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Joseph Gordon-Levitt has gotten to do some pretty amazing things on film in the past few years: he fought alongside Batman, survived cancer, traveled through time and rode a bike better than anyone. For his next film, he’ll be doing quite a bit of walking, and that walking will happen on a tightrope over 1300 ft. above the ground. Gordon-Levitt has signed on for what is being called To Walk The Clouds, Robert Zemeckis’ upcoming feature adaptation of French high-wire professional Philippe Petit’s memoirs of the same name, focusing on his legendary walk between the World Trade Center towers in 1974. After all, nobody can play a Frenchman like a guy from Los Angeles, right?
Natural dialects aside, this is great news, as Gordon-Levitt is an excellent actor and capable of making any role his own - and it takes such a genial performer to step into the shoes of the affable and interesting Petit. It’ll be difficult for art to excel more than life itself, as James Marsh’s exhilarating 2008 documentary Man on Wire took viewers both behind the scenes of the daring stunt and into Petit’s mind at the time, from the man himself.
One way Zemeckis plans to add a signature touch to the new project is by making the film a 3D experience, wanting not to replicate the goofy gimmicks of animated films but realistically add depth, similar to what Ang Lee did with Life of Pi. This will be the first big film for TriStar ChairmanTom Rothman, who was not only working at Fox when Life of Pi and the more heavily 3D-oriented Avatar were made, but he also worked with Zemeckis on Cast Away and What Lies Beneath. These are people that are used to making big, enjoyable movies that attract both audiences and critics. And Gordon-Levitt’s relationship with Christopher Nolan gives him the same cine-credentials.
As Petit, the star will lead a team of risk-taking accomplices through the first part of the film, which will fit into the caper/heist mold, as the team plans and sets up the equipment needed for the walk. At some point in the third act is when the actual walk will happen, and will hopefully be as mindblowing as it was in Marsh's documentary. This is the first screenplay for Zemeckis, co-written with Christopher Browne, since 2009’s A Christmas Carol, so To Walk the Clouds can only be a mid-air step in the right direction, right?
You’ll be able to hear Gordon-Levitt playing a Japanese guy in the Americanized dub of Hayao Miyazaki’s final film, The Wind Rises, when it expands this weekend, and you can see him later this year in Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. And you can always catch him on home vdeo in his directorial debut Don Jon, for which he pulled off the most atrocious Jersey accent. To hear more of Gordon-Levitt’s method accenting, check out this clip from Ellen below.