0
Posted October 12, 2015 by admin in Resource
 
 

Catatan Produksi Film The Walk (2015)


About the Production

An impossible, but true story, the new film from Robert Zemeckis, The Walk is a live-action, PG-rated entertainment for all audiences, ages 8 to 80. A love letter to the World Trade Center, the film is a 3D and IMAX visual experience, unlike anything audiences have seen.

On August 7, 1974 – the day before Richard Nixon announced he would be resigning from office – Philippe Petit, a French aerialist, surprised the city of New York with a high-wire walk between the towers of the almost-completed and partially occupied World Trade Center. Passersby without a moment to spare stopped in their tracks and looked up. They saw the impossible: a man dancing high in the sky, seemingly in the thin air.

Now, forty years later, Zemeckis – one of cinema’s most accomplished filmmakers at integrating technology in the service of emotional storytelling – is putting moviegoers in Petit’s shoes. The Walk, an epic, big-screen cinematic spectacle, gives moviegoers the chance to go where only one man has been or ever will be – 110 stories in the air, on a wire, walking between the towers of the World Trade Center.

“When I first heard this story, I thought, ‘My God, this is a movie that A: should be made under any circumstance, and B: should be absolutely presented in 3D,” explains Zemeckis. “When you watch a wire walker, you always have to watch by looking up at him. You never get the perspective of what’s it like to be on the wire. Our film will follow Petit’s story but will ultimately put you on the wire, walking with Philippe, and by presenting it in 3D, it is going to be spectacular and very emotional.”

Spectacular, emotional – and exciting, with a driving plot of near-misses and almost-catastrophes as Petit and his ragtag team pull off the impossible. “I love the idea of a guy – a performance artist – who pulls off this great caper,” says Zemeckis. “The caper is illegal, it’s dangerous, but it doesn’t hurt anybody. It seemed like something out of another time – you don’t really see stuff like that anymore. It was almost like a fable.”

“I was struck by the passion of Philippe’s dream and its fulfillment. It’s not unlike, in a certain way – for me – a producer who wants to make a movie,” says producer Steve Starkey. “But underneath all that is this thrilling caper story – the tension in carrying out what Philippe calls his ‘coup.’ At the end, it makes me and others cry – which is a similar moment to what I had when I read Forrest Gump.”

“Philippe saw the two towers and he literally drew a pencil line between them and said, ‘I’ve got to put a wire between those towers; I’ve got to walk.’ In his mind, those towers were built for him to create that performance,” says Zemeckis. “What’s amazing about Philippe, and why I think his story is unique but universal, is that’s what happens to all artists. If you ask an artist, Why did you paint this painting? Why did you write this music? Why did you make this movie? – there’s never any answer. Anyone who pursues an unlikely dream will identify with that feeling that was inside of Philippe – that he had to do this, no matter what the cost.”

Not only does the film show who he was before and how he came to be on that wire (his growing up, his surrogate father, etc.), but for the first time, moving images of the walk itself – not only from the observers’ point of view, but Petit’s. “The only recorded evidence of the walk is a handful of still photos,” explains Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who plays Petit in Zemeckis’s film. “The photos are incredible, but it’s different than seeing and experiencing it unfold. To me, making a movie where you actually get to be inside the character of Philippe when he lives that moment, and all the hopes and fears and imperfections that led up to it, is unique. Getting to actually witness that in a movie, and be up there with the character, seeing what he saw, is just a vastly different experience.”

Reminiscent of his use of Forrest Gump’s own, unusual, voice to augment the narrative in that film, Zemeckis has Petit himself narrate moments in The Walk to add insight-especially to his inner thoughts on the wire. The slightly surreal use of the Statue of Liberty (like Petit, a French gift to America) device for this helps lend a fable-like quality to the PG-rated film. “This is a true story,” says Zemeckis, “down to all its details, but it also has a ‘once upon a time’ feel to it – a lost time and place – and I wanted to combine the literal with the figurative.”

