Twelve people have walked on the moon. Only one has ever, or will ever, walk in the immense void between the World Trade Center towers.
Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), guided by his real-life mentor, Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley), is aided by an unlikely band of international recruits, who overcome long odds, betrayals, dissension and countless close calls to conceive and execute their mad plan. Robert Zemeckis, the master director of such marvels as Forrest Gump, Cast Away, Back to the Future, Polar Express and Flight, again uses cutting edge technology in the service of an emotional, character-driven story. With innovative photorealistic techniques and IMAX® 3D wizardry, The Walk is genuine big-screen cinema, a chance for moviegoers to viscerally experience the feeling of reaching the clouds.
It is also one of the rare live-action films that is a PG-rated, all-audience entertainment for moviegoers 8 to 80 – and a triumphant true story to boot. It is unlike anything audiences have seen before, a love letter to Paris and New York City in the 1970s, but most of all, to the towers of the World Trade Center.
TriStar Pictures presents in association with LStar Capital, an ImageMovers production, The Walk. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, Charlotte Le Bon, James Badge Dale. Directed by Robert Zemeckis. Produced by Steve Starkey, Robert Zemeckis, and Jack Rapke. The Screenplay is by Robert Zemeckis & Christopher Browne, based on the book “To Reach the Clouds” by Philippe Petit. Executive Producers are Cherylanne Martin, Jacqueline Levine, and Ben Waisbren. The Director of Photography is Dariusz Wolski, ASC. The Production Designer is Naomi Shohan. Edited by Jeremiah O’Driscoll. The Costume Designer is Suttirat Larlarb. The Visual Effects Supervisor is Kevin Baillie. Music by Alan Silvestri.
ABOUT THE FILM
An impossible, but true story, the new film from Robert Zemeckis, The Walk is a live-action, PG-rated entertainment for all audiences, ages 8 to 80. A love letter to the World Trade Center, the film is a 3D and IMAX® visual experience, unlike anything audiences have seen.
On August 7, 1974 – the day before Richard Nixon announced he would be resigning from office – Philippe Petit, a French aerialist, surprised the city of New York with a high-wire walk between the towers of the almost-completed and partially occupied World Trade Center. Passersby without a moment to spare stopped in their tracks and looked up. They saw the impossible: a man dancing high in the sky, seemingly in the thin air.
Now, forty years later, Zemeckis – one of cinema’s most accomplished filmmakers at integrating technology in the service of emotional storytelling – is putting moviegoers in Petit’s shoes. The Walk, an epic, big-screen cinematic spectacle, gives moviegoers the chance to go where only one man has been or ever will be – 110 stories in the air, on a wire, walking between the towers of the World Trade Center.
When I first heard this story, I thought, ‘My God, this is a movie that A: should be made under any circumstance, and B: should be absolutely presented in 3D,” explains Zemeckis. “When you watch a wire walker, you always have to watch by looking up at him. You never get the perspective of what’s it like to be on the wire. Our film will follow Petit’s story but will ultimately put you on the wire, walking with Philippe, and by presenting it in 3D, it is going to be spectacular and very emotional.
Spectacular, emotional – and exciting, with a driving plot of near-misses and almost-catastrophes as Petit and his ragtag team pull off the impossible. “I love the idea of a guy – a performance artist – who pulls off this great caper,” says Zemeckis. “The caper is illegal, it’s dangerous, but it doesn’t hurt anybody. It seemed like something out of another time – you don’t really see stuff like that anymore. It was almost like a fable.”
“I was struck by the passion of Philippe’s dream and its fulfillment. It’s not unlike, in a certain way – for me – a producer who wants to make a movie,” says producer Steve Starkey. “But underneath all that is this thrilling caper story – the tension in carrying out what Philippe calls his ‘coup.’ At the end, it makes me and others cry – which is a similar moment to what I had when I read Forrest Gump.”
“Philippe saw the two towers and he literally drew a pencil line between them and said, ‘I’ve got to put a wire between those towers; I’ve got to walk.’ In his mind, those towers were built for him to create that performance,” says Zemeckis. “What’s amazing about Philippe, and why I think his story is unique but universal, is that’s what happens to all artists. If you ask an artist, Why did you paint this painting? Why did you write this music? Why did you make this movie? – there’s never any answer. Anyone who pursues an unlikely dream will identify with that feeling that was inside of Philippe – that he had to do this, no matter what the cost.”
Not only does the film show who he was before and how he came to be on that wire (his growing up, his surrogate father, etc.), but for the first time, moving images of the walk itself – not only from the observers’ point of view, but Petit’s. “The only recorded evidence of the walk is a handful of still photos,” explains Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who plays Petit in Zemeckis’s film. “The photos are incredible, but it’s different than seeing and experiencing it unfold. To me, making a movie where you actually get to be inside the character of Philippe when he lives that moment, and all the hopes and fears and imperfections that led up to it, is unique. Getting to actually witness that in a movie, and be up there with the character, seeing what he saw, is just a vastly different experience.”
Reminiscent of his use of Forrest Gump’s own, unusual, voice to augment the narrative in that film, Zemeckis has Petit himself narrate moments in The Walk to add insight—especially to his inner thoughts on the wire. The slightly surreal use of the Statue of Liberty (like Petit, a French gift to America) device for this helps lend a fable-like quality to the PG-rated film. “This is a true story, “ says Zemeckis, “down to all its details, but it also has a ‘once upon a time’ feel to it – a lost time and place – and I wanted to combine the literal with the figurative.”
Fittingly, Visual Effects Supervisor Kevin Baillie got involved in The Walk very early on. “I’ve been part of the project for six or seven years now,” he says. “Robert and I were working on A Christmas Carol, but there was this great idea that he had for a movie about this crazy French wire walker who’s trying to tightrope between the Twin Towers.”
The project was especially intriguing for the VFX supervisor, because of the immense challenge it presented: the entire world of 1974 New York, as seen from thousands of feet in the air, between two buildings that have since fallen, would have to be created from scratch. “We have to make everything, from the lobby of the World Trade Center to 1974 downtown New York City. The production design department actually built on a giant stage the roof of one of the towers. It was a mind-blowingly cool, big set, but the city around it, the fog swirling between the towers, the towers themselves rising up from the city, all had to be created completely digitally, based on photo references. Those buildings obviously don’t exist anymore, sadly, but they had to feel absolutely, 1,000 percent real and present, because they are the emotional heart of the film. Only very recently has the technology evolved to where this, though challenging, is possible. And only in cinema. Interestingly, for example, we found different folks even had different memories of their color – because it changed, depending on the angle of the sun. We want to honor and do justice to those buildings, for those memories but also because what Philippe did between them was beautiful,” says Baillie.
In this way, The Walk transports moviegoers to a moment in time when the towers – or, at least, our perception of them – was reoriented. “At first, nobody liked the Twin Towers. While they were being built, everybody in New York thought they looked like filing cabinets. After this walk had happened, people loved the towers. They had a personality. When Philippe Petit walked between them, they suddenly became poetic and were transformed.”
“The Towers are very much present in the film as characters,” adds Zemeckis. “This is one glorious and human moment that happened. That’s something that’s important to remember.”
Throughout his legendary career, Zemeckis has made films that have most successfully used cutting edge technology in the service of storytelling. For Zemeckis, it’s all about the latter: technology is a tool, like any other technique, that the filmmaker can use at his disposal. “The secret of any magic is to mix it up,” he says. “Every great magician uses more than one technique to create the illusion. It’s the filmmaker’s task to do that as well, to use all of the tools that we have and keep mixing it up, so the audience can’t see the trick.”
Of course, the film would not have been possible without the real Philippe Petit, who says that the film is a highly accurate portrayal of his real-life coup. “I have seen many a masterpiece by Robert Zemeckis, and this one of course is different to me, because it involves part of my life,” says Petit. “I must confess, I was on the edge of my seat – not just for the wire walk, but for the whole adventure. Seeing the movie in IMAX 3D, I was transported back there on that day August 1974. It’s my story, I know it well, and I know how it ends – and yet I was secretly thinking, ‘Well, I hope these guys make it!’ Now, if by the power of a magnificent movie, I could be transported in the most important day of my life, imagine millions of people watching the film. For the first time in the history of cinema, they’re going to actually be on the wire with me. This is a beautiful movie and I completely love what I saw.”
