Philippe Petit, the 73-year-old French tightrope walker, continues to dazzle audiences with his high-wire stunts, including a recent 50-foot act in Washington, D.C.
French daredevil and tightrope walker Philippe Petit has once again wowed audiences with his jaw-dropping stunts.
Nearly 50 years after his infamous high-wire act between the Twin Towers in New York City, Petit, at the ripe age of 73, showed no signs of slowing down as he completed his latest feat at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.
Clad in an orange shirt and red suspenders, the Frenchman peered across the vast lobby of the National Building Museum just before his latest exploit.
"Sometimes I stop and say, 'It would be nice to put a wire there'," he said, pulling out a short red string from his pocket and showing how he holds it out at arm's length to get a sense of the setup.
"This little rope, for me, it helps me to dream of crossings."
Despite his age, Petit still made the walk without a safety net or harness.
Who is Philippe Petit?
Petit was born in 1949 in Nemours, France, and began performing as a street juggler and mime artist in his teenage years. However, it was his passion for high-wire walking that eventually led him to fame.
From childhood, he rebelled against authority, climbing everywhere he could, from kitchen chairs to trees. "And then one fine day, quite naturally, I put a rope between two trees," he said.
He began his high-wire career in the early 1970s, performing in public spaces such as parks and streets, and he quickly gained a reputation for his skill and showmanship.
However, it was his walk between the Twin Towers on 7 August, 1974, that made him an international sensation.
Petit and a team of accomplices snuck into the World Trade Center complex and set up a cable between the two towers, nearly 1,400 feet above the ground. Petit then proceeded to walk back and forth across the cable eight times, pausing to kneel and salute the crowd below.
Petit's walk was illegal and dangerous, but it captivated audiences around the world and made him an overnight celebrity. He was arrested shortly after the stunt, but charges were eventually dropped in exchange for him performing a free aerial show for children in Central Park.
The historic story of Petit's 1974 crossing was told in the feature film The Walk, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and the (far superior) Oscar-winning documentary Man on Wire.
Tired of being reduced to those few minutes, he prefers to bring up other moments from his "life of passion."
"Two performances are never the same... each time is an adventure where I learn, where I discover," he said in front of the wooden beams, pulleys, and measurement tools that supported his aerial stroll this week.
"With my 50-55 years of experience, I am more in control."
Petit's daredevil spirit lives on
Petit's high-wire act in Washington was set to take place at a height of 50 feet, much lower than the 1,350-foot World Trade Center skyscrapers where he famously performed in 1974.
Nonetheless, the risk of death certainly remained, and the audience was watchful as he stepped out onto the wire.
The veteran tightrope walker began prepping for the event years in advance, with a thick notebook containing hundreds of detailed sketches and calculations lying next to where the cable was anchored to a wall.
"I will never retire," said Petit. "I have a lot of projects up my sleeve."
Petit keeps plans for possible tightrope locations stored in a box at his home in New York State, where he has lived for decades.
Check out the video above for a look at Petit's latest stunt in Washington.