Fittingly, Visual Effects Supervisor Kevin Baillie got involved in The Walk very early on. “I’ve been part of the project for six or seven years now,” he says. “Robert and I were working on A Christmas Carol, but there was this great idea that he had for a movie about this crazy French wire walker who’s trying to tightrope between the Twin Towers.”

The project was especially intriguing for the VFX supervisor, because of the immense challenge it presented: the entire world of 1974 New York, as seen from thousands of feet in the air, between two buildings that have since fallen, would have to be created from scratch. “We have to make everything, from the lobby of the World Trade Center to 1974 downtown New York City. The production design department actually built on a giant stage the roof of one of the towers. It was a mind-blowingly cool, big set, but the city around it, the fog swirling between the towers, the towers themselves rising up from the city, all had to be created completely digitally, based on photo references. Those buildings obviously don’t exist anymore, sadly, but they had to feel absolutely, 1,000 percent real and present, because they are the emotional heart of the film. Only very recently has the technology evolved to where this, though challenging, is possible. And only in cinema. Interestingly, for example, we found different folks even had different memories of their color – because it changed, depending on the angle of the sun. We want to honor and do justice to those buildings, for those memories but also because what Philippe did between them was beautiful,” says Baillie.

In this way, The Walk transports moviegoers to a moment in time when the towers – or, at least, our perception of them – was reoriented. “At first, nobody liked the Twin Towers. While they were being built, everybody in New York thought they looked like filing cabinets. After this walk had happened, people loved the towers. They had a personality. When Philippe Petit walked between them, they suddenly became poetic and were transformed.”

“The Towers are very much present in the film as characters,” adds Zemeckis. “This is one glorious and human moment that happened. That’s something that’s important to remember.”

Throughout his legendary career, Zemeckis has made films that have most successfully used cutting edge technology in the service of storytelling. For Zemeckis, it’s all about the latter: technology is a tool, like any other technique, that the filmmaker can use at his disposal. “The secret of any magic is to mix it up,” he says. “Every great magician uses more than one technique to create the illusion. It’s the filmmaker’s task to do that as well, to use all of the tools that we have and keep mixing it up, so the audience can’t see the trick.”

Of course, the film would not have been possible without the real Philippe Petit, who says that the film is a highly accurate portrayal of his real-life coup. “I have seen many a masterpiece by Robert Zemeckis, and this one of course is different to me, because it involves part of my life,” says Petit. “I must confess, I was on the edge of my seat – not just for the wire walk, but for the whole adventure. Seeing the movie in IMAX 3D, I was transported back there on that day August 1974. It’s my story, I know it well, and I know how it ends – and yet I was secretly thinking, ‘Well, I hope these guys make it!’ Now, if by the power of a magnificent movie, I could be transported in the most important day of my life, imagine millions of people watching the film. For the first time in the history of cinema, they’re going to actually be on the wire with me. This is a beautiful movie and I completely love what I saw.”

Petit says that the reason his story goes beyond wire walking and becomes a universal, inspiring story, is that it’s a story about an artist pouring his heart and soul into his work. “It’s the difference between somebody grabbing a balancing pole and risking their life to get to the other side, and somebody like me, who carries his life across,” he says. “One might be stunning, but the other is inspiring. People have said to me, after a performance, ‘It gives me the feeling that I could make my dreams come true, I could move mountains.’ You can take the words ‘wire walker’ and replace it by other profession. It’s about the quest for perfection, the attention to details, the respect for tools, and place yourself there, whatever you are, even if you are in the art of living.”

 

Casting Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Joseph Gordon-Levitt takes the lead as Philippe Petit. It’s a role that few other actors could play as memorably. “This was one of those roles that felt so particularly tailored to my desires and individual talents,” says the actor.

“When I first met Joe, I felt that he completely understood the heart and soul of this character,” says Zemeckis. “If you look at Joe’s body of work, he’s very much the consummate showman.”

