“An intellectual challenge presents itself ? I am in bliss. Instantly, it brings forth the notion of triumph,” high-wire artist Philippe Petit writes in his new TED ebook, Cheating the Impossible: Ideas and Recipes from a Rebellious High-Wire Artist. “Even before I address a challenge, invariably a rainbow of out-of focus solutions hovers over my horizon and dissolves into friendly clouds.”
On August 7, 1974, Petit stepped onto a wire strung between the Twin Towers. Balancing 110 stories in the air, Petit played on the tightrope for 40 minutes, even lying down on the wire to watch those “friendly clouds” pass above him. Petit’s routine was a delight to those on the ground, but it was technically illegal — Petit and a band of friends had schemed for months to make it happen. Petit was arrested as soon as he was back on solid ground, but as the police cuffed him, he had a huge grin across his face—for he had achieved a feat everyone, including himself at times, had thought impossible.
“The impossible — we are told — cannot be achieved,” Petit tells the TED blog in a Q&A about his book. “To overcome the ‘impossible’ we need to use our wits and be fearless. We need to break the rules and to circumvent — some would one say to cheat.”
Above, watch photos of Petit cheating death on his Twin Towers tightrope walk. And after the jump, four more videos of Petit doing what he does best.
While Petit’s 1974 walk made him a celebrity, a whole new generation was introduced to his work in James Marsh’s documentary Man on Wire, released in 2008. Here, the trailer for the Oscar-winning film.
Before Petit walked between the Twin Towers, he pulled off another renegade walk, rigging a wire between the towers of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. In this video, watch the full walk.
Petit might be 62, but he is still very much the entertainer. In 2008, he walked on a tightrope held only by two men (one of them being David Duchovny) at the reopening of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York.
Here, see Petit as a young man, prancing across a rope in his yard with no need for a stick.