Petit says that the reason his story goes beyond wire walking and becomes a universal, inspiring story, is that it’s a story about an artist pouring his heart and soul into his work. “It’s the difference between somebody grabbing a balancing pole and risking their life to get to the other side, and somebody like me, who carries his life across,” he says. “One might be stunning, but the other is inspiring. People have said to me, after a performance, ‘It gives me the feeling that I could make my dreams come true, I could move mountains.’ You can take the words ‘wire walker’ and replace it by other profession. It’s about the quest for perfection, the attention to details, the respect for tools, and place yourself there, whatever you are, even if you are in the art of living.”
CASTING JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT – AND LEARNING TO WALK THE WIRE
Joseph Gordon-Levitt takes the lead as Philippe Petit. It’s a role that few other actors could play as memorably. “This was one of those roles that felt so particularly tailored to my desires and individual talents,” says the actor.
“When I first met Joe, I felt that he completely understood the heart and soul of this character,” says Zemeckis. “If you look at Joe’s body of work, he’s very much the consummate showman.”
Indeed, The Walk would make full use of Gordon-Levitt’s physical capabilities (as he has put on display multiple times, from a memorable song-and-dance routine, incorporating multiple backflips, in his hosting duties on “Saturday Night Live,” to spending weeks on a bicycle to film the lead role in the well-regarded thriller Premium Rush), melded with his abilities as an entertainer, as seen in his hosting duties on his television program, “HitRECord on TV,” combined with his interest in acting in thrillers, such as Inception, Looper, and The Dark Knight Rises.
In fact, Gordon-Levitt embraced the challenge of walking on the wire. “It was a serious challenge, but I like a challenge,” he says. “I love doing stuff with my body – incorporating physicality into a performance. There’s nothing like a close-up in a movie, but what you can convey to the audience with your body is also part of what makes the whole thing fun.”
“What is wire walking?” asks Robert Zemeckis. “You could say it’s a stunt because it’s risky. It’s dangerous, that sort of stunt — you’re on a wire hanging, in the case of the World Trade Center towers, over 1300 feet in the air — but it’s also dance. It’s also gymnastics. It’s also ballet. It’s a whole physical performance, it’s not just the stunt—it’s an art form unto itself. It’s really interesting in that regard. In movie terms, it’s stunt work, but in reality it’s really probably ballet.”
So, Gordon-Levitt learned to walk on the wire. He couldn’t have asked for a better teacher: Philippe Petit himself. “I spent eight days straight with Philippe in a one-on-one workshop with him,” he says. “He was really generous with his time with me; we spent quite a bit of time together. He was teaching me how to walk on a wire, but what he was really teaching me was much broader than that. For Philippe, that balance on the wire is a metaphor for his whole life and creativity.”
Gordon-Levitt says that Petit also shared his advice and wisdom for high-wire walking. “Before I met him, when I had just read his books and seen his interviews, I heard him say, ‘I never fall,’ and I’ll admit, at first, I misinterpreted it. I thought, ‘Well, that’s arrogant; he could fall.’ But then when we were together, he taught me what he meant by that. He said, ‘I jump, because it’s a decision.’ You never want to keep fighting the balance to the point that you lose control. If you are having a problem, you make a decision before it’s too late, and you deal with it. Either you jump to the mat, or, if you’re on the high wire, you kneel down. You do something about it, you don’t just fall.”
“I was able to teach him how to walk on the wire,” says Petit. “I did a private, one-on-one workshop, excruciatingly tiring, nine AM to five PM every day. Breaks of only thirty seconds – that’s how I was. I wouldn’t let him go. We started with the line on the floor, and by the end of our time, he was seven feet high on a thirty feet long wire.”
But Petit says that learning to walk the wire isn’t a matter of learning how to balance on a thin piece of rope; it’s about artistry. “I taught him my wire, not the high wire,” he says. “I taught him that there is no balance unless your body and your soul, or your heart or your mind, is in unison with your feet and with a balancing pole being held in your arms. And that to me is the secret of balance. Without passion, without soul, you’ll have a dumb acrobat on a rope.”
Ultimately, for Gordon-Levitt, wire-walking is a lot like acting. “The first step is very difficult, because you’re confronted with doubts,” he explains. “But then the challenge was to put the doubts aside and just focus on the joy, the enjoyment – I can do this, this is not hard. It reminds me of acting. You can get up in your head and think, ‘Oh my God, they’re rolling film, all these people are watching, I can’t mess this up’ – and you’re screwed. You can’t think that way. You have to be able to set all of those thoughts aside and focus. I felt a very parallel experience walking on the wire.”
“Actors are always studying something to prepare for their roles, but Joe took it to another level,” says Steve Starkey. “He not only wanted to prepare emotionally and learn technique so he could act properly – he took it beyond that, and, in fact, was able to walk by himself. He was able to make it across our entire stage by himself on a real wire — his training went that far. He got a huge ovation from the crew because they were so excited to see their actor do the performance by himself.”
Beyond learning to wire walk, Gordon-Levitt also found inspiration in playing the role of Petit. “Philippe – what a character!” he says. “I’m lucky that I got to know and make friends with him. Getting to know his fierce determination and focus and, at the same time, this whimsical and exceedingly gentle, positive, magic person-to-person connection that he has – it’s really quite a combination.”
To play the role – a real person – the actor says that it was more important to capture the nature of the man than to do an impersonation. “The best way for me, as an actor, to honor a real person is to take them into my own self. Rather than slavishly imitate, I absorbed what I loved and admired about Philippe, and played my version of that. The most important thing was to tell the overall story that Philippe was telling by walking on this wire: you can do anything you imagine. You can create the impossible. That’s what magic is; that’s what art is.”
Part of playing Petit required Gordon-Levitt to master lines in French, and then many more lines in English with Philippe Petit’s pronounced Parisian accent. “The funny thing about Philippe is that he still has a thick French accent, and he will openly admit that he keeps his French accent on purpose – I think he likes it because it distinguishes him. It’s his character,” says Gordon-Levitt. “At the time of the walk, in 1974, he was obsessed with speaking English, because he became obsessed with the United States and American culture. He made his whole crew speak English while they were there. Now, he doesn’t speak French very often. I would try to speak French with him, and he would respond in French, but very shortly thereafter he would slip back into English. He’s just more accustomed to speaking English.
Gordon-Levitt worked with language and dialect coaches to master speaking his French lines and English with the French accent, but in addition to the experts, he had his French-speaking co-stars – Clément Sibony, César Domboy, and the French-Canadian Charlotte Le Bon – to guide him. “We helped him a little bit but he was really good,” says Charlotte Le Bon. “He already had solid French skills before the movie. He really likes French culture. He knows so much about French poetry—more than me actually.”
Petit himself says that during his one-on-one training sessions with Gordon-Levitt, the actor was learning so much more than how to walk on a wire. “Bob Zemeckis later told me, ‘I have a secret to tell you. Besides learning from you how to walk on the wire, you know what Joe was doing day and night in that workshop? He was learning you. Your mannerism, your accent, your madness… and you can see that in the movie.’ And I can! I have nothing but compliments to say about this movie.”
ABOUT THE SUPPORTING CAST
Surrounding Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a group of acclaimed and up-and-coming actors who embraced the story of pulling off Petit’s caper.
Leading the way is Oscar® winner Ben Kingsley, who plays Papa Rudy, the man and mentor who taught Petit how to walk on the wire. “The Omankowsky Troupe were a remarkable troupe,” says Kingsley. “They were a family – a father and mother. Omankowsky’s wife was a beautiful trapeze artist and very accomplished in other fields as well, and his sons were high-wire walkers.”
“He ran his troupe, some say, with an iron fist,” says Zemeckis about Papa Rudy. “Sir Ben brings that to the part. He is a force of nature when it comes to performing and when it comes to acting, but he also has a real sense of the character and relished in playing the role. The character is a strange guy – we believe he was Czech, but was in Paris and spoke many different languages – and an amazing character, and Sir Ben was able to bring all of that to life.”
Kingsley notes that Papa Rudy is a fascinating character because he’s not just an expert performer. “The important thing to know and to understand about any person who is extremely skilled at one particular craft is that often that person is a wise, extraordinary person,” he says. “I’ve known great actors, great artists, great musicians, great painters, great chess players, great filmmakers, great drivers – you meet these people who are extremely good at what they do and there is always something else. You can’t have that genius in isolation – it’s held in a context of what I can only call intelligence.”
French-Canadian actress Charlotte Le Bon takes the role of Annie, Philippe’s girlfriend. “She’s Philippe’s first accomplice,” she explains. “He shares his dream with her for the first time. She falls in love with his dream, and with Philippe as well. She was very important for him, because she was an anchor for him. He needed her when he was feeling more vulnerable. He couldn’t show that to his friends, but he could show it to her.”