Indeed, The Walk would make full use of Gordon-Levitt’s physical capabilities (as he has put on display multiple times, from a memorable song-and-dance routine, incorporating multiple backflips, in his hosting duties on “Saturday Night Live,” to spending weeks on a bicycle to film the lead role in the well-regarded thriller Premium Rush), melded with his abilities as an entertainer, as seen in his hosting duties on his television program, “HitRECord on TV,” combined with his interest in acting in thrillers, such as Inception, Looper, and The Dark Knight Rises.

In fact, Gordon-Levitt embraced the challenge of walking on the wire. “It was a serious challenge, but I like a challenge,” he says. “I love doing stuff with my body – incorporating physicality into a performance. There’s nothing like a close-up in a movie, but what you can convey to the audience with your body is also part of what makes the whole thing fun.”

“What is wire walking?” asks Robert Zemeckis. “You could say it’s a stunt because it’s risky. It’s dangerous, that sort of stunt – you’re on a wire hanging, in the case of the World Trade Center towers, over 1300 feet in the air – but it’s also dance. It’s also gymnastics. It’s also ballet. It’s a whole physical performance, it’s not just the stunt-it’s an art form unto itself. It’s really interesting in that regard. In movie terms, it’s stunt work, but in reality it’s really probably ballet.”

So, Gordon-Levitt learned to walk on the wire. He couldn’t have asked for a better teacher: Philippe Petit himself. “I spent eight days straight with Philippe in a one-on-one workshop with him,” he says. “He was really generous with his time with me; we spent quite a bit of time together. He was teaching me how to walk on a wire, but what he was really teaching me was much broader than that. For Philippe, that balance on the wire is a metaphor for his whole life and creativity.”

Gordon-Levitt says that Petit also shared his advice and wisdom for high-wire walking. “Before I met him, when I had just read his books and seen his interviews, I heard him say, ‘I never fall,’ and I’ll admit, at first, I misinterpreted it. I thought, ‘Well, that’s arrogant; he could fall.’ But then when we were together, he taught me what he meant by that. He said, ‘I jump, because it’s a decision.’ You never want to keep fighting the balance to the point that you lose control. If you are having a problem, you make a decision before it’s too late, and you deal with it. Either you jump to the mat, or, if you’re on the high wire, you kneel down. You do something about it, you don’t just fall.”

“I was able to teach him how to walk on the wire,” says Petit. “I did a private, one-on-one workshop, excruciatingly tiring, nine AM to five PM every day. Breaks of only thirty seconds – that’s how I was. I wouldn’t let him go. We started with the line on the floor, and by the end of our time, he was seven feet high on a thirty feet long wire.”

But Petit says that learning to walk the wire isn’t a matter of learning how to balance on a thin piece of rope; it’s about artistry. “I taught him my wire, not the high wire,” he says. “I taught him that there is no balance unless your body and your soul, or your heart or your mind, is in unison with your feet and with a balancing pole being held in your arms. And that to me is the secret of balance. Without passion, without soul, you’ll have a dumb acrobat on a rope.”

Ultimately, for Gordon-Levitt, wire-walking is a lot like acting. “The first step is very difficult, because you’re confronted with doubts,” he explains. “But then the challenge was to put the doubts aside and just focus on the joy, the enjoyment – I can do this, this is not hard. It reminds me of acting. You can get up in your head and think, ‘Oh my God, they’re rolling film, all these people are watching, I can’t mess this up’ – and you’re screwed. You can’t think that way. You have to be able to set all of those thoughts aside and focus. I felt a very parallel experience walking on the wire.”

“Actors are always studying something to prepare for their roles, but Joe took it to another level,” says Steve Starkey. “He not only wanted to prepare emotionally and learn technique so he could act properly – he took it beyond that, and, in fact, was able to walk by himself. He was able to make it across our entire stage by himself on a real wire – his training went that far. He got a huge ovation from the crew because they were so excited to see their actor do the performance by himself.”

