Man on Wire

Synopsis: On August 7, 1974, Philippe Petit, a French wire walker, juggler, and street performer days shy of his 25th birthday, spent 45 minutes walking, dancing, kneeling, and lying on a wire he and friends strung between the rooftops of the Twin Towers. Uses contemporary interviews, archival footage, and recreations to tell the story of his previous walks between towers of Notre Dame and of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, his passions and friendships, and the details of the night before the walk: getting cable into the towers, hiding from guards, and mounting the wire. It ends with observations of the profound changes the walk's success brought to Philippe and those closest to him.
Director(s): James Marsh
Production: Magnolia Pictures
  Won 1 Oscar. Another 45 wins & 11 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
94 min


It was tense, but we were eager

to get going. Everything was ready.


I remember the extremely tense silence

in the van.

Alan was absolutely sombre,

Philippe extremely tense.


As for me I was petrified

very worried.

I was disguised as a workman

with a helmet, a shirt...


To look like an American,

I had lot of pens in my pocket.

That's typically American, apparently.

David aka "Donald"

Alan aka "Alberf"

And Philippe said to me:

"I know what's going to happen...

...we are going to go in,

and we're going to get caught."

He could no longer carry on living

without having at least tried to... conquer those towers

because it felt like those towers

belonged to him.

It was as if they had been built

especially for him.

I was twenty years old.

And I was

a painfully shy young girl.

I was very surprised

by this individual.

and even more surprised

when he began to chase me relentlessly,

having just met me.

He would bring me flowers,

arrange little dates,

send me love letters.

I was completely overwhelmed,

bowled over, harpooned,

that's what it was.

He introduced me to his wire.

a wire set up at the end of a garden.

I would spend hours watching him walk.

He wasn't that experienced at the time.

He was just beginning his life

as a tightrope walker.

We became inseparable.

In fact 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.


Childhood friend

Jean-Louis had told me right away

that it was illegal.



So I knew it was illegal, but of course

that's what got me a bit excited!

Against the law,

but not wicked or mean.

It was wonderful!

Notre Dame Cathedral

Paris, June 197 1

Then Philippe appeared on the wire.

It was amazing.

I went inside, all excited,

and I leant over the nave

and saw that a huge ceremony

was taking place in Notre Dame.

There were a dozen or so priests

dressed all in white, arm crossed.

They were lying on the floor,

their heads against the floor.

I was staggered, dumbstruck.

The organist asked me:

"What are you doing here?"

I said to him:
"There's a wirewalker

up there on the towers!"

This gentleman looked at me

with an expression of wonder.

and he said;

"Oh, really! A wirewalker!

How amazing!"

South Tower 3.58pm

We drove the van inside.

We got through

the first security barrier.

We presented the company documents

and the fake invoices.


was quite carefully planned.

North Tower 4.25pm

The time had come for us to part.

There was a real madness

in his eyes, a real rage.

It was truly:
" I'm going to do this,

no matter what, now is the time" .

And he held me in his arms as if

we would never see each other again.

Sydney, Australia

June 1973


"The Australian"

One day he showed me a photo

of two buildings in a magazine.

And then I was a bit frightened.

It was inhuman to want to go

and walk up there, 450 meters high.

This was all becoming demonic.

I just wanted to say: "Stop!"

Barry Greenhouse

"The Inside Man"

South Tower 4.27 pm

This beam was over the elevator shaft

that had a drop of 400 meters.

North Tower 6.22pm

South Tower 7.44pm

Jim Moore

A minute ago you said the whole place

was swarming with cops.

This is what they'll make you do

when you're prison.

They'll make you clean the windows

in all the tall towers.

South Tower 8. 10pm

His foot was up my nose

and my foot was stuck

between his arms,

we were completely entwined.

I guess you could say

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Philippe Petit

Philippe Petit (French pronunciation: ​[filip pəti]; born 13 August 1949) is a French high-wire artist who gained fame for his high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, on the morning of August 7, 1974 as well as his high wire walk between the towers of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, 1971. For his unauthorized feat 400 metres (1,000 feet) above the ground – which he referred to as "le coup" – he rigged a 200-kilogram (440-pound) cable and used a custom-made 8-metre (30-foot) long, 25-kilogram (55-pound) balancing pole. He performed for 45 minutes, making eight passes along the wire. The following week, he celebrated his 25th birthday. All charges were dismissed in exchange for him doing a performance in Central Park for children. Since then, Petit has lived in New York, where he has been artist-in-residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, also a location of other aerial performances. He has done wire walking as part of official celebrations in New York, across the United States, and in France and other countries, as well as teaching workshops on the art. In 2008, Man on Wire, a documentary directed by James Marsh about Petit's walk between the towers, won numerous awards. He was also the subject of a children's book and an animated adaptation of it, released in 2005. The Walk, a movie based on Petit's walk, was released in September 2015, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Petit and directed by Robert Zemeckis. He also became adept at equestrianism, juggling, fencing, carpentry, rock-climbing, and bullfighting. Spurning circuses and their formulaic performances, he created his street persona on the sidewalks of Paris. In the early 1970s, he visited New York City, where he frequently juggled and worked on a slackline in Washington Square Park. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018


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"Man on Wire" STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 31 Mar. 2020. <>.

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