Naturally, Le Bon was excited by the opportunity of working with Robert Zemeckis. “Working with Robert Zemeckis is the most comforting acting experience I have ever had,” says Le Bon. “Coming from France, where French directors are always looking and searching inside themselves, they’re never sure about exactly what they’re doing. Zemeckis knows exactly what he wants and exactly what your character is supposed to do in that sequence. It’s so comforting. He has the movie in his head – you can tell he’s been working on it for years. We were in such good hands that he could ask us to do anything.”
“Charlotte has been on television and making movies in France for many years,” says Zemeckis. “She’s a magnificent actress who was perfect for the part and also extremely helpful in making sure our French was done perfectly – after all, that’s her first language. She’s beautiful, talented, the camera loves her – she’s an incredible actress.”
James Badge Dale rounds out the lead cast as Jean-Pierre, the salesman who provides a key link to fill out the team that will make the coup a reality. “We first worked with James Badge Dale on Flight – he was the cancer victim who did a very surreal scene, his only scene in the movie, but he stole it,” says Starkey.
“The way we looked at the character, he’s a fast-talking New Yorker,” says Dale. “If he can communicate with Philippe’s team, he can be of assistance. At this point, Philippe and his buddies are looking for people in New York to bring in so they can get into the buildings and attempt their coup.”
The supporting roles include Clément Sibony as Jean-Louis and César Domboy as Jean-Francois (a/k/a Jeff), two coup co-conspirators who come over from France to help Petit pull off his audacious act.
“Jean-Louis became a close friend of Philippe’s over five or six years,” says Sibony. “That’s why he’s the only one who can speak to Philippe the way that he does. Philippe has an ego, and he’s slightly crazy, and he has a natural authority; Jean-Louis is not that crazy. He’s very responsible and he thinks. He tries to bring Philippe back to Earth – but he’s also an engineer of the coup and he wants to help make it happen.”
Domboy says that where Jean-Louis is assertive, Jeff is more easygoing. “Bob told me that what was important for Jeff’s character was that he was really innocent, not cynical and never skeptical about whether the coup is possible,” says Domboy. “Jean-Louis is always asking, ‘How are we going to do this,’ but Jeff just thinks it’s going to be possible. It’s 1974 – he’s not doing this for money, he’s just an open-minded, free-spirited, hippie person, who wants to build something big and poetic.”
Crossing the ocean, Petit finds the final three members of the crew: Ben Schwartz as Albert, Benedict Samuel as David, and Steve Valentine as Barry Greenhouse, the “inside man.”
David and Albert are introduced together, and Samuel says that there’s a mutual lack of trust – but Petit and his crew have nowhere else to turn. “They’re introduced in such a way that you think that it may not be the best idea to have these two guys, David and Albert, in a crew trying to break into the World Trade Center towers.”
“Shooting this movie was an interesting experience, because Joe, Jamie Badge, and I were the only three Americans in it. Everybody else was from France or England or Montreal,” notes Schwartz. “I’ve never in my life been on a movie set like that, where there were so few Americans in it. I found that very exciting – it made for such a cool energy.”
“Barry is a great character to play,” says Valentine. “With his ’stache and his beard, he was a man in his own time zone, even back in the 1970s. He’s very individual, an anarchist in a suit.”
RECREATING THE WORLD TRADE CENTER
“We were not able to shoot between the two towers of the World Trade Center, of course, because, sadly, they don’t exist anymore, but we were able to replicate them in a way that I think is an enormously loving homage to those buildings,” says Joseph Gordon-Levitt. “Bob became obsessed with those buildings, with all the details, and in that way he mirrored Philippe – because Philippe became obsessed with those buildings in 1974 when they were first being built. He could tell you all the different elevators. He could tell you the dimensions of the height and width, and how much distance was between the towers, from corner to corner. Seeing Bob carefully and lovingly bring these buildings back to life was really moving.”
Recreating the towers offered production designer Naomi Shohan and visual effects supervisor Kevin Baillie their greatest production challenge on The Walk. Ultimately, their work is a combination of an extremely large stage set and months of digital recreation.
The first challenge came in deciding what to build practically and what to create digitally. “We had to figure out what square footage of the roof set would produce the maximum number of shots, knowing that there would be quite a lot of shots,” says Shohan. “We wanted to be faithful – more than faithful. We wanted to celebrate the towers, the scale of them. If you’re not aware of the place, you can’t possibly appreciate the enormity of the deed.
Relying on the original blueprints for the Trade Center, Shohan designed and built an enormous, 40-foot-by-60-foot corner of the South Tower, where most of the action takes place as the story stays with Philippe during the caper. Though the filmmakers would need to film action from the North Tower as well, they could make due with only one corner, because the two towers were largely mirror images of each other; Shohan could simply strike the stage dressing on top of the roof and re-dress it for its opposite corner.
Shohan’s team built a structurally sound roof – a necessity, because due to space concerns, the most practical place to build the 110th floor (a key location, where Philippe and Jeff hide out for hours) turned out to be right underneath the roof set.
In the end, essentially, Shohan and her team recreated one-quarter of the Trade Center’s 200×200 roof. With creative camera angles, this was often enough. However, to recreate the rest of the roof, the towers, and 1974 New York as seen from nearly 1400 feet in the air, Baillie and his visual effects team at Atomic Fiction brought the project home.
For the Tower, Baillie and his team had access to the original blueprints for every single floor in the World Trade Center, as well as countless reference photos. However, he and his team faced an unexpected challenge. “The Tower itself is a deceivingly complicated thing to make look real,” says Baillie. “It’s so geometrically simple, with those straight lines that go all the way down to the ground, but if you build it perfect, it just looks fake. We had to build the whole thing, and then figure out what the right amount of messing it up was going to be – slight misalignments between the panels, making sure the gaps between the panels wasn’t exactly the same. We also built about 30 floors of interiors, so if you look carefully, you can see desks and chairs inside.”
Even more challenging, Baillie and his team rebuilt a historically accurate representation of New York in 1974 – as seen from 1400 feet in the air, between the two towers. “New York in 1974 looked very different from what it looks like today,” says Baillie. “We did take a helicopter and flew above New York for two days to gather real life reference footage of what the city looks like now, but at the end of the day, what you see in the movie is 100% digitally recreated.”
For reference, Baillie and his team used any reference from the time that they could find, from images on the internet to archival photos in books and libraries to original blueprints and beyond. “There’s a really cool website that has a slider – you drag the slider to 1974 and any building that is new since 1974 is blue on the map,” says Baillie. “It was kind of a cheat sheet for us. At the end of the day, most of the reference photos are just that – reference – so our artists used those to build buildings in the surrounding vicinity completely digitally.”
For the most part, Baillie’s team did the math on each of the buildings to make them accurate. “Even buildings that didn’t have blueprints, we still had the stats on how tall they were,” says Baillie. Even the details – the size and configuration of the windows, for example – is based, whenever possible, on their research, and by “extrapolating intelligently” on the few buildings that no longer exist and had no ideal photo reference from the time.
For the most part, Baillie’s model is meant only to be viewed from above – Petit’s point of view during his walk. However, because Zemeckis planned a few shots from below – for example, from the World Trade Center Plaza – these areas of the model are complete and ready to be explored, as if you were walking around the city.
In the end, recreating the structures of the city and the Towers took Baillie’s “construction team” of 15 people three months to complete – four man-years’ time – after which a team of more than 100 artists spent five months integrating that digital world into the green screen footage from set. “There were definitely times when it was emotional, for both myself and the crew,” he says. “As we went through the reference photography, we saw a lot of imagery from 9/11, because those are obviously the latest images that you can find of the towers. So I think we felt a great sense of responsibility for portraying the towers in a way that was honest and also honored them.
“The other emotion we felt was pure excitement,” Baillie continues. “It really hit me, after we finished shooting, I spent two days in a helicopter flying right over Ground Zero at 1400 feet – we were hovering exactly where it was that Philippe was walking on the wire. It makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up, just talking about it – I’m literally in the place where this guy did this walk, with no safety gear, I’m looking down, and I’m just awestruck. It was really great to get that experience from the reference imagery that we were able to capture, but also that emotional sensation, that thrill of heights, and danger from that high up, and we made sure that every shot we have in the film gives that same sensation. I honestly don’t think the visuals that we have in the film would have been as good if I hadn’t been there to feel what that felt like.”
ABOUT THE VISUAL EFFECTS
In addition to recreating the World Trade Center and the City of New York, visual effects supervisor Kevin Baillie had many more responsibilities to make The Walk as seamless as possible.
