The Walk – High-Wire Artist Philippe Petit

The Walk (2015) chronicles the story of Philippe Petit, a French wire walker, as he plans an audacious feat to walk between the towers of the World Trade Center. He understands this is both illegal and dangerous, but remains determined to fulfill this dream of his.

As the movie opens, viewers meet Petit who is standing on top of the Statue of Liberty in present-day New York. After a quick introduction, New York transforms into France in the 1970s. After seeing Petit perform as a street entertainer, we see him as an eight-year-old boy where the roots of a lifelong passion first take hold and he falls in love with wire walking.

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Contributing author: Erin James

The Walk – Real Life, Reel Differences

  • In the movie, the chosen date for the walk is August 6th. However, the actual event took place at 7:15 AM on August 7th. Here is a clip from CBS News covering the event that day:
  • The movie makes it seem as if Annie took to the idea quickly. In reality, she was bombared with love letters and flowers until she listened.
  • Philippe Petit was, in fact, inspired to walk across the Twin Towers while reading a magazine at a dentist’s office, which he nicknamed “The Coup”. As shown in the movie, he did actually pretend to sneeze in order to tear out the page, hid it under his jacket, and walked out of the office without getting his toothache treated. In real life, this occurred in 1968 when Petit was 17 (six years before the actual walk in 1974). The movie shortens this timeline.
  • Philippe Petit did actually create a scale model of the Twin Towers in real life so that he could practice, as well as to figure out where/how to attach the rigging.

  • Philippe completed another important walk on Sydney’s Harbour Bridge in 1973, between the Notre Dame and New York walks, that was never mentioned in the movie.
  • Barry Greenfield’s real name was Barney Greenhouse. He was the inside man who agreed to help Petit because he (Greenhouse) had seen Philippe perform as a street juggler in Paris.
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  • Prior to “The Walk”, there was a “Man on Wire” documentary released in 2008 that showed actual footage and post-event interviews from that day:

Where Are They Now?

Philippe Petit was arrested for his stunt, but a judge dropped the charges in exchange for Petit’s promise to perform a tight rope walk for children in Central Park. In addition, the owners of the World Trade Center forgave Petit and gave him a lifetime pass to the observation deck.

Philippe is currently living as the artist in residence at New York’s Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. He still continues to do high wire walks. Some of his other feats include crossing the Grand Canyon and commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Walk by crossing the same distance at a sculpture garden in New York. When he is not on the wire he is an author and noted public speaker. He does have a Facebook page that is periodically updated.

Below are some great images of the event captured from that day:

Philippe Petit, as he prepares to walk the wire.

Philippe Petit, as he prepares to walk the wire.

Petit during one of his 8 passes across the Twin Towers.

Petit during one of his 8 passes across the Twin Towers.

Petit lies on the high wire during his performance.

Petit lies on the high wire during his performance.



Annie Allix has kept a low profile, preferring to stay out of the public eye. She did not consult on “The Walk”, alhtough she spoke openly on the 2008 “Man on Wire” documentary, stating “My life was completely consumed by his, and he never thought to ask me whether I had my own destiny to follow. It was quite clear I had to follow his.”

Papa Rudy, also known as Rudy Omankowski Jr, was an actual wire walker based in France. During his career he completed a 1.25 km walk between two mountain tops in France. It is known to be the longest air walk. He currently trains future wire walkers at Centre Nationale des Artes du Cirque in Chalons-en-Champagne, France.

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