Towers, The Walk has had a long journey to the screen. First    conceived  in 2007, it will reach the multiplex and IMAX alike in    October, 2015.  “One of the biggest struggles I had getting this film    made was that  it’s very difficult to make any feature film [today]    that’s not  derivative,” explains the Oscar-winning director.    “Anything that tries  to be unique and original is the hardest type of    film to make. And  then to say it’s about a wire-walker and I want   to  make it in 3D.   That’s almost an impossible feat.”

Zemeckis credits Tom Rothman, head of the newly revitalized TriStar,     for making The Walk possible. “Tom and I made Cast Away when he was     the head of 20th Century Fox, so we know each other from way back,”     says Zemeckis. “That was a very risky movie that we made together.  He    was a big fan of this story and had the courage to greenlight  this    movie.”

“Bob Zemeckis is a true master filmmaker,” says Rothman, who helped     Fox become the most profitable film studio in Hollywood under his     18-year-tenure. “He has a rare ability to blend the epic with the     intimate,” he explains. “It’s one thing to put audiences in a     wire-walker’s shoes with jaw dropping visuals. It’s another to make     them care emotionally. Bob is one of the few directors who can do both     and who can use 3D in a way that makes a film a must see on the  big    screen.”

An expert at using new technology in the service of story and     character, Robert Zemeckis first captured the spotlight in 1985 with     Back to the Future. His films include: Romancing the Stone, Forrest     Gump (for which he won the directing Oscar in 1995), Cast Away, Who     Framed Roger Rabbit, Contact, A Christmas Carol, and most  recently,    the critically acclaimed Flight, starring Denzel  Washington.

“To quote Francois Truffaut, ‘A really great movie is the perfect     blend of truth and spectacle,’ and I think that’s what we go to the     movies for,” says Zemeckis of his approach. “We go to see a story that     is rooted in human truth and the human journey. But we also go to    see  a spectacle.”

The Walk (whose supporting cast includes Sir Ben Kingsley and The     Hundred-Foot Journey’s Charlotte Le Bon) promises to put audiences in     the thick of the action, as close as any of us will ever come to     walking amongst the clouds ourselves. Zemeckis explains with a laugh:     “If you’ve got a fear of heights, you might not be comfortable     watching a lot of this, but that was another thing I loved about it.”

But the film is also an exploration of what led up to the famous walk,     including Petit’s earliest childhood obsessions, his romantic     entanglements, and the volatile relationship with his surrogate father     figure, Kingsley’s Papa Rudi.

“Walking on a wire between the two towers of the World Trade Center is     beautiful and physically daring, but there’s also a metaphor   there,’   says Gordon-Levitt of The Walk. “It’s about believing in   yourself   enough to say ‘I [can] accomplish anything… I [can] be the   person I   want to be.’”

As for the Towers themselves and the tragedy of 9-11, both     Gordon-Levitt and Zemeckis see The Walk as a tribute, which, given the     opening of The Freedom Tower, comes at a particularly appropriate     moment.

“I think it’s important to remember that tragedy doesn’t erase what     was beautiful,” says Gordon-Levitt.   “I think it’s also important to     remember this beautiful moment… that does greater honor, to not let     those towers just become a symbol of disaster, but to also  remember    them in this moment of beauty.”

“The movie is a love letter to the Twin Towers,” says Zemeckis.     “They’re very much present in the film as characters. So it’s also a     celebration. In the tragic history of those buildings, this is one     glorious and human moment that happened. I think that’s something     that’s important to remember too.”

No comments:

Post a comment