Man on a Wire

February 24, 2009

posted by Caroline Picard

Q. Why do you guys think [the film and Philipps walk] captures the imagination and inspires everyone across the globe?

James Marsh: I can only speak for myself and that’s my reaction too, when I encountered the story in all its details and its epic dimensions. It was utterly captivating and I think the challenge then was to get the film to be as close to the experience of the people doing this and of Philippe in particular and to match and measure yourself against the excitement and the setbacks and the human drama that was generated by Felipe’s impossible dream, which ends up being, of course, possible.

Philippe Petit: I completely agree with all of what you say. It’s unbelievable and it’s impossible and probably that’s why I did it.

Q. that takes such courage. That takes such boldness. Did you have an idea of the audacity at the time?

PP: Oh yes, yes, yes. Audacity comes with a good dose of arrogance and I have no problem fitting myself with that. But truly, it was a dream, this was almost like a fairytale, a long, long dream. From the moment I got the idea to the moment I stepped on the wire, it was almost six and a half years. So usually people dream not that long. So yes, it’s an amazing adventure–and on the screen, it catches you with drama tears, laughter. So, it’s an important work.

Q. Now you fulfilled this dream back in the 70s. What’s life like after that, [after] you do the world’s ultimate feat?

PP: Well, if I was collecting the largest and highest and the longest, I would have killed myself after the Twin Towers. But, I don’t have a career. I am a poet, I am a man who grabs life like this, galloping, and I have no problem, and I had no problem, after the World Trade Center, to concentrate on my next dream, even if it was not a highest or longest walk. I have done some very beautiful high-wire walks that were very intimate in a small theatre. So I am not collecting the gigantic, I am collecting the inspiring and the beautiful.

Q. I see you as an artist, and you’re sacrificed a lot for your art. Can you address that?

PP: No, no, no. I am not to be taken into pity and I do not sacrifice. Life is too short to do what I want, so I have to actually decide (what) will I do for my miserable 24 hours a day? But no, I go from project to project with bromides, with avidity and with a certain childlike way of seeing the world, and certainly with the idea that nothing is impossible.

Q. When you were planning this great adventure, did you have any idea how many people you’d inspire?

PP: No, you know, I never thought of the impact, of the after-world. Would they cut my head? Would they put me 20 years, would they cut the wire while I was on the wire? I never thought of the consequences, and I think that a poet, an artist, should not think about the after, they should think about the during, and so I concentrated before on the doing, I concentrated on making it happen and presenting myself on that wire.

But then after that, I had a wonderful gift, that people would tell me how I offered them a gift and how inspired they were. So it had not dawned on me actually, how I would inspire people actually, until this day.

Q. So you did it for the art.

PP: Absolutely.

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