Michael Mann’s magnum opus “Heat” celebrated its 20th anniversary in December 2015, but The Academy finally marked the occasion last night with a star-studded celebration that included a screening of the new 4K restoration of the crime drama and a once-in-a-lifetime reunion between Mann, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, moderated by none other than Christopher Nolan. As Variety reports, the packed audience was also treated to surprise special guests, including actors Val Kilmer and Amy Brenneman, cinematographer Dante Spinotti, film editor William Goldenberg and others.
Nolan recalled being skeptical about the film when he had heard critics calling it a new American Classic, citing how tired the cops and robbers genre had become on the big screen. Fortunately, Mann’s crime film delivered on the promise. “I’ve drawn inspiration from it in my own work,” Nolan admitted.
The story, about the relationship between a professional thief and the homicide detective trying to track him down, was based on the real-life story of Neil McCauley. The criminal had been killed by Chicago police detective Charlie Adamson, who just happened to be one of Mann’s friends.
“They had the kind of intimacy only strangers can have,” Mann said of McCauley and Adamson, and thus the story for the film was born.
Mann wanted to create a film where the viewer would identify and feel for both men on opposite sides of the law. He flirted with the story as a TV movie in 1989’s “L.A. Takedown,” and later expanded it into his 1995 classic. The ying-and-yang relationship between the central characters also appealed to De Niro, who wanted their push-and-pull showcased in the film’s aesthetics as well.
“At the onset, I thought there should be that difference in the characters in terms of how they come off, what colors they’re in,” De Niro said.
Of all the revelation’s from the Q&A, the best came from Pacino. His boisterous and manic detective has become the quintessential Pacino character (loud, brash, strung-out), and the actor confirmed he approached the character as if he was strung out on cocaine throughout the entire film. “I don’t think I’ve ever said it out loud,” Pacino said. “But I’ve always wanted to say it, just so you know where some of the behavior comes from.”
For more on the “Heat” anniversary reunion, head over to Variety. Fox Home Entertainment is set to release the 4k restoration in theaters sometime next year.