In August of 1974, a 24-year-old Frenchman named Philippe Petit snuck into the World Trade Center, reached the top, and walked across a wire cable that was strung between the Twin Towers. New York watched captivated below. Some fun facts: it took 6 years to plan the stunt, the gap between the towers was 140 feet, and even though it was illegal, charges were dropped and Petit was merely sentenced to entertaining kids in Central Park (where he walked over Belvedere Lake).
James Marsh’s documentary, Man on Wire, follows the legendary high-wire stunt, from preparation to repercussions (check out the trailer, and some stills, below). Next Friday, July 25th, the doc will open in New York, but the night before it will be screened at the Times Center at an event that will put you face to face with Petit (spoiler alert: he didn't die during the stunt!), as well as Marsh; the two will be interviewed by Dick Cavett.
Petit's stunt was documented in a children's book published after 9/11, and the man himself is admired by author Paul Auster (who wrote a story about him in his book The Red Notebook). Auster says he "saw Philippe years before I ever met him. When I was living in Paris. I used to watch him juggling on the Boulevard Montparnasse. I’d never seen anyone quite like him before. One night I was coming home quite late, it must have been 2 in the morning, and I see him — ‘the Juggler’ — walking with coils of ropes and a few people, and I thought, ‘That young man is up to something.’ Sure enough, the next day I opened the papers and saw that he’d walked between the two towers of Notre Dame. He became a kind of hero to me.”
Today, New York has seen stunt attempts by Jeb Corliss, and of course the three NY Times building climbers -- but Queens Council Member Peter Vallone, Jr. is currently trying to put an end to them all.