For the walk sequence itself, Baillie says that as impressive as Gordon-Levitt’s feat of learning to walk the wire was, visual effects were able to give an assist in two ways. “For the simpler stuff, Joe did the actual walk himself, which was amazing,” he says. “For some of the more complex stuff, like when he lies down, or when he has the pole over his back, the wire was nestled into a 20-foot-long green steel beam. When you look at the actual footage, he’s walking on a six-inch-wide plank that has the wire in the middle of it – but when we removed all the green, it looks like he’s just standing on a wire.”
Of course, the real-life Philippe Petit had years of training to perform his coup; Gordon-Levitt had eight days. Certain, technical moves on the wire were beyond his ability. For these, the filmmakers employed a double, Jade Kindar-Martin, who is one of the most accomplished high-wire walkers in the country – a man who married his wife on the high wire, and who, in a fabulous and serendipitous coincidence, was trained by Rudy Omankowsky, Jr. – the son of Papa Rudy, who trained Philippe Petit. “We took a photo and put both Philippe and Jade on the phone to Papa Rudy, Jr., because he was so excited that we were making the film,” says Starkey. “Jade continued the training of Joe that Philippe had started prior to filming. On Saturdays, they came in, continued to train and Joe got proficient at crossing the tower.”
Kindar-Martin also performed the wire-walk stunts that were beyond Gordon-Levitt’s abilities. Visual Effects was there to make his performance seamless with Gordon-Levitt’s. “There were a few truly complicated stunts that only a true wire-walker could do – like kneeling down on the wire and saluting with the hand, or the more complicated turnarounds, or juggling flaming torches on a slack rope,” says Baillie. “As talented as Joe is, those are things he can’t do. Those were performed by Jade, the stunt double, and we did a face replacement. We scanned Joe’s face in 43 different poses, so we could record all of the muscle movements that his face is capable of. We could mimic the look of concentration and determination that Joe would have if he was doing that action on the wire.”
The Walk was shot in 2D and converted to 3D by experts at Legend3D. Though it wasn’t that long ago that 3D conversions carried a negative stigma, Baillie now says, “I’ll never do a movie any other way. It’s such an amazing process, and I think it looks better than shooting a movie with two cameras, because you can sculpt the depth to help the audience feel the particular emotion that the director intends. You’re not grounded in reality – you can do what human eyeballs do anyway, which is to filter information and create a modified version of reality that your eyeballs then pump to your brain.”
The film was conceived as a 3D film, and Baillie notes that the entire team was careful, from pre-production all the way through post, to make decisions that would work well in 3D. “For example, we used wide depth of field for focus – we kept everything in focus as much as possible,” Baillie explains. “Bob was also excited about using long, sweeping shots, rather than quick cuts. Usually, a film will have about 2000+ shots, but The Walk only has 826. And Bob did that intentionally, so that the audience has a chance to really take in and explore the 3D environment that they’re seeing.”
ABOUT THE SETS AND COSTUMES
To create a background of 1974 for The Walk, production designer Naomi Shohan aimed for simplicity in design, a credible world for the character of Philippe Petit to appear against. “We weren’t in the real places and we weren’t in 1974, so we did our best to evoke the spirit and look of the real places,” says Shohan. “We made an attempt to be faithful.”
Which is not to say that the film is not designed. Shohan’s approach was to aim to evoke the beauty of Petit’s movements, his grace and form, by creating the space for him to move. “There were some reference photos that I saw of Petit in his New York apartment, talking with his friends; there was just a table and a wall and a picture and he’s moving through it. He’s very graceful – the ultimate figure in space,” she recalls. So, she concluded, “This is a film about a man in space. I hoped that the simplicity of the design would leave room in the frame for the human being to be almost a silhouette as he moved in space.”
To achieve that, she made monochromatic choices in her color palette. “I wanted the colors to be quiet and recessive,” she says. “If there was going to be much color, I preferred that it be in the wardrobe.”
The one exception, of course, was the circus. “A long time ago, I went to a circus in the South of France. It was a little, one-tent circus. It was the most charming circus I’ve ever seen. I remembered that and wanted our circus to be more like that, an old, traveling European circus, more like Cirque du Soleil in their infancy than Barnum & Bailey – a mom and pop, old-school, one-ring circus.”
Shooting on location in Montreal, the filmmakers were given access to a block and a half of cityscape that they could send back in time 40 years.
To create the 1970s wardrobe for The Walk, Zemeckis turned to Suttirat Larlarb. A longtime collaborator with director Danny Boyle, the veteran designer was honored by her guild with the CDG Award for Excellence in Contemporary Film for her work on Slumdog Millionaire; she also won an Emmy Award for her work with Boyle on the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony.
“People have a knee-jerk instinct about the 70s – the disco 70s. This is not that,” she says. “I tend not to do a lot of fashion research, because it doesn’t necessarily represent what the real people are doing. This is a film about a real person and the unusualness that you find within reality.”
Larlarb worked closely with Gordon-Levitt to create his costume. “The character of Petit in the movie is fastidious about the equipment, physics, and his training, so we decided that he would also be fastidious about what he would wear,” says Larlarb. “When he’s a street performer and doesn’t have the chops yet, or preparing for his first performance at Notre Dame, we wanted to make sure that each of those had some rules and regulations that befit his character. It was a really juicy conversation to have.”
“We knew what Petit’s final costume would be – his performance gear,” Larlarb continues. “In all of his performances, we knew we were going with a palette of black – which isn’t much of a palette, but we wanted that to be serious and to have a pure, almost Zen-like, attention to that specific color.”
To dress Annie, Larlarb went to contemporary sources. “I went to some primary sources of the 70s – catalogues, fashion shoots, and some notable figures from the 70s in France,” she explains. “Jane Birkin was a good jumping-off point for me, because she has this otherworldliness that I know Robert was after with Annie. The character has to exude both inner magnetism and artfulness – not make her simply glamorous. She had to have vibrancy all the time, even if it was in a single pop of color.”
In dressing Ben Kingsley, Larlarb had extensive conversations with the actor about the character’s history. “He was so interested in the circus, circus training, and wire-walking, and the life that surrounds that, so I barraged him with imagery. He appreciated the seriousness with which we took our work,” says Larlarb. “He was incredibly invested in the character and appreciated that we were doing the same as well. He wanted to keep parts of his costume – even though he was aware that we had to hold on to them for a while. That was a great compliment as well.”
In the supporting characters as well, Larlarb made choices that fit the characters. For example, the Europeans would initially wear less denim than the Americans, to differentiate them; later, they change costumes as they try to fit in. Ben Schwartz’s character, Albert, in particular, is given a very American, New York vibe – a slackness to his character, especially contrasted against Petit’s regimented persona. Characters would be a little more buttoned-up or freestyled, depending on their personalities.
ABOUT THE CAST
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Philippe Petit) will next star opposite Seth Rogen and Anthony Mackie in The Night Before, for which he is reteamed with 50/50 director Jonathan Levine. He recently wrapped production on Oliver Stone’s Snowden, to be released on Christmas Day, in which he plays Edward Snowden, the American who fled to Russia after leaking classified CIA documents.
Gordon-Levitt’s additional film credits include the following: Don Jon, opposite Scarlett Johansson and Julianne Moore, which he wrote (Independent Spirit Award-nominee for Best First Screenplay) and was his feature film directorial debut; the English-language version of Hayao Miyazaki’s Academy Award®-nominated animated feature The Wind Rises, for which he provided the voice of lead character Jiro Horikoshi; Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, in which he played Johnny, a character Miller created for the film; Steven Spielberg’s Oscar®-nominated Lincoln with Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field; Looper, for which he reunited with his Brick director, Rian Johnson, and starred opposite Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt; The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan’s third and final installment in the Batman series (People’s Choice Award nomination for Favorite Movie Actor); Premium Rush, directed by David Koepp; 50/50, directed by Jonathan Levine and also starring Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick and Bryce Dallas Howard, for which he received a Golden Globe nomination; Christopher Nolan’s Academy Award®-nominated action-drama Inception, also starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard and Ellen Page; Hesher, directed by Spencer Susser with Natalie Portman and Rainn Wilson (Sundance Film Festival 2010); Marc Webb’s (500) Days of Summer, also starring Zooey Deschanel, for which he received Golden Globe, Independent Spirit Award and People’s Choice Award nominations; the global action hit G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra for director Stephen Sommers; Spike Lee’s World War II drama Miracle at St. Anna; the controversial drama Stop-Loss, in which he starred with Ryan Phillippe under the direction of Kimberly Peirce; and the crime drama The Lookout, which marked Scott Frank’s directorial debut. In addition, Gordon-Levitt has received widespread praise for his performances in such independent features as John Madden’s Killshot with Diane Lane and Mickey Rourke; Lee Daniels’ Shadowboxer; Rian Johnson’s award-winning debut film Brick; Mysterious Skin for writer/director Gregg Araki; and Manic with Don Cheadle. He also adapted the Elmore Leonard short story Sparks into a 24-minute short film that he directed (Sundance Film Festival 2009).
