In a move that befits its Gotham setting, The Walk, the latest film from Oscar-winning director Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump) and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Looper) has been named as the opening night selection for the 2015 New York Film Festival. The festival – presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and this year celebrating its 53rd anniversary – is but one of the many pit-stops in the fall festival season and this year runs from September 25th to October 11th. Zemeckis’s last film, the addiction drama Flight (which earned leading actor Denzel Washington an Oscar nomination), was the closing night selection at the 2012 New York Film Festival.
Based on a true story, The Walk focuses on French high-wire artist Philippe Petit (Gordon-Levitt) and his infamous 1974 attempt to walk across a tightrope strung between the Twin Towers in Manhattan. Adapting from Petit’s memoir To Reach the Clouds, Zemeckis and Christopher Browne wrote the screenplay. Oscar-winner Ben Kingsley (Gandhi), James Badge Dale (Flight), Charlotte Le Bon (The Hundred-Foot Journey), Ben Schwartz (This Is Where I Leave You), and Steve Valentine (A Christmas Carol) co-star. Petit’s story was also memorably the focus of the acclaimed Oscar-winning 2008 documentary from director James Marsh (The Theory of Everything).
As has been nearly a specialty throughout a career that included Forrest Gump, The Polar Express, and Beowulf, Zemeckis is employing loads of pyrotechnical tricks with his latest film – not just in re-creating 1970s era New York City but in also trying to offer an immersive, heights-defying 3-D experience to capture Petit’s adventure. The Walk is only the second New York Film Festival opener to be presented in 3-D, following Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning fable Life of Pi. “The Walk is surprising in so many ways,” commented Kent Jones, New York Film Festival Director. “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 recreation 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.”
The Walk may mean much more to Sony, the film’s distributor. Fraught with endless troubles lately springing from e-mail hacks and a recent run of lackluster films (Cameron Crowe’s Aloha marks the most recent critical punching bag for the studio), The Walk is a hopeful home run and opening the New York Film Festival might prove an optimistic sign. In the coming months, distributors and festival organizers will make several high-profile announcements regarding what film is slated to premiere at which festival with the hopes of awards buzz to spur excitement from critics and audiences. The New York Film Festival, like other fall festivals including Telluride and Toronto, provides an important launching pad – The Walk, for instance, will attempt to make its mark as NYFF’s opening night film, the same slot given to previous awards season success stories like Captain Phillips (2013), Life of Pi (2012), The Social Network (2010) and The Queen (2006). Last year, David Fincher’s Gone Girl opened the festival and turned into a fall blockbuster, earning an Oscar nomination for lead Rosamund Pike.
The Walk will make its world premiere on September 25th at Alice Tully Hall. The film will open nationwide following its world premiere on October 2nd playing in 3-D and IMAX 3-D. Watch the trailer below: