See also: FT: A holy fool atop the Twin Towers
Same Man, New Wire and a Secret Midtown Venue
One of the most intriguing elements of Philippe Petit’s daring wire walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in 1974 was its secrecy.
The stealth preparations made the walk a compelling subject in the film “Man on Wire,” which won an Oscar for best documentary feature this year. While on stage at the ceremony, Mr. Petit balanced the Oscar statue on his nose; it was unscripted and unannounced.
But Mr. Petit’s next walk will not be a surprise.
Here’s the spoiler: Mr. Petit says he will perform a high-wire walk in the fall in Midtown Manhattan. It will be high, it will be long, and it will be outdoors in a very recognizable location that he does not want revealed quite yet — arrangements are not final.
Mr. Petit’s Oscar success brought him heaps of mainstream recognition for his unparalleled career as an artistic daredevil, but it has also filled his wire-walking calendar.
He says he spent years preparing for the stunt at the World Trade Center, for which he was immediately arrested.
But there is no need for illegal wire walks these days.
The offers are pouring in from officials all over the world, and Mr. Petit says he is obliging and working three hours a day on a practice wire. The walk in Manhattan is to be one in a series across the country, to raise awareness for literacy.
Things are percolating on the ground, too.
Mr. Petit, 59, said he was in discussions with a Hollywood producer on a feature film about him. He is also completing a book he wrote about building a barn at his home in upstate New York, he said last week during an interview at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, where he will appear at a public screening of “Man on Wire” on Wednesday at 7 p.m. He will take questions and discuss the film.
Mr. Petit has been an artist in residence at the cathedral since 1982 and has performed there more than a dozen times; in 1980, he walked a wire across its nave, and in 1982, he walked on a wire over Amsterdam Avenue to the cathedral’s south tower.
“This is my spiritual home,” he said, looking over the cavernous space from a perch high up in the cathedral. “I tell people I live in the largest Gothic cathedral in the world.”
“My heart is in this building,” he continued. “My inspiration comes from the beautiful architecture and from these stones, which are actually talking to me.”
Mr. Petit has an office in the cathedral, where he keeps his archives and several architectural models that he made to study and prepare for his walks. His practice wire is strung high across the inside of Synod Hall, on the cathedral grounds.
His duties at the cathedral have long included changing the light bulbs in the chandeliers high above.
Mr. Petit was the only person there with the balance and nerve to climb a tall, wobbly ladder to change them.
“Now you know how many wire walkers it takes to change a light bulb,” he said.