Beyond learning to wire walk, Gordon-Levitt also found inspiration in playing the role of Petit. “Philippe – what a character!” he says. “I’m lucky that I got to know and make friends with him. Getting to know his fierce determination and focus and, at the same time, this whimsical and exceedingly gentle, positive, magic person-to-person connection that he has – it’s really quite a combination.”

To play the role – a real person – the actor says that it was more important to capture the nature of the man than to do an impersonation. “The best way for me, as an actor, to honor a real person is to take them into my own self. Rather than slavishly imitate, I absorbed what I loved and admired about Philippe, and played my version of that. The most important thing was to tell the overall story that Philippe was telling by walking on this wire: you can do anything you imagine. You can create the impossible. That’s what magic is; that’s what art is.”

Part of playing Petit required Gordon-Levitt to master lines in French, and then many more lines in English with Philippe Petit’s pronounced Parisian accent. “The funny thing about Philippe is that he still has a thick French accent, and he will openly admit that he keeps his French accent on purpose – I think he likes it because it distinguishes him. It’s his character,” says Gordon-Levitt. “At the time of the walk, in 1974, he was obsessed with speaking English, because he became obsessed with the United States and American culture. He made his whole crew speak English while they were there. Now, he doesn’t speak French very often. I would try to speak French with him, and he would respond in French, but very shortly thereafter he would slip back into English. He’s just more accustomed to speaking English.

Gordon-Levitt worked with language and dialect coaches to master speaking his French lines and English with the French accent, but in addition to the experts, he had his French-speaking co-stars – Clement Sibony, Cesar Domboy, and the French-Canadian Charlotte Le Bon – to guide him. “We helped him a little bit but he was really good,” says Charlotte Le Bon. “He already had solid French skills before the movie. He really likes French culture. He knows so much about French poetry-more than me actually.”

Petit himself says that during his one-on-one training sessions with Gordon-Levitt, the actor was learning so much more than how to walk on a wire. “Bob Zemeckis later told me, ‘I have a secret to tell you. Besides learning from you how to walk on the wire, you know what Joe was doing day and night in that workshop? He was learning you. Your mannerism, your accent, your madness… and you can see that in the movie.’ And I can! I have nothing but compliments to say about this movie.”

 

About The Supporting Cast

Surrounding Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a group of acclaimed and up-and-coming actors who embraced the story of pulling off Petit’s caper.

Leading the way is Oscar winner Ben Kingsley, who plays Papa Rudy, the man and mentor who taught Petit how to walk on the wire. “The Omankowsky Troupe were a remarkable troupe,” says Kingsley. “They were a family – a father and mother. Omankowsky’s wife was a beautiful trapeze artist and very accomplished in other fields as well, and his sons were high-wire walkers.”

“He ran his troupe, some say, with an iron fist,” says Zemeckis about Papa Rudy. “Sir Ben brings that to the part. He is a force of nature when it comes to performing and when it comes to acting, but he also has a real sense of the character and relished in playing the role. The character is a strange guy – we believe he was Czech, but was in Paris and spoke many different languages – and an amazing character, and Sir Ben was able to bring all of that to life.”

Kingsley notes that Papa Rudy is a fascinating character because he’s not just an expert performer. “The important thing to know and to understand about any person who is extremely skilled at one particular craft is that often that person is a wise, extraordinary person,” he says. “I’ve known great actors, great artists, great musicians, great painters, great chess players, great filmmakers, great drivers – you meet these people who are extremely good at what they do and there is always something else. You can’t have that genius in isolation – it’s held in a context of what I can only call intelligence.”

French-Canadian actress Charlotte Le Bon takes the role of Annie, Philippe’s girlfriend. “She’s Philippe’s first accomplice,” she explains. “He shares his dream with her for the first time. She falls in love with his dream, and with Philippe as well. She was very important for him, because she was an anchor for him. He needed her when he was feeling more vulnerable. He couldn’t show that to his friends, but he could show it to her.”