Early in his career, Gordon-Levitt won a Young Artist Award for his first major role, in Robert Redford’s drama A River Runs Through It. He went on to co-star in Angels in the Outfield, The Juror, Halloween H20, and 10 Things I Hate About You.
Gordon-Levitt is also well known to television audiences for his starring role on NBC’s award-winning comedy series “3rd Rock from the Sun.” During his six seasons on the show, he won two YoungStar Awards and also shared in three Screen Actors Guild Award® nominations for Outstanding Performance by a Comedy Series Ensemble. Following the series, Gordon-Levitt took a short break from acting to attend Columbia University.
Gordon-Levitt founded and directs hitRECord, an open collaborative production. hitRECord creates and develops art and media collectively using their website where anyone with an internet connection can upload their records, download and remix others’ records, and work on projects together. When the results of these RECords are produced and make money, hitRECord splits the profits 50/50 with everybody who contributed to the final production. hitRECord has published books, put out records, gone on tour and has screened their work at major festivals including Sundance and TIFF.
Most recently, hitRECord’s community of over 350,000 artists completed Season Two of their Emmy Award-winning series “HitRECord on TV with Joseph Gordon-Levitt,” a half hour variety program which included short films, live performances, music, animation, conversation, and more.
After earning an Academy Award®, two Golden Globes and two BAFTA Awards for his riveting portrayal of Indian social leader Mahatma Gandhi, Sir Ben Kingsley (Papa Rudy) continues to bring unequaled detail and nuance to each role he portrays.
Kingsley has continued to earn honors as a truly international star; earning three additional Oscar® nominations for Bugsy (1991), Sexy Beast (2000) and House of Sand and Fog (2003). His roles have been as diverse as his talents, from a sturdy vice president in Dave to the scheming Fagin in Oliver Twist. In 1984, Kingsley was awarded the Padma Sri by Indira Gandhi and the government of India and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in the New Year’s Eve Honors List 2001.
Most recently, Kingsley was seen in the Focus Features stop-motion animated film The Boxtrolls based on the novel Here Be Monsters; Ridley Scott’s epic film Exodus: Gods and Kings alongside Christian Bale, Sigourney Weaver and Aaron Paul; and Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, the third installment in the franchise, where he plays an Egyptian pharaoh on display in the museum who is revived by a magical tablet.
Currently, Kingsley is in production on Tut, a six-part miniseries for SpikeTV. The limited series is based on the story of King Tutankhamun, known as King Tut. Kingsley will portray Ay, the grand vizier to King Tutankhamun, who wields tremendous power and influence as the top advisor to the young Egyptian ruler. Kingsley is also currently lending his voice to the Disney live-action take on The Jungle Book as Bagheera, the stunning black panther who acts as a mentor to Mowgli, sternly guiding him to follow the law of the jungle.
In addition to The Walk, Kingsley has completed production on the following films: Autobahn, alongside Anthony Hopkins, Nicholas Hout and Felicity Jones, the film follows a young American couple who are plunged into a game of cat and mouse across Germany after they find themselves caught between two Ruthless criminals; Tarsem Singh’s sci-fi thriller Self/Less; Learning to Drive, where he re-teamed with his Elegy director Isabel Coixet and co-star Patricia Clarkson; Our Robot Overlords where Earth has been conquered by robots from a distant Galaxy and survivors risk incineration by robot sentries if they venture outside of their houses and Life, opposite Robert Pattinson and Dane DeHaan. The story centers on the friendship that developed between photographer Dennis Stock and actor James Dean when Stock was commissioned to photograph the actor for Life magazine in 1955. Kingsley will portray studio mogul Jack Warner.
Next year, Kingsley will begin production on Brooklyn Bridge, opposite Daniel Radcliffe and Brie Larson, about Washington Roebling (Radcliffe), a civil engineer and son of architect, John A. Roebling (Kingsley), who is entrusted with completing his father’s famous Brooklyn Bridge.
Earlier this year, Kingsley was seen in the highly anticipated Marvel short film All Hail the King which has been described as an epilogue to Iron Man 3 and a possible prologue to Iron Man 4. The 14-minute film was written and directed by Iron Man 3 scribe Drew Pearce, and is included on the Thor: The Dark World Blu-ray. Kingsley was also seen in War Story, which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Directed by Mark Jackson the film is about a war photographer who retreats to a small town in Sicily after being held captive in Libya. The film also stars Catherine Keener and Hafsia Herzi.
In 2013 Kingsley was seen in the blockbuster film Iron Man 3, as The Mandarin. The film has grossed over $1 billion worldwide to date. He also starred in Summit Entertainment’s Ender’s Game, based on the novel of the same name. He was also seen in the independent films Walking With the Enemy,; A Common Man, A Birder’s Guide to Everything, and The Physician.
Steeped in British theatre, Kingsley marked the beginning of his professional acting career with his acceptance by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1967. From roles in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “The Tempest,” Brutus in “Julius Caesar” and the title roles in “Othello” and “Hamlet,” among others, his more recent and diverse stage roles include those in “The Country Wife,” “The Cherry Orchard,” A Betrothal” and “Waiting for Godot.”
Kingsley’s film career began in 1972 with the thriller Fear Is the Key, but his first major role came a decade later in the epic Gandhi. He followed this Oscar®-winning performance with such early films as Betrayal, Turtle Diary, Harem, Pascali’s Island, Without A Clue (as Dr. Watson to Michael Caine’s Sherlock Holmes) and The Children opposite Kim Novak. During the ‘90s Kingsley distinguished himself through such roles as Mayer Lansky in Bugsy, Sneakers, Searching For Bobby Fischer and Dave. In 1994 he was nominated for a BAFTA Award for his memorable supporting role as Itzhak Stern in Steven Spielberg’s seven-time Oscar® winner Schindler’s List.
Ben Kingsley has remained a coveted and ubiquitous talent. His past roles include Rules of Engagement, What Planet Are You From?, Roman Polanski’s Oliver Twist, the crime drama Lucky Number Slevin, John Dahl’s You Kill Me and the Roman empire saga The Last Legion. He also starred in the sexually charged Elegy, for which he was nominated British Actor of the Year by the London Critics Circle Film Awards and two films at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival: The Audience Award winning and Grand Jury Prize nominated The Wackness; and the crime thriller Transsiberian. He also starred in the thriller Fifty Dead Men Walking, and the crime comedy War, Inc. Kingsley’s other roles include Sacha Baron Cohen’s The Dictator; Martin Scorsese’s films Hugo, which earned five Academy Awards® and Shutter Island; Jerry Bruckheimer’s Prince of Persia and Stonehearst Asylum alongside Michael Caine, Kate Beckinsale and Jim Sturgess.
Kingsley also makes time for various philanthropic organizations. He is a Trust Ambassador of The Prince’s Trust. Founded by Charles, Princes of Wales, the charity provides mentoring support and offers financial grants to build the confidence and motivation of disadvantaged young people. He also supports Baby Lifeline, a unique national charity supporting the care of pregnant women and newborn babies all over the UK and worldwide, has visited Afghanistan with Save the Children, Pakistan with Relief International, and the Palestinian Territories with the Ghandi Foundation.
Charlotte Le Bon (Annie) is an incredibly talented and versatile actress. Le Bon was most recently seen starring in The Hundred Foot Journey alongside Helen Mirren and as Victoire Doutreleau in Yves Saint Laurent, a performance which earned her a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the 2015 Cesar Awards. Audiences last heard her as she provided the French voice of Joy in the Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen directed Pixar film Inside Out. Le Bon recently completed production on three films: Focus Features’ Bastille Day, in which she will star alongside Richard Madden and Idris Elba; Marie Madinier’s Le Secret des Banquises; and the Mateo Gil directed sci-fi Project Lazarus. She is currently in production on Sean Ellis’ Anthropoid, where she will star opposite Jamie Dornan, and Terry George’s The Promise alongside Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac.
