Filmmaker Michael Mann has accumulated a formidable list of credits and awards during his decade-spanning career. Heat, arguably his most influential film to date, turned 21 this year. To celebrate the crime epic’s legacy, director Christopher Nolan — whose The Dark Knight includes several stylistic nods to Heat — hosted a reunion panel at Beverly Hills’ Samuel Goldwyn Theater that drew together several of the drama’s cast and crew. Stars Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Amy Brenneman were all in attendance, each of whom provided fascinating insights into Mann’s unorthodox, at times frustrating directorial methods.
Even casual fans of the film are privy to Mann’s insistence that Heat‘s classic diner scene be filmed essentially unrehearsed, allowing the unfamiliarity between Pacino and De Niro to register on film. What even diehard fans don’t know is that the sequence was shot at one in the morning — to the dismay of at least one of its principal actors. “We didn’t start until after lunch or dinner, which is 1:00 in the morning,” said De Niro during the panel’s discussion of the iconic scene. “I was a little unhappy that we started so late, in the middle of the night, but anyway, we did.”
Directors employ myriad methods to extract the performances they envision from their cast. However, these techniques are seldom if ever described with violent terminology. “A lot of us have talked about being lovingly beaten into submission by Michael,” Brenneman said, laughing. She recalled one particular scene, set inside a car, that was supposed to take place at night. Once the sun was up, and assuming shooting would be postponed until dusk, she retreated to her trailer for a nap. She was called back to set 2o minutes later. “There’s my car, wrapped in black!” she said.
Mann owned up to all the eccentric methods attributed to him, even offering another example himself. “I was looking through a [camera] lens, and I started complaining,” he said, referencing another film. “I said, ‘Dante [Spinotti], where’d that light come from? Turn off that damn light!’ He said, ‘Michael, that’s the sun.’”
(Via Entertainment Weekly)