Douglas Thmopson - Author and International Journalist

De Niro won his first Oscar in 1974 as Best Supporting Actor for his young Vito Corleone in ‘Godfather 2'. Pacino had to wait until his eighth nomination, for ‘Scent of a Woman' three years ago, to take the Best Actor prize.

New Yorkers. The Italian Connection. Big names and similar sized egos. Intense and always, always hesitant.

Michael Mann knew he had the chance to create a mythic moment on screen. Someone said it was like getting Ben Hur to sit down with Spartacus. As the writer as well as director of ‘Heat' Mann pondered on how his stars would fill the screen together.

They would have coffee. Regular. Java. In a restaurant in Beverly Hills which has subdued black and white decorations. The script has Pacino's Hannah pulling over De Niro's heist-master McCauley on a freeway. Hannah asks

the man he wants to arrest to have a cup or coffee.

‘Where do you stage this? You set it in a place that will disappear as much as possible. You find the most disappearing location you can....

‘The background is as monochromatic and minimalist as I could get because, boy, I did not want anything to take away from what was happening on Al's face and Bobby's face,' says Mann who still seems surprised it happened.

The meeting -- there is only one other in the film -- is vital to the set-up of the characters, the ‘heroes', and the film itself which stretches its tension and gnaw at the nerves through the adversaries' duel.

Chicago-born Mann who graduated from the London Film School in 1967 is a research extremist.If he's writing a bank robbery he talks to the police and to the criminals. ‘ I like to move through a subculture until I feel the colours and the patterns and tones and rhythms of the lives of the people and the place.

‘It's like Vincent Hannah's pursuit of McCauley. It does have a funny sort of Pirandello pattern to it. But that process of taking it on multiple levels, of understanding the complexity of human nature and intelligence, is something detectives are aware of and actors are aware of and directors ought to be aware of.'

During his research Mann visited California 's Folsom Prison ( as in the Johnny Cash song) as did De Niro and Val ‘Batman' Kilmer who plays with scene-stealing panache one of McCauley's shotgun sharp cohorts.

Mann, like Pacino and De Niro, expects involvement.:' I'm very ambitious and ‘'Heat'' is a very artistically ambitious project.The people I work with are dead serious. If people find themselves on the wrong movie, there are lots of other movies to go to.'

Mann is involved. He wrote the first treatment of ‘Heat' in 1980. The real Neil McCauley was killed in Chicago by a detective in 1963:' ‘McCauley was a good thief and for a detective it's more challenging to work on a good thief than the recidivist.I heard that the detective had some sort of rapport with McCauley and that was the kernel of the movie.

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