Naturally, Le Bon was excited by the opportunity of working with Robert Zemeckis. “Working with Robert Zemeckis is the most comforting acting experience I have ever had,” says Le Bon. “Coming from France, where French directors are always looking and searching inside themselves, they’re never sure about exactly what they’re doing. Zemeckis knows exactly what he wants and exactly what your character is supposed to do in that sequence. It’s so comforting. He has the movie in his head – you can tell he’s been working on it for years. We were in such good hands that he could ask us to do anything.”

“Charlotte has been on television and making movies in France for many years,” says Zemeckis. “She’s a magnificent actress who was perfect for the part and also extremely helpful in making sure our French was done perfectly – after all, that’s her first language. She’s beautiful, talented, the camera loves her – she’s an incredible actress.”

James Badge Dale rounds out the lead cast as Jean-Pierre, the salesman who provides a key link to fill out the team that will make the coup a reality. “We first worked with James Badge Dale on Flight – he was the cancer victim who did a very surreal scene, his only scene in the movie, but he stole it,” says Starkey.

“The way we looked at the character, he’s a fast-talking New Yorker,” says Dale. “If he can communicate with Philippe’s team, he can be of assistance. At this point, Philippe and his buddies are looking for people in New York to bring in so they can get into the buildings and attempt their coup.”

The supporting roles include Clement Sibony as Jean-Louis and Cesar Domboy as Jean-Francois (a/k/a Jeff), two coup co-conspirators who come over from France to help Petit pull off his audacious act.

“Jean-Louis became a close friend of Philippe’s over five or six years,” says Sibony. “That’s why he’s the only one who can speak to Philippe the way that he does. Philippe has an ego, and he’s slightly crazy, and he has a natural authority; Jean-Louis is not that crazy. He’s very responsible and he thinks. He tries to bring Philippe back to Earth – but he’s also an engineer of the coup and he wants to help make it happen.”

Domboy says that where Jean-Louis is assertive, Jeff is more easygoing. “Bob told me that what was important for Jeff’s character was that he was really innocent, not cynical and never skeptical about whether the coup is possible,” says Domboy. “Jean-Louis is always asking, ‘How are we going to do this,’ but Jeff just thinks it’s going to be possible. It’s 1974 – he’s not doing this for money, he’s just an open-minded, free-spirited, hippie person, who wants to build something big and poetic.”

Crossing the ocean, Petit finds the final three members of the crew: Ben Schwartz as Albert, Benedict Samuel as David, and Steve Valentine as Barry Greenhouse, the “inside man.”

David and Albert are introduced together, and Samuel says that there’s a mutual lack of trust – but Petit and his crew have nowhere else to turn. “They’re introduced in such a way that you think that it may not be the best idea to have these two guys, David and Albert, in a crew trying to break into the World Trade Center towers.”
“Shooting this movie was an interesting experience, because Joe, Jamie Badge, and I were the only three Americans in it. Everybody else was from France or England or Montreal,” notes Schwartz. “I’ve never in my life been on a movie set like that, where there were so few Americans in it. I found that very exciting – it made for such a cool energy.”

“Barry is a great character to play,” says Valentine. “With his ‘stache and his beard, he was a man in his own time zone, even back in the 1970s. He’s very individual, an anarchist in a suit.”

 

Recreating The World Trade Center

“We were not able to shoot between the two towers of the World Trade Center, of course, because, sadly, they don’t exist anymore, but we were able to replicate them in a way that I think is an enormously loving homage to those buildings,” says Joseph Gordon-Levitt. “Bob became obsessed with those buildings, with all the details, and in that way he mirrored Philippe – because Philippe became obsessed with those buildings in 1974 when they were first being built. He could tell you all the different elevators. He could tell you the dimensions of the height and width, and how much distance was between the towers, from corner to corner. Seeing Bob carefully and lovingly bring these buildings back to life was really moving.”