Born in Montreal, Canada, Le Bon studied fine art. Shortly after arriving in Paris, she landed a position as the weather reporter for the Canal+ talk show, “Le Grand Journal.” French audiences were able to discover her talents as a humorist, illustrator, writer and performer.
Le Bon’s foray into film began in 2012 with director, Laurent Tirard’s Asterix et Obelix: au service de Sa Majeste, opposite Gerard Depardieu. She landed her first starring role later that year in the Clement Michel directed comedy The Stroller Strategy. She continued her success in 2013, starring in Nicolas Charlet’s Le Grand Merchant Loup. Her other film credits include Mood Indigo (2013), the film adaptation of Boris Vian’s surreal cult classic, directed by Michel Gondry; Nabil Ben Yadir’s drama, La Marche (2013); and Benjamin Guedj’s Nice and Easy (2014).
Le Bon currently resides in Paris, France.
In the past couple of years, JAMES BADGE DALE (Jean-Pierre) went from terrorizing Robert Downey, Jr. as the infamous villain Eric Savin in Shane Black’s Iron Man 3 to fighting zombies with Brad Pitt in Marc Forster’s World War Z, and then finally was transported back to 1869 in Bruckheimer/Disney’s The Lone Ranger, directed by Gore Verbinski. Dale reunited with producers Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman for Peter Landesman’s Parkland, for which he received rave reviews playing Robert Oswald alongside a prestigious ensemble cast.
He first worked with Robert Zemeckis in Paramount’s Flight, transforming himself, losing 20 lbs., to play a cancer victim who smoked cigarettes and waxed poetic with Denzel Washington. Dale impressed in Steve McQueen’s Shame, Joe Carnahan’s The Grey, Robert Redford’s historical drama The Conspirator, and Martin Scorsese’s Academy Award®-winning film The Departed.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
ROBERT ZEMECKIS (Director / Co-Writer / Producer) won an Academy Award®, a Golden Globe and a Director’s Guild of American Award for Best Director for the hugely successful Forrest Gump. The film’s numerous honors also included Oscars® for Best Actor (Tom Hanks) and Best Picture. Zemeckis re-teamed with Hanks on the contemporary drama Cast Away, the filming of which was split into two sections, book-ending production on What Lies Beneath. Zemeckis and Hanks served as producers on Cast Away, along with Steve Starkey and Jack Rapke.
Earlier in his career, Zemeckis co-wrote (with Bob Gale) and directed Back to the Future, which was the top-grossing release of 1985, and for which Zemeckis shared Oscar® and Golden Globe nominations for Best Original Screenplay. He then went on to helm Back to the Future Part II and Part III, completing one of the most successful film franchises ever.
In addition, he directed and produced Contact, starring Jodie Foster, based on the best-selling novel by Carl Sagan; and the macabre comedy hit Death Becomes Her, starring Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn and Bruce Willis. He also directed the box office smash Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, cleverly blending live action and animation; directed the romantic adventure hit Romancing the Stone, pairing Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner; and co-wrote (with Bob Gale) and directed the comedies Used Cars and I Wanna Hold Your Hand.
Zemeckis also produced House on Haunted Hill, and executive produced such films as The Frighteners, The Public Eye, and Trespass, which he also co-wrote with Bob Gale. He and Gale previously wrote 1941, which began Zemeckis’ association with Steven Spielberg.
For the small screen, Zemeckis has directed several projects, including the Showtime feature-length documentary “The Pursuit of Happiness,” which explored the effect of drugs and alcohol on 20th century society. His additional television credits include episodes of Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories” and HBO’s “Tales From the Crypt.”
In 1998, Zemeckis, Steve Starkey and Jack Rapke partnered to form the film and television production company ImageMovers. What Lies Beneath was the first film to be released under the ImageMovers banner, followed by Cast Away, which opened to critical and audience acclaim in the Fall of 2000, and Matchstick Men.
In March 2001, the USC School of Cinema-Television celebrated the opening of the Robert Zemeckis Center for Digital Arts. This state-of-the-art center is the country’s first and only fully digital training center and houses the latest in non-linear production and post-production equipment as well as stages, a 50-seat screening room and USC student-run television station, Trojan Vision.
In 2004, Zemeckis produced and directed the motion capture film The Polar Express, starring Tom Hanks. He also brought the true life story of The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio starring Julianne Moore and Woody Harrelson to the big screen. In addition, he served as executive producer on both Monster House, and the Queen Latifah comedy Last Holiday.
Zemeckis produced and directed his second motion capture film, Beowulf, which was also produced by Rapke and Starkey. The feature, which stars Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie and Ray Winstone, is based on one of the oldest surviving pieces of Anglo-Saxon literature, written sometime before the 10th Century A.D.
In November of 2009, Zemeckis released his most advanced motion-capture film to date: A Christmas Carol, based on the celebrated and beloved classic story by Charles Dickens. Rapke and Starkey also produced the film which was released by Disney in November, 2009.
Zemeckis returned to live action direction with the critically-acclaimed dramatic feature film Flight, for Paramount Pictures starring Denzel Washington. Under the direction of Zemeckis, Washington received an Academy Award® nomination for the role.
CHRISTOPHER BROWNE (Co-Writer) graduated from the Film Production program at the USC School of Cinema-Television in 2002, after directing seven short films including the Slamdance selection When Darkness Falls… A year out of college, he began working with Robert Zemeckis on The Polar Express, and subsequently, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol. Between 2006 and 2009, he co-hosted the popular cult podcast Scene Unseen Movie Reviews on iTunes (153 episodes including special interview episodes with filmmakers such as David Lynch, Darren Aronofsky and David Fincher.)
Browne has written for Sony PlayStation and Industrial Light & Magic, and in 2013, he produced the Calvin & Hobbes documentary Dear Mr. Watterson, a Kickstarter-funded exploration of the legendary comic strip and winner of Best Feature at the Chagrin Documentary Film Festival. For two consecutive years, he has collaborated with The Weinstein Company on their Lexus Short Films campaign, co-writing both pupil (2013) and Operation Barn Owl (2014).
Browne is currently developing film and television projects with Escape Artists at Sony Pictures and ImageMovers at Universal.
STEVE STARKEY (Producer) earned an Academy Award® as one of the producers of Best Picture-winner Forrest Gump. The film, directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Tom Hanks, became one of the highest grossing movies of all time and collected six Oscars®, including Best Director and Best Actor, as well as a Golden Globe Award®, the National Board of Review’s highest honor in 1994, two People’s Choice Awards, the Producers Guild of America Golden Laurel Award and a Best Picture BAFTA nomination.
Starkey also pioneered performance-capture technology in the Zemeckis-directed films A Christmas Carol, The Polar Express and Beowulf as well as the Gil Kenan-directed film Monster House, all of which were produced by Starkey with his ImageMovers partners.
Most recently, Starkey produced the 2012 feature film Flight, starring Denzel Washington and directed by Robert Zemeckis for Paramount Pictures.
Starkey’s ImageMover’s credits include the Zemeckis-directed epic drama Cast Away, which re-teamed both director and producer with Tom Hanks, and the psychological thriller What Lies Beneath with Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer, also directed by Zemeckis. Starkey produced The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio, directed by Jane Anderson and starring Julianne Moore. He also produced Matchstick Men, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Nicolas Cage.
Starkey’s professional association with Zemeckis began in 1986 when he was associate producer on the innovative feature Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and went on to serve as associate producer on the second and third installments of the Back to the Future trilogy. Starkey and Zemeckis’s collaboration continued as they produced the black comedy Death Becomes Her, followed by Forrest Gump and Contact. Starkey also co-produced the feature comedy farce Noises Off and produced the Showtime feature-length documentary The Pursuit of Happiness, which explores drug and alcohol addiction and was directed and executive produced by Robert Zemeckis.
Early in his career, Starkey worked with George Lucas at Lucasfilm Ltd., where he became an assistant film editor on The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. He later edited documentary films for Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, was associate producer of Spielberg’s Amazing Stories television anthology series and executive producer on the 1993 CBS series Johnny Bago.
Upon his graduation from New York University Film School in 1975, JACK RAPKE (Producer) moved to Los Angeles to embark on a career in the entertainment industry. His first stop was the mailroom of the William Morris Agency. Four years later, Rapke joined Creative Artists Agency (CAA), where he rose, over the course of the next 17 years, to become one of the most successful agents in Hollywood.
