The Film Society of Lincoln Center has selected The Walk to open the 53rd New York Film Festival on September 25 at Alice Tully Hall. The Robert Zemeckis-directed film stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as as Philippe Petit, the French aerial artist who in 1974 walked a tightrope strung between the Twin Towers. This is a statement film for Tom Rothman, the Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group chairman who made The Walk his first major picture when he revived the TriStar label. While he ran Fox, Rothman premiered the Ang Lee-directed Life Of Pi as the Opening Night Gala in 2012. It was an ideal showcase for a daring film — the 3D quality was superb — that went on to gross $609 million worldwide. It won four Oscars including Best Director for Lee, who is currently making Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk for TriStar. It also turned out to be Rothman’s final major film before leaving the studio.
The Walk becomes the second 3D film to open the Gotham festival after Life Of Pi, and it will be the second recent appearance at the festival for Zemeckis since he returned to live action filmmaking with Flight, which closed the 2012 festival/ The PG-rated The Walk will reach 3D and IMAX 3D on October 2, 2015.
“The Walk is surprising in so many ways,” said New York Film Festival director and Selection Committee chair Kent Jones. “First of all, it plays like a classic heist movie in the tradition of The Asphalt Jungle or Bob le flambeur — the planning, the rehearsing, the execution, the last-minute problems — but here it’s not money that’s stolen but access to the world’s tallest buildings. It’s also an astonishing re-creation of Lower Manhattan in the ’70s. And then, it becomes something quite rare, rich, mysterious… and throughout it all, you’re on the edge of your seat.”
Zemeckis said he was “extremely honored and grateful that our film has been selected to open the 53rd New York Film Festival. 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 to be enraptured by the celebration of a passionate artist who helped give the wonderful towers a soul.”
Rothman called The Walk “a love letter to the Twin Towers, which through the unique magic of cinema, come back to vibrant, inspiring life. But it is also a universal story of the determined pursuit of impossible dreams, told by one of our greatest living filmmakers, and the NYFF has always been a place where such dreams come true.”
Gordon-Levitt stars with Ben Kingsley, James Badge Dale, Ben Schwartz, Steve Valentine, Charlotte Le Bon, Clement Sibony, Caesar Domboy and Benedict Samuel. Zemeckis & Christopher Browne adapted the script from Petit’s memoir To Reach the Clouds. Steve Starkey, Zemeckis, and Jack Rapke produced.
As studios try to find the right festival to launch fall films with award season ambitions, the New York Film Festival opening night slot has become an increasingly important prestige venue. Here are the recent opening nighters:
2014 Gone Girl (David Fincher, U.S.)
2013 Captain Phillips (Paul Greengrass, U.S.)
2012 Life of Pi (Ang Lee, U.S.)
2011 Carnage (Roman Polanski, France/Poland)
2010 The Social Network (David Fincher, U.S.)