Recreating the towers offered production designer Naomi Shohan and visual effects supervisor Kevin Baillie their greatest production challenge on The Walk. Ultimately, their work is a combination of an extremely large stage set and months of digital recreation.

The first challenge came in deciding what to build practically and what to create digitally. “We had to figure out what square footage of the roof set would produce the maximum number of shots, knowing that there would be quite a lot of shots,” says Shohan. “We wanted to be faithful – more than faithful. We wanted to celebrate the towers, the scale of them. If you’re not aware of the place, you can’t possibly appreciate the enormity of the deed.

Relying on the original blueprints for the Trade Center, Shohan designed and built an enormous, 40-foot-by-60-foot corner of the South Tower, where most of the action takes place as the story stays with Philippe during the caper. Though the filmmakers would need to film action from the North Tower as well, they could make due with only one corner, because the two towers were largely mirror images of each other; Shohan could simply strike the stage dressing on top of the roof and re-dress it for its opposite corner.

Shohan’s team built a structurally sound roof – a necessity, because due to space concerns, the most practical place to build the 110th floor (a key location, where Philippe and Jeff hide out for hours) turned out to be right underneath the roof set.

In the end, essentially, Shohan and her team recreated one-quarter of the Trade Center’s 200×200 roof. With creative camera angles, this was often enough. However, to recreate the rest of the roof, the towers, and 1974 New York as seen from nearly 1400 feet in the air, Baillie and his visual effects team at Atomic Fiction brought the project home.

For the Tower, Baillie and his team had access to the original blueprints for every single floor in the World Trade Center, as well as countless reference photos. However, he and his team faced an unexpected challenge. “The Tower itself is a deceivingly complicated thing to make look real,” says Baillie. “It’s so geometrically simple, with those straight lines that go all the way down to the ground, but if you build it perfect, it just looks fake. We had to build the whole thing, and then figure out what the right amount of messing it up was going to be – slight misalignments between the panels, making sure the gaps between the panels wasn’t exactly the same. We also built about 30 floors of interiors, so if you look carefully, you can see desks and chairs inside.”

Even more challenging, Baillie and his team rebuilt a historically accurate representation of New York in 1974 – as seen from 1400 feet in the air, between the two towers. “New York in 1974 looked very different from what it looks like today,” says Baillie. “We did take a helicopter and flew above New York for two days to gather real life reference footage of what the city looks like now, but at the end of the day, what you see in the movie is 100% digitally recreated.”

For reference, Baillie and his team used any reference from the time that they could find, from images on the internet to archival photos in books and libraries to original blueprints and beyond. “There’s a really cool website that has a slider – you drag the slider to 1974 and any building that is new since 1974 is blue on the map,” says Baillie. “It was kind of a cheat sheet for us. At the end of the day, most of the reference photos are just that – reference – so our artists used those to build buildings in the surrounding vicinity completely digitally.”

For the most part, Baillie’s team did the math on each of the buildings to make them accurate. “Even buildings that didn’t have blueprints, we still had the stats on how tall they were,” says Baillie. Even the details – the size and configuration of the windows, for example – is based, whenever possible, on their research, and by “extrapolating intelligently” on the few buildings that no longer exist and had no ideal photo reference from the time.

For the most part, Baillie’s model is meant only to be viewed from above – Petit’s point of view during his walk. However, because Zemeckis planned a few shots from below – for example, from the World Trade Center Plaza – these areas of the model are complete and ready to be explored, as if you were walking around the city.

In the end, recreating the structures of the city and the Towers took Baillie’s “construction team” of 15 people three months to complete – four man-years’ time – after which a team of more than 100 artists spent five months integrating that digital world into the green screen footage from set. “There were definitely times when it was emotional, for both myself and the crew,” he says. “As we went through the reference photography, we saw a lot of imagery from 9/11, because those are obviously the latest images that you can find of the towers. So I think we felt a great sense of responsibility for portraying the towers in a way that was honest and also honored them.

