NEW YORK — While there was “movie magic” in Chicago native Robert Zemeckis’ new film “The Walk” (opening in IMAX Wednesday, in regular theaters Friday), star Joseph Gordon-Levitt did learn tightrope skllls to portray famous high-wire walker Philippe Petit and performed scenes some 20 feet off the ground.
One had to wonder if heights frighten the actor, whose performance focused on Petit’s 110-story walk in 1974 between the twin towers of the World Trade Center.
“I think we all have some measure of fear of heights. It’s just natural in our biology. Your body knows when you’re too high — where it will hurt if you fall. And you get a natural rush of adrenaline, and you feel fear. I have that, but not worse than your average person,” added Gordon-Levitt.
However, it’s a different story for his father. “My dad won’t stand next to a window in a tall building. In fact, the time I watched the final version of ‘The Walk,’ I brought my parents with me. My dad was just yelping in fear. You don’t often get to hear your father make noises like that,” said Gordon-Levitt with a big laugh.
The process of making “The Walk” clearly was an intriguing journey for the actor. Not only did Petit insist that he personally train Gordon-Levitt on the intricacies of high-wire acrobatics, but the young actor also got to play opposite one of his screen idols: Sir Ben Kingsley.
“Here’s the cool thing for me. Philippe’s real-life mentor was Papa Rudy, the man Sir Ben plays in the film. For me, Sir Ben also adopted a sort of mentor-like position, because he’s such a fantastic actor and I admire him so much.
“So there was a real life parallel there.”