In Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk, the heralded filmmaker brought together an international cast to tell the stranger-than-fiction true story of Philippe Petit, who hung a high wire between the Twin Towers to take a surreal stroll in 1974. For the part of Petit’s supportive girlfriend Annie Allix, Zemeckis chose charming French-Canadian ingénue Charlotte Le Bon, who American audiences might recognize from last year’s feel-good dramedy The Hundred-Foot Journey. But in France, Le Bon has been delighting fans in films like the fantastical romance Mood Indigo, the drama Yves Saint Laurent, and as the voice of Joy in the French-language version of Inside Out.
Following The Walk’s world premiere at the 53rd New York Film Festival, we sat down with Le Bon and dug into the challenges of playing Annie, what it was like to meet Petit, and how she followed in the footsteps of “comedic monster” Amy Poehler.
Annie seems to have a unique awareness of who Philippe is. Can you tell us a little bit about what that was like to play?
I think she’s incarnating the warmth and the support and the love and all the things that Philippe’s friends couldn’t bring to him. The way I see her is that she was… I think she fell in love with him and with the dream. But I think you need those kind of persons around you to root yourself.
Sure, especially when your dream is kind of this out there.
Is there a part of you that understands him taking the walk on more than an intellectual level?
More than an intellectual level?
Yeah, because the film makes this whole statement about it being a matter of passion, but then there’s still the think of, like…the actual walking is what gets me, I guess.
Yeah. Well, I mean you have to go…that’s what Papa Rudy says…did you see the movie?
When Papa Rudy said that he has to salute because people will know what’s in his heart. I think in every form of art you have to be sincere in what you’re doing. And he had to find that as well. And that’s why I think he says for the first time he felt the need to salute for the first time when he was doing it. And I think that was probably one of the first times that he felt actually sincere in what he was doing.
That’s a very good point. Did you actually get to meet Annie?
No. Robert didn’t want me to for some reason. I know why…I don’t know if you’ve seen the documentary, but their relationship ends in a tricky place. And I didn’t want my judgment to be tinted in something negative. I wanted it to be all about love and support.
Did you get to meet the real Philippe?
Yes. He was there for the three last days of the shoot when Joseph was shooting his actual walking.
Oh, wow. Was that intense to kind of be around?
I wasn’t there. I went on set like 12 minutes just to meet Philippe. But, no, for me, all those scenes actually I did it in downtown Montreal and Joseph was a laser dot on the wall.
That makes sense. What for you was the most challenging aspect of doing this film?
Probably learn to play the guitar and sing.
That’s crazy! I assumed you knew how to sing…
Oh, yeah. Completely. Yeah, my single is out soon. Very soon. It’s going to be amazing.
I mean you kid, but you have this beautiful voice.
Oh, thank you!
I was actually going to be like, “So are you going to do a musical next?”
Oh, god no! I wish I had that talent, but no, I don’t think I have.
But you’ve been doing voice stuff, too, because you were Joy in Inside Out, right?
Yes. That was a tremendous thing to do. It was really, really exciting. I really liked it.
That’s really cool. Have you seen the English version? Is that weird for you?
I wanted to see the English version. And actually, it was quite stressful because Amy Poehler is such a comic monster. It was really stressful to do the French version of it after seeing Amy’s version.
So you did the French version after seeing Amy’s?
Yeah, yeah. I wasn’t forced to watch it, but I really wanted.
Did you take anything from her performance for your own?
I was trying not to…I just watched the movie once, and after that I just tried to forget everything to just do my own thing.
Sure. Do you want to give us a taste of your French Joy?
It’s pretty close to my French voice.
That’s totally understandable. I think that’s it for me. Thank you so much.
Thank you very much.
Twelve people have walked on the moon. Only one has ever, or will ever, walk in the immense void between the World Trade Center towers. Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), guided by his real-life mentor, Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley), is aided by an unlikely band of international recruits, who overcome long odds, betrayals, dissension and countless close calls to conceive and execute their mad plan. Robert Zemeckis, the master director of such marvels as Forrest Gump, Cast Away, Back to the Future, Polar Express and Flight, again uses cutting edge technology in the service of an emotional, character-driven story.
The Walk is now playing in a limited IMAX-only release. It will expand nationwide on October 9, 2015.