“The other emotion we felt was pure excitement,” Baillie continues. “It really hit me, after we finished shooting, I spent two days in a helicopter flying right over Ground Zero at 1400 feet – we were hovering exactly where it was that Philippe was walking on the wire. It makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up, just talking about it – I’m literally in the place where this guy did this walk, with no safety gear, I’m looking down, and I’m just awestruck. It was really great to get that experience from the reference imagery that we were able to capture, but also that emotional sensation, that thrill of heights, and danger from that high up, and we made sure that every shot we have in the film gives that same sensation. I honestly don’t think the visuals that we have in the film would have been as good if I hadn’t been there to feel what that felt like.”

 

About The Visual Effects

In addition to recreating the World Trade Center and the City of New York, visual effects supervisor Kevin Baillie had many more responsibilities to make The Walk as seamless as possible.

For the walk sequence itself, Baillie says that as impressive as Gordon-Levitt’s feat of learning to walk the wire was, visual effects were able to give an assist in two ways. “For the simpler stuff, Joe did the actual walk himself, which was amazing,” he says. “For some of the more complex stuff, like when he lies down, or when he has the pole over his back, the wire was nestled into a 20-foot-long green steel beam. When you look at the actual footage, he’s walking on a six-inch-wide plank that has the wire in the middle of it – but when we removed all the green, it looks like he’s just standing on a wire.”

Of course, the real-life Philippe Petit had years of training to perform his coup; Gordon-Levitt had eight days. Certain, technical moves on the wire were beyond his ability. For these, the filmmakers employed a double, Jade Kindar-Martin, who is one of the most accomplished high-wire walkers in the country – a man who married his wife on the high wire, and who, in a fabulous and serendipitous coincidence, was trained by Rudy Omankowsky, Jr. – the son of Papa Rudy, who trained Philippe Petit. “We took a photo and put both Philippe and Jade on the phone to Papa Rudy, Jr., because he was so excited that we were making the film,” says Starkey. “Jade continued the training of Joe that Philippe had started prior to filming. On Saturdays, they came in, continued to train and Joe got proficient at crossing the tower.”

Kindar-Martin also performed the wire-walk stunts that were beyond Gordon-Levitt’s abilities. Visual Effects was there to make his performance seamless with Gordon-Levitt’s. “There were a few truly complicated stunts that only a true wire-walker could do – like kneeling down on the wire and saluting with the hand, or the more complicated turnarounds, or juggling flaming torches on a slack rope,” says Baillie. “As talented as Joe is, those are things he can’t do. Those were performed by Jade, the stunt double, and we did a face replacement. We scanned Joe’s face in 43 different poses, so we could record all of the muscle movements that his face is capable of. We could mimic the look of concentration and determination that Joe would have if he was doing that action on the wire.”

The Walk was shot in 2D and converted to 3D by experts at Legend3D. Though it wasn’t that long ago that 3D conversions carried a negative stigma, Baillie now says, “I’ll never do a movie any other way. It’s such an amazing process, and I think it looks better than shooting a movie with two cameras, because you can sculpt the depth to help the audience feel the particular emotion that the director intends. You’re not grounded in reality – you can do what human eyeballs do anyway, which is to filter information and create a modified version of reality that your eyeballs then pump to your brain.”

The film was conceived as a 3D film, and Baillie notes that the entire team was careful, from pre-production all the way through post, to make decisions that would work well in 3D. “For example, we used wide depth of field for focus – we kept everything in focus as much as possible,” Baillie explains. “Bob was also excited about using long, sweeping shots, rather than quick cuts. Usually, a film will have about 2000+ shots, but The Walk only has 826. And Bob did that intentionally, so that the audience has a chance to really take in and explore the 3D environment that they’re seeing.”

