In a career that’s spanned more than three decades and a dozen blockbusters, Robert Zemeckis has been lauded for using technological wizardry to tell deeply human stories in such films as “Cast Away,” “Back to the Future” and “Forrest Gump.”
The Oscar-winning director was honored by Variety on Monday night for his latest cinematic tight-rope act, “The Walk,” which uses 3D to bring viewers 110 stories above Manhattan as Philippe Petit uses a high wire to move back and forth between the Twin Towers.
“It was a unique moment in the city’s history, and I always felt this could be a love letter to the city and a love letter to the towers,” said Zemeckis.
He noted that when Petit pulled off his stunt in 1974 many New Yorkers viewed the Twin Towers as an eyesore, likening them to “filing cabinets.” That changed after seeing the high-wire walker defy gravity.
“He brought a human spirit to the towers and New Yorkers really began to love those towers,” said Zemeckis.
“The Walk” served as the opening night film of this year’s New York Film Festival — a fitting venue for it to premiere. The memory of the Sept. 11 attacks that destroyed the towers bring an added poignance to seeing the iconic piece of the city’s sky scare resurrected on screen.
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Variety Co-Editor-in-Chief Claudia Eller called the film a “Valentine to New York” and praised the director, saying, “It is a cinematic triumph of your creativity and your technological know-how.”
Zemeckis was honored as part of Variety‘s Gotham 60 celebration, an annual compendium of the city’s entertainment and media movers and shakers. The party at Lincoln Ristorante drew a crowd that included Showtime Networks Chairman Matt Blank, Bleecker Street CEO Andrew Karpen, “Fun Home” writers Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori, Independent Filmmaker Project chief Joana Vicente, CAA’s Eric Wattenberg, ICM’s Ayala Cohen, Locomotive Co-Founder Lucy Barzun Donnelly, Maven Pictures Principal Celine Rattray, Red Crown Productions chiefs Daniel Crown and Daniela Taplin Lundberg, Weinstein Company acquisitions head Dan Guando, and First Deputy Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment Luis Castro.