Photograph courtesy of Magnolia Pictures
Got a minute? Philippe Petit, the man behind Man on Wire, the book and Oscar-nominated film about his legendary 1974 tightrope walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, tells us why he's not down with exploiting 9/11 and why today's stunts don't measure up.
Q: In Man on Wire, why didn't you address the tragedy that happened at the World Trade Center?
A: The disaster of September 11, 2001, had nothing to do with my adventure, my book, or the film. There was no room in telling my story to suddenly jump 30 years and associate the disaster to my adventure. It would have been quite disgusting. For James Marsh, the director, it was the same thing. He wanted to make a film not about the Twin Towers' life and death. But at the same time, of course, it was a very strong association for everybody who comes to see the film. Look at the poster—it's the Twin Towers.
Q: What effect do the events of 9/11 have on your memory of the towers?
A: The towers that guide me are the towers of life, not the towers of death. In my mind, when I recall my adventure, it's joyful, even though now the object of my adventure is a subject of sorrow for so many people. But we have to be able to associate the good and bad in life, and the tears and the laughter.
Q: What do you think of the kinds of stunts being performed today?
A: I like things that are meaningful. I'm not interested in people who break records or do things senselessly to become rich and famous. I will not name anyone in particular, but I will say there is a sickness of our century to not create but duplicate. So this kind of art and performing I turn my back to. It doesn't interest me, simply because it doesn't inspire me. But then when you see a performer who does something that is the result of a lot of work and a lot of passion, that vision will inspire me to rush back to work.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: Nothing has changed. I continue today at 60 years old to perform on the high wire, to perform street juggling. I have a walk in New York City, actually, that I cannot announce just yet because it's in preparation, and I have projects all over the world.
Q: What place inspires you now?
A: Dubai suddenly has incredible new structures being built. I would love to do a walk there. But I'm not collecting the highest towers in the world. Anything interests me. It could be a beautiful little church in Sicily. To put the wire between two points, the two points are never the same. They could be two trees, two mountains, two forts, two cathedrals, two towers. It's just always being at the edge of a dream and wanting to make this dream come true. Katie Hintz
Man on Wire is out in paperback and on DVD this week.
The film's trailer
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