CinemaCon: Robert Zemeckis on "Exhilarating and Terrifying" Emotion in 'The Walk'

"I really became hooked on the heart of the artist," the director said of telling the story of Philippe Petit's high-wire walk between New York's Twin Towers.

It’s hard to imagine a better use of 3D — depth — than to tell the heart-pounding true story of Philippe Petit, who walked on a tightrope between the Twin Towers at New York City's World Trade Center in 1974.

Inventive filmmaker Robert Zemeckis, who pioneered digital 3D with his The Polar Express and Beowulf, now is using the power of depth to convey Petit’s experience and emotions — both simultaneously “exhilarating and terrifying” — in his Oct. 2 release, The Walk.

“It has great power because the towers don’t exist anymore,” Zemeckis said in a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday at CinemaCon, where he was on hand for Sony's preview of The Walk. “Philippe Petit’s feat has been pushed into fable status because he can never do it again. His stage is gone.

“I really became hooked on the heart of the artist, which I believe is what the movie is ultimately about,” he continued. “Here is a man who, for his art, risked his life. That’s a universal theme for anyone who does anything with passion, and that’s the core of the film.”

And for the versatile director — whose credits also include Forrest Gump, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and, most recently, Flight — the 3D gave him another filmmaking tool for making "creative and emotional decisions … where to enhance the emotional impact."

“A 3D decision has to bring an element of storytelling to the piece. I think it's a fantastic tool,” said Zemeckis, adding that those who see The Walk in 2D likely will wish they experienced it with the depth. “A couple times things come out [of the screen], but it's really used to give the audience the sensation of depth perception. … It’s exhilarating and terrifying. I think we pull it off.”

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