Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives one of the most gloriously physical performances of the year in Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk, which tells the story of high-wire artist Philippe Petit’s extraordinary stroll between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in 1974. Gordon-Levitt trained with Petit for eight days to learn the basics of wirewalking, so it’s no surprise that the actor—who is, among other things, a gifted song-and-dance man—makes every step look effortless.

Yet his favorite film of the year was one that featured no physical performances at all: Inside Out. “Inside Out took such a nuanced and complicated part of being a human being and made it visual, and made it visceral, and made it emotional,” Gordon-Levitt says.

Yet if he admires that film’s ambition, he brings the same go-for-broke spirit to The Walk. As Gordon-Levitt told TIME during our Best of Culture photo shoot, “Petit had this crazy idea, and even though every voice in his head must have said, ‘That’s impossible…you should give up now,’ he went ahead and did it anyway.”

Erik Madigan Heck for TIME
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, November 2015.

 

 

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