Twenty years ago, "Heat," was one of the most anticipated films of the decade. Yes, it was written by celebrated filmmaker Michael Mann, but what built the anticipation for "Heat," was the two superstar actors that were for the first time sharing screen credit in a film: Al Pacino and Robert De Niro.
And 20 years later that anticipation was even more exciting as the two actors shared the Oscars stage at the Goldwyn's Theater on Wilshire Boulevard on Wednesday, September 7, 2016, for a screening of a 4K restoration of the film. Along for the reunion was filmmaker Michael Mann and special guest moderator filmmaker Christopher Nolan. And if this wasn't enough, after a talk between these four filmmakers, other talents from the film "Heat," also joined the stage for a wider discussion. This included: actress Amy Brenneman, "Heat" Executive Producer Pieter Jan Brugge, Editor William Goldenberg, Val Kilmer, Sound Mixer Art Linson, Cinematographer Dante Spinotti, Diane Venora and Mykelti Williamson.
At the beginning of the Q&A, Nolan asked Mann about the inception of "Heat:"
Al Pacino chimed in saying "the differences in our lives, in my opinion, is, that my life was falling apart, and his life was just starting."
Then Pacino wanted to make a 20-year secret clear, "My character was doing coke. There were a few scenes that showed his use, which was later cut. And I have wanted to tell why Vincent behaved as he did. And it feels right to say this about this character finally."
The ever so quiet Robert De Niro then stated, "Michael Mann created a tension and remarkable film.
Christopher Nolan was eager to get to the coffee shop scene, which is the first big scene that De Niro and Pacino share. According to Nolan, there has been much mythology about this scene. So, it was his moment to set the record straight.
The coffee shop scene was shot late in the night, starting at one a.m. and as suggested by De Niro there were no rehearsals. Mann said, "for the respect of both artists, the scene was shot with two cameras shooting over the shoulder and a third camera with a bird's-eye view (which was never used)." And showing Mann has an incredible memory, he continued, "and most of the scene we ended up using from take number eleven."
At this point, the remaining cast members and crew that were at hand joined the conversation.
Actress Amy Brenneman was first to add to the discussion. She said that Mann was big with each character having a big back story and that she wondered what tragic circumstances in Eady's past would allow her character to remain with a man as so violent and dangerous as Neil (Robert De Niro's character). One solution Amy came up with was the possibility that Eady had been the victim of incest, but Mann told her no. He came up with a much more simple answer that surprised Brenneman. "No," he said. "Eady just falls in love with him."
Nolan asked Val Kilmer about the anger he used in his character Chris. Kilmer spoke prefacing with an apology that he had a swollen tongue and might be difficult to understand. According to Kilmer, it was a visit to a penitentiary for his backstory that energized him and helped him to make his actions to be as real as possible.
Mann injected at this moment that the film had been around for quite a long time, in fact, it was produced as a television pilot before. But he always had problems with the ending of the story. It was when he finally was able to write an ending; he re-engineered the entire script.
Mykelti Williamson had a great story about how he was cast to be in "Heat." Williamson may not be a household name, but his performance as Forrest Gump's shrimp-loving army pal Bubba Blue is one of the performances that is not forgettable. Mann and Al Pacino felt the same way. Mann met Williamson in the fall of 1994 and a few months later Williamson was called to meet with Mann and Pacino about a part in "Heat." In the meeting, Pacino gave it to Williamson straight. They had already cast the part, but they were so astonished that he wasn't nominated for Academy Award for his performance in "Forrest Gump," that they fired the actor they had already hired and wanted Williamson for the role.
"Heat" was shot in 107 days in over 97 locations in the Los Angeles area. And perhaps Christopher Nolan says its best, when he said, "It captures modern Los Angeles like no other film."