 

About The Sets and Costumes

To create a background of 1974 for The Walk, production designer Naomi Shohan aimed for simplicity in design, a credible world for the character of Philippe Petit to appear against. “We weren’t in the real places and we weren’t in 1974, so we did our best to evoke the spirit and look of the real places,” says Shohan. “We made an attempt to be faithful.”

Which is not to say that the film is not designed. Shohan’s approach was to aim to evoke the beauty of Petit’s movements, his grace and form, by creating the space for him to move. “There were some reference photos that I saw of Petit in his New York apartment, talking with his friends; there was just a table and a wall and a picture and he’s moving through it. He’s very graceful – the ultimate figure in space,” she recalls. So, she concluded, “This is a film about a man in space. I hoped that the simplicity of the design would leave room in the frame for the human being to be almost a silhouette as he moved in space.”

To achieve that, she made monochromatic choices in her color palette. “I wanted the colors to be quiet and recessive,” she says. “If there was going to be much color, I preferred that it be in the wardrobe.”

The one exception, of course, was the circus. “A long time ago, I went to a circus in the South of France. It was a little, one-tent circus. It was the most charming circus I’ve ever seen. I remembered that and wanted our circus to be more like that, an old, traveling European circus, more like Cirque du Soleil in their infancy than Barnum & Bailey – a mom and pop, old-school, one-ring circus.”

Shooting on location in Montreal, the filmmakers were given access to a block and a half of cityscape that they could send back in time 40 years.

To create the 1970s wardrobe for The Walk, Zemeckis turned to Suttirat Larlarb. A longtime collaborator with director Danny Boyle, the veteran designer was honored by her guild with the CDG Award for Excellence in Contemporary Film for her work on Slumdog Millionaire; she also won an Emmy Award for her work with Boyle on the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony.

“People have a knee-jerk instinct about the 70s – the disco 70s. This is not that,” she says. “I tend not to do a lot of fashion research, because it doesn’t necessarily represent what the real people are doing. This is a film about a real person and the unusualness that you find within reality.”

Larlarb worked closely with Gordon-Levitt to create his costume. “The character of Petit in the movie is fastidious about the equipment, physics, and his training, so we decided that he would also be fastidious about what he would wear,” says Larlarb. “When he’s a street performer and doesn’t have the chops yet, or preparing for his first performance at Notre Dame, we wanted to make sure that each of those had some rules and regulations that befit his character. It was a really juicy conversation to have.”

“We knew what Petit’s final costume would be – his performance gear,” Larlarb continues. “In all of his performances, we knew we were going with a palette of black – which isn’t much of a palette, but we wanted that to be serious and to have a pure, almost Zen-like, attention to that specific color.”

To dress Annie, Larlarb went to contemporary sources. “I went to some primary sources of the 70s – catalogues, fashion shoots, and some notable figures from the 70s in France,” she explains. “Jane Birkin was a good jumping-off point for me, because she has this otherworldliness that I know Robert was after with Annie. The character has to exude both inner magnetism and artfulness – not make her simply glamorous. She had to have vibrancy all the time, even if it was in a single pop of color.”

In dressing Ben Kingsley, Larlarb had extensive conversations with the actor about the character’s history. “He was so interested in the circus, circus training, and wire-walking, and the life that surrounds that, so I barraged him with imagery. He appreciated the seriousness with which we took our work,” says Larlarb. “He was incredibly invested in the character and appreciated that we were doing the same as well. He wanted to keep parts of his costume – even though he was aware that we had to hold on to them for a while. That was a great compliment as well.”

In the supporting characters as well, Larlarb made choices that fit the characters. For example, the Europeans would initially wear less denim than the Americans, to differentiate them; later, they change costumes as they try to fit in. Ben Schwartz’s character, Albert, in particular, is given a very American, New York vibe – a slackness to his character, especially contrasted against Petit’s regimented persona. Characters would be a little more buttoned-up or freestyled, depending on their personalities.

TheWalk-Poster