Philip Petit: biography of the great tightrope walker

Philippe Petit, whose biography will be presented in this article, is a famous French tightrope walker. He gained his popularity thanks to two performances: on the towers of Notre Dame and the World Trade Center. In the latter case, he spent as much as 45 minutes on a rope stretched between buildings.


In August 1949, a son appeared in the family of the writer and former pilot Edmond Petit. The boy was named Philip. From childhood, he was attracted to everything mysterious and magical. Philip was not a very successful student, but with great pleasure showed tricks to others. The boy didn’t have a soul at all for study: in a year he was expelled from five different schools. Petit first got on a rope at the age of 16. And the subsequent event only strengthened his desire to engage in this type of circus balancing act.

philip petit biography

Finding a dream

It happened when the tightrope walker Philippe Petit crossed the threshold of a Paris dental clinic. In a dim reception room, a 17-year-old guy was leafing through magazines awaiting a doctor. In one of the publications, he found photos of two giant towers, the construction of which was soon to begin in Manhattan. Philip’s imagination immediately drew him walking along a rope stretched between these buildings at an altitude of 415 meters. Pretending to sneeze, Petit tore the page from the magazine and ran out into the street. After all, toothache can not be compared with the newfound dream.

First performances

In the early 70s, Philippe Petit, whose biography is known to any tightrope walker, organized his first performance. As a place, he chose New York's Washington Square Park. In front of hundreds of onlookers, Philippe walked along a rope stretched between the 2 towers of the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris. In 1973, he repeated the same trick in Australia. This time the rope was pulled between the pylons of the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

tightrope walker philip petit

Crime of the Century

January 1974 is the date that Philippe Petit scheduled for his arrival in America. The twin towers have already been built. Inside they were finishing work. The hero of this article flew to the United States to implement his ideas. According to fake documents, he made his way to the roof of one of the towers. The second building was barely visible in the morning haze. The thought crept into Philip's head that all this is insanity and simply suicide. But there was no turning back, as the young man had already informed all his friends about his idea.

Stunt preparation

To implement a grandiose and crazy plan, Philippe Petit, whose biography is an example to follow for any circus balancer, put together a whole team. Everything was like a spy operation or the organization of a robbery: fake documents and biographies, the highest conspiracy, trucks with equipment, etc. All the props went up to the roof in parts. The members of the Petit team made several “walkers” for this. And in order to throw the rope from one tower to another, I had to release an arrow with a fishing line. Everything else was already pulled along it.

philip petit towers twins

Walking over the abyss

And in the early morning of August 7, 1974, the eyes of passers-by were riveted to a small black dot hanging between two towers. Philip walked the rope from one building to another. From time to time he knelt to greet the audience below. On the roofs of both towers, policemen were waiting for him. The tightrope walker’s arrest was held under the loud applause of passers-by and law-servants. He spent the whole 45 minutes on the rope.


Philip Petit, whose biography was presented in this article, became even more popular after two adaptations of his story. The first picture was released in 2009 and was called "The Man on the Wire." She received an Oscar as the best documentary film. And in 2015, the film “Walk” was shot, directed by Robert Zemeckis.


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