During a seven-year tenure as co-chairman of CAA’s motion picture department, Rapke cultivated a high-profile client list that included Jerry Bruckheimer, Ridley Scott, Michael Mann, Harold Ramis, Michael Bay, Terry Gilliam, Bob Gale, Bo Goldman, Steve Kloves, Howard Franklin, Scott Frank, Robert Kamen, John Hughes, Joel Schumacher, Martin Brest, Chris Columbus, Ezra Sacks and Imagine Entertainment partners Ron Howard and Brian Grazer. Instrumental in building production companies around his clients, it was only a matter of time before he decided to build one of his own with client Robert Zemeckis.
In 1998, Rapke departed CAA to form ImageMovers with Zemeckis and producing partner Steve Starkey. Primarily focused on theatrical motion pictures, the company’s first feature was the critically acclaimed Cast Away, directed by Zemeckis and starring Tom Hanks. Rapke and partners went on to produce numerous hits, including Zemeckis’s thriller What Lies Beneath starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer; the Ridley Scott-directed Matchstick Men starring Nicolas Cage; The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio starring Julianne Moore and Woody Harrelson; and Last Holiday starring Queen Latifah.
Zemeckis’s pioneering use of “performance capture” technology in 2004’s The Polar Express blazed a new trail for modern 3D filmmaking. Rapke and partners produced several films employing this revolutionary new technique: 2006’s Oscar®-nominated Monster House; 2007’s Beowulf, directed by Zemeckis and starring Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie, Ray Winstone and Robin Wright Penn; and the 2009 film A Christmas Carol, for The Walt Disney Studios, also directed by Zemeckis and starring Jim Carrey and Colin Firth. Additionally, the partners were executive producers on the film Real Steel, starring Hugh Jackman and directed by Shawn Levy, as well as the Showtime series “The Borgias,” starring Jeremy Irons. The partners’ most recent film, Flight, directed by Zemeckis, starred Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle and John Goodman and was nominated for two Academy Awards® in 2013.
CHERYLANNE MARTIN (Executive Producer) is an executive producer who has been responsible for the management and production of some of the most memorable feature films and television productions in recent history. From the HBO award-winning miniseries “The Pacific” to the Academy Award® winner Forrest Gump, Martin has collaborated with some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry.
A Marketing Communications major from Florida State University, Martin parlayed that education into a stellar career in entertainment. Working closely with the major studios in Hollywood, Martin is responsible for building company infrastructure, designing and implementing financial plans, production calendars, shooting schedules and cash flows for such diverse film projects as Flight, directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Denzel Washington, “The Pacific” miniseries produced by Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg and HBO, Road to Perdition, directed by Sam Mendes and starring Tom Hanks, and Cast Away again directed by Zemeckis and starring Hanks. These award-winning projects ranged in budgets from 30 million dollars to 200+ million dollars. While managing the finances of these projects, Martin’s greatest passion is to work closely with the director and creative team and ensure that the director’s vision is being realized.
Martin is the conduit between the studio and production. Her responsibilities also include hiring and managing a staff and film crew of more than 200 – the HBO miniseries alone had an international crew of over 500 people. She has produced films in her backyard of Los Angeles to Australia, Puerto Rico, across the United States and as remote as the Fiji Islands.
Martin’s career in entertainment began as a college intern in San Francisco, which segued with her working on Francis Ford Coppola’s One from the Heart. She went on to become a member of the Directors Guild of America, and was a Second Assistant Director on such acclaimed films as Far and Away, directed by Ron Howard, The American President, directed by Rob Reiner, and Mrs. Doubtfire, directed by Chris Columbus. Soon after her work as a Second Assistant director, she moved up to become a unit production manager/co-producer on such notable feature films as Road to Perdition, Cast Away, What Lies Beneath, Contact and Constantine.
Martin is a member of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and won its 2010 Emmy Award for Outstanding Miniseries for “The Pacific.” She also won the 2011 Producers Guild of America Award for Outstanding Producer of Long Form Television for “The Pacific.” In addition, she received two DGA awards for Outstanding Directorial Achievement, given to the director’s team on Forrest Gump and Rain Man.
Over the years, Martin has been a mentor to many young film students across the country. She is frequently invited to speak at film schools and has appeared on industry panels for the Directors Guild of America.
As a supporter of the not-for-profit Half the Sky, based in Berkeley, California, Martin volunteers her time supporting orphaned children in China. Inspired by this program, she adopted her beautiful daughter Kai from China seven years ago. A resident of Manhattan Beach, California, Martin lives with her daughter, Kai and their 10-year-old Labrador, Bella.
As a Producer and the Executive VP of Creative Affairs at ImageMovers, JACQUELINE LEVINE (Executive Producer) produces as well as oversees all development on feature films and television directed by Robert Zemeckis as well as the ImageMovers-produced film and television projects. Levine works with a variety of A-list filmmakers and writers, focused on finding and developing quality film and television projects. She helps keep the standard high at ImageMovers in seeking out the best, most original and universally appealing material.
Currently, Levine is in pre-production as a producer on Rose. As an Executive Producer, Levine is helping put together Marwencol and The Demonologist for Universal, as well as several other high-profile films and television projects. Levine recently oversaw development on Flight, Real Steel and “The Borgias” series on Showtime. Levine also works with Leslie Zemeckis on her highly acclaimed documentaries. Most recently she produced Behind the Burly Q and Bound by Flesh.
Before joining ImageMovers, Levine was a Senior VP of Production and Development at Walden Media. She oversaw The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Water Horse, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, Amazing Grace, Sahara, The Game of the Their Lives as well as several other films. Before joining Walden Media, Levine packaged movies for the foreign financing company Cobalt Media, where she helped put together and find financing for Open Range, The House of Sand and Fog, and Swimfan, which she developed at Michael Douglas’s Further Films where she oversaw development and production on Don’t Say a Word and One Night at McCool’s as well as other Douglas projects. Before her tenure at Further Films, Levine associate produced Mighty Joe Young with Tom Jacobson for Disney.
Levine began her film career as an assistant to Donna Roth and Susan Arnold at Roth-Arnold Productions. She worked on Benny & Joon and was then promoted to Associate Producer on Unstrung Heroes and Grosse Pointe Blank.
BEN WAISBREN (Executive Producer) is Chairman and President of LSC Film Corporation, which co-finances major motion pictures with Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. He is also an attorney with the international law firm of Winston & Strawn, where he advises clients in the U.S. and Europe in the media & entertainment and finance sectors. His clients include independent production and distribution companies, private equity firms, hedge funds, investment banks and commercial banks.
Earlier in his career, Waisbren was a managing director and head of investment banking restructuring at Salomon Brothers in New York, following a legal career at a large Chicago law firm, Lord, Bissell & Brook, where he led a national bankruptcy litigation practice.
Prior to joining Winston & Strawn in early 2013, Mr. Waisbren was the President of Continental Entertainment Capital LP, a direct subsidiary of Citigroup, with operations in New York, Los Angeles and Paris. Before that, he was a managing director of a global hedge fund company, Stark Investments, where he was a co-portfolio manager in the fixed income and private equity areas, and responsible for investments in the feature film industry, and the formation of the firm’s structured finance fund and a related, branded middle market leveraged lender, Freeport Financial.
Waisbren served as a member of the Board of Directors of France’s Wild Bunch, S.A., a pan-European motion picture production, distribution and sales company, from 2005 until 2009, in connection with private equity investments that he managed.
He was Executive Producer of Warner Bros. Pictures’ 300; Blood Diamond; V for Vendetta; Nancy Drew; The Good German; Poseidon; and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. In addition, he was Executive Producer of the following independent studio releases: Cassandra’s Dream; First Born; Next; Bangkok Dangerous; and Gardener of Eden. For Sony Pictures Entertainment, he served as an executive producer of Columbia Pictures’ 22 Jump Street, Sex Tape, The Equalizer, Fury, Chappie, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Aloha, Pixels, and Hotel Transylvania 2, and Screen Gems’ The Wedding Ringer.
DARIUSZ WOLSKI, ASC (Director of Photography) recently collaborated four times with director Ridley Scott: first, in 2012, on the highly anticipated science fiction epic Prometheus, followed by collaborations on The Counselor and Exodus: Gods and Kings; his work will next be seen in Scott’s The Martian. He served as director of photography on Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, following his acclaimed work on The Curse of the Black Pearl, Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End. Wolski also worked with Johnny Depp on Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Alice in Wonderland, as well as on Bruce Robinson’s The Rum Diary.
Wolski has collaborated with many other notable directors, including Gore Verbinski on The Mexican, D.J. Caruso on Eagle Eye, Andrew Davis on A Perfect Murder, Alex Proyas on Dark City and his cult classic The Crow, Peter Medak on Romeo Is Bleeding, John Polson on Hide and Seek, as well as with Tony Scott on The Fan and on Don Simpson-Jerry Bruckheimer production Crimson Tide. For his work on the highly acclaimed Crimson Tide, Wolski garnered an ASC Award nomination for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography.
