Robert Zemeckis' “The Walk,” which tells the story of French high-wire artist Philippe Petit, has been selected as the opening night presentation of this year's New York Film Festival. Petit's 1974 walk between the Twin Towers of New York's World Trade Center was fodder for the 2008 documentary “Man on Wire,” which won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Petit in Zemeckis' film.
Given that the setting of Petit's walk, NYFF is an understandable place to make the bow, particularly given Sony's recent experiences there with films like “The Social Network” and “Captain Phillips.” Indeed, said Zemeckis, “'The Walk' is a New York story, so I am delighted to be presenting the film to New York audiences first. My hope is that Festival audiences will be immersed in the spectacle, but also be enraptured by the celebration of a passionate artist who helped give the wonderful towers a soul.”
Zemeckis' last film, “Flight,” premiered at NYFF in 2012 as well.
The opening night spot at the fest has been a hopeful launching pad for films looking to play the awards game in recent years. In addition to the aforementioned “Social Network” and “Captain Phillips,” other openers have included “Gone Girl” and “Life of Pi.” Throughout the fest, centerpiece, special presentation and closing night spots have also been prime real estate for films like “Hugo,” “Lincoln,” “Inherent Vice,” “Birdman” and more. This year could see everything from Danny Boyle's “Steve Jobs” (which I honestly expected to land the opening night spot) to Steven Spielberg's “Bridge of Spies” find their way to the slate.
Will “The Walk” be a player? Perhaps. Gordon-Levitt also has Oliver Stone's “Snowden” on the way this year, which finds the “Inception” star taking on the role of Edward Snowden. Some footage of Zemeckis' film was shown at CinemaCon this year, which HitFix's Greg Ellwood found “breathtaking visually,” but he noted that the actor's French accent was troublesome. We'll see how it all pans out, but landing placement like this is a pretty bold statement that you plan to be in the game.
“The Walk” opens in theaters Oct. 2.