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Michael Mann on ‘Heat,’ 22 Years Later: What We’ve Learned from His Recent Interviews

The genre auteur discusses the action masterpiece he almost didn't make.

22 years after attaining instant-classic status, “Heat” has been restored and rereleased on Blu-ray. Michael Mann has been making the rounds discussing his action masterpiece to mark the occasion, discussing everything from the performances of Al Pacino and Robert De Niro to more recent films like “Blackhat.” Here are some of his most interesting comments:

READ MORE: Michael Mann to Co-Write ‘Heat’ Prequel Novel With Reed Farrel Coleman

On why he shot it in Los Angeles rather than Chicago, where the events that inspired it took place:

“L.A. is more balkanized than Chicago. There’s a unity to Chicago. It’s got north and south streets. It’s all in a grid. It has a downtown area. Then you have residential neighborhoods. Then it goes on to suburbs. L.A. is all these little cities put together. If you think of L.A. as the County of Los Angeles, it’s bigger than most countries.” (Entertainment Weekly)

On Pacino and De Niro’s approaches to acting:

“To say that an actor has one method of acting versus another method of acting is false with the guys I’ve worked with — who are the best. Pacino’s method of acting is the Pacino method, that’s it. For Al, it’s very much about internalizing the way somebody feels. He memorizes scenes two weeks before he’s gonna shoot them. He wants them to roll around in his consciousness. He’ll dream about them.

“And Bobby is terribly smart — brilliantly analytical. “Why does this guy do that?” and the specifics are all very important. You know, what he’s wearing — all that detail is very expressive of character and feeds something to him. Pacino’s less concerned about what he’s wearing.” (LA Weekly)

READ MORE: Hugh Jackman and Noomi Rapace to Star in Michael Mann’s Ferrari Biopic

“Heat”

On offering the script to Walter Hill:

“Walter Hill and I have been friends since 1972. This is a small community and we talked to each other yesterday. Our families are close. And, he would have been a terrific choice if he wanted to direct it. It wasn’t a matter of approaching a stranger. I know the way Walter thinks and I know his work very, very intimately. And, that’s what that decision of approaching him was based on.” (Vulture)

On what the film would look like if he shot it now:

“Let me put this rather precisely. When you see an emotion on a human’s face, how much of the face do you see? What constitutes fear? What constitutes apprehension? What constitutes suspicion?

“Yes, I evolved, but also, audience perception evolves, and media evolves, year to year. If I shot this film two or three years ago, this particular film would be less chromatic. And the sense of tension would become more pronounced with greater contrast and kind of a more blue-black palette, than the film as I wanted it to be when I shot it in ’94-’95.” (Entertainment Weekly)

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