Michael Mann recently made his book debut with Heat 2, the sequel to his 1995 classic crime thriller Heat starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Val Kilmer. The movie was obviously a hit, so it only made sense that Mann would want to continue the story where it left off, and turn it into a novel, so he could have some creative control (and not have to re-cast various characters who are, let’s say, a little older now).
While promoting the book, which dropped this week, Mann has been giving various interviews surrounding the iconic ’90s era of crime films, when it was revealed that it was actually Leonardo DiCaprio that inspired him to work on Heat.
Mann was interested in making a biopic about James Dean and even went as far as to screen-test a fresh-faced young actor before settling on making Heat instead. That actor turned out the be DiCaprio, who was deemed too young for the part and made Mann leave the project to work on the crime film instead. Mann explained:
It was a brilliant screenplay. And then it’s who the hell could play James Dean? And I found a chap who could play James Dean, but he was too young. It was Leo. We did a screen test that’s quite amazing. I think he must’ve been 19 at the time. And from one angle, he totally had it with him. I mean, it’s brilliance. He would turn his face in one direction and we see a vision of James Dean, and then he’d turn his face another direction and it’s no, that’s a young kid. I found the absolutely perfect act of the play, in about three years from that.
If you’re thinking to yourself, hey, why didn’t they just wait a few years and cast DiCaprio? Mann added that DiCaprio “respectfully undid the James Dean bio for me.” It ended up being okay for Leo, though, who was then cast in the little-known movie Titanic a little over a year later. He turned out fine!