Born in Warsaw, Poland, Wolski attended the National Film School in Lodz. After moving to the United States in 1979, he worked on documentaries and independent films. His first big break came in 1986 on the film Heart, when he was called in to replace a cinematographer who left the project. Soon after, Wolski moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as director of photography on music videos and commercials for various directors, including Alex Proyas, David Fincher, Tony Scott and Jake Scott.
NAOMI SHOHAN (Production Designer) received BAFTA and Art Directors Guild Award nominations for her designs in the Academy Award® winner for Best Picture American Beauty, directed by Sam Mendes and starring Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening, and an Art Directors Guild nomination for her design of The Lovely Bones, Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Alice Sebold’s bestselling novel.
Most recently, Shohan designed The Equalizer, starring Denzel Washington and directed by Antoine Fuqua, for whom she also designed Training Day, starring Washington and Ethan Hawke, Tears of the Sun, starring Bruce Willis, and The Replacement Killers. Her work will next be seen in Ben-Hur, a remake of the 1959 MGM classic, for director Timur Bekmambetov.
Shohan is also known for Constantine and I Am Legend, both directed by Francis Lawrence. Her other credits include The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, a Jerry Bruckheimer production directed by Jon Turteltaub, Sweet November, Playing God, Feeling Minnesota, Must Love Dogs and Zebrahead, directed by Anthony Drazan.
In addition to her work in feature films, Shohan has designed sets for such made-for-television films as “The Miraculous Year,” which was directed by Kathryn Bigelow and starred Susan Sarandon, as well as “Selma, Lord, Selma” and “Nightjohn,” both directed by Charles Burnett.
JEREMIAH O’DRISCOLL (Editor) is best known for his work with director Robert Zemeckis. They began their partnership with the critically acclaimed, Academy Award®-winning Forrest Gump (1994).
Their collaboration includes Flight (2012), for which O’Driscoll received a Satellite Award nomination for Best Film Editing, A Christmas Carol (2009), Beowulf (2007), The Polar Express (2004), Cast Away (2000), What Lies Beneath (2000) and Contact (1997).
O’Driscoll’s additional notable credits include Michael Mann’s Blackhat (2015), Christopher Neil’s Goats (2012), Andrew Davis’ Chain Reaction (1996), Mike Nichols’ Primary Colors (1998) and The Birdcage (1996) and Frank Marshall’s Congo (1995).
SUTTIRAT LARLARB (Costume Designer) has been designing for film and theater in the United States and internationally for the past 16 years.
She has been a frequent collaborator with director Danny Boyle on a range of projects for film, television and theater, including the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony (for which she was honored with the Emmy Award for Outstanding Art Direction), the Oscar®-winning film Slumdog Millionaire (for which she won the Costume Designers Guild Award for Excellence in Contemporary Film in 2009), 127 Hours as both production designer (2010 Art Directors Guild nominee) and costume designer, as well as the costume design for Trance and sci-fi film Sunshine and the theater production “Frankenstein” at the Royal National Theatre.
Other costume design credits for film include 10,000 Saints for directors Shari Springer-Berman and Bob Pulcini, as well as their previous films The Extra Man and “Cinema Verite” (Emmy nomination), Anton Corbijn’s The American, and Philippe Falardeau’s The Good Lie.
Credits for theater include last year’s production of “Of Mice and Men” on Broadway and “The Killer” for Theater for a New Audience’s inaugural season in Brooklyn, New York.
KEVIN BAILLIE (Visual Effects Supervisor) is co-founder and VFX Supervisor at Atomic Fiction, a studio pioneering the use of cloud computing to improve the filmmaking process. There, he has supervised visuals for projects including Flight, Star Trek Into Darkness, and two Transformers franchise installments. He is also CEO of the groundbreaking cloud rendering platform ConductorIO, whose mission is to make cloud computing accessible to everyone.
Before launching Atomic Fiction and ConductorIO, Baillie supervised at ImageMovers Digital on motion capture-driven features, and at The Orphanage on award-winning movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Night at the Museum, Superman Returns, Harry Potter, and Hellboy.
Baillie’s film career began very early on, when he joined Lucasfilm’s JAK Films division as a pre-visualization artist on Star Wars: Episode I at the age of 18.
He is a member of the Visual Effects Society and an active participant in the educational community, talking to students and educators in an effort to inform and inspire the next generation of filmmakers. Outside of work, his hobby is racing cars within SCCA’s Spec Miata series.
In his ongoing, decades-long career as a composer, ALAN SILVESTRI (Music) has scored some of the most iconically revered and profitable films in Hollywood history, amassing over a hundred credits to the tune of two Oscar® and Golden Globe nominations, two Emmy awards, as well as three Grammy awards. While stylistically diverse, the unifying voice of Alan’s work is an unmistakable rhythmic melody whose themes continue to embody movie excitement and drama for generations of moviegoers.
Born in New York City and raised in Teaneck, New Jersey, Silvestri first thought of becoming a bebop jazz guitar player. After spending two years at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Silvestri hit the road as a performer and arranger. Landing in Hollywood at the age of 22 and armed with film scoring books and a sense of adventure, Silvestri found himself successfully composing the music for 1972’s The Doberman Gang. A sequel, The Amazing Dobermans, was followed by several low budget but successful films further cementing Silvestri’s place in the world of film composing.
The 1970s witnessed the rise of energetic synth-pop scores, establishing Silvestri as the action rhythmatist for TV’s highway patrol hit “CHiPs.” This action driven score caught the ear of budding filmmaker Robert Zemeckis, whose hit film 1984’s Romancing the Stone was the perfect first date for the composer and director and its success became the basis of a decades long collaboration between the filmmaker and composer that continues to the current day. Their numerous collaborations have taken them through many fascinating landscapes and stylistic variations, from the Back to the Future trilogy, the jazzy world of Toontown in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? to the tension filled rooms of What Lies Beneath and Death Becomes Her, from the cosmic wonder of Contact to the emotional isolation of Cast Away, and from the Wagnerian brawl of Beowulf to the magic of The Christmas Carol and Polar Express, whose song “Believe” garnered an Oscar® nomination. But perhaps no film partnership defines their creative relationship better than Zemeckis’ 1994 Best Picture winner, Forrest Gump, for which Silvestri’s gift for melodically beautiful themes earned him an Oscar® nomination and the affection of film music lovers everywhere.
Though the Zemeckis/Silvestri collaboration is legendary, Silvestri has scored well over 100 films of every imaginable style and genre. His energy and experimentation has brought excitement and emotion to the hard-hitting orchestral/percussion scores of Predator, Judge Dredd and James Cameron’s The Abyss and lent thrills to the effects-driven scores for The Mummy Returns and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. His ethnic rhythms for Soapdish and The Mexican segue to the raucous fun of family entertainments like Stuart Little 1 and 2 and Disney’s Lilo and Stitch as well as the Night at the Museum trilogy. The gripping tension of Blown Away and Identity yield to the romantic film noir of The Bodyguard while edgy comedies like Mousehunt and romantic comedies like The Father of the Bride 1 and 2, Parent Trap and What Women Want bring heartfelt warmth. But Silvestri has also proven adept at riding the western range of Young Guns 2 and The Quick and the Dead while also providing thrilling macho muscle for Van Helsing and The A-Team. Silvestri’s talent for a dynamically heroic sound has helped propel such Marvel superheroes as Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers to spectacular world-wide success, even as he provided the restrained, anguished sound for the alcoholic pilot of Robert Zemeckis’ Flight. Silvestri’s rambunctious orchestral cheer has also helped to create the hit caveman family film The Croods.
In 2014 Alan won two Emmy awards for his work on “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.” The new “Cosmos” updates Carl Sagan’s original series with the latest discoveries about the universe we live in and combines those facts with spectacular visual effects and animation. Ann Druyan, widow of Carl Sagan and a co-writer on the original “Cosmos” series, serves as an executive producer, writer and director alongside executive producer Seth MacFarlane.
Alan Silvestri and his wife Sandra are longtime residents of California’s central coast. They are founders of the local branch of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Monterey branch and have served in many capacities through their long relationship with the organization since their son was diagnosed as a young child in 1992. They are also the founders of Silvestri Vineyards. Their wines show that lovingly cultivated fruit has a music all its own.
Whether in his studio or the vineyard, Silvestri continues to find inspiration and passion for music, film, family and wine.
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