Before diving into another viewing of Michael Mann’s 1995 heist movie, starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, arm yourself with these 15 fascinating tidbits about the film.
1. Heat was adapted from a 1989 TV movie.
Heat director Michael Mann developed the story as a potential TV show after the success he had in producing Miami Vice and Crime Story for television. While it was never picked up by a network as a series, NBC aired the made-for-TV movie L.A. Takedown in 1989. L.A. Takedown represents about 40 percent of Heat’s eventual storyline.
2. Heat’s story is based on the exploits of former Chicago police officer Chuck Adamson.
Mann and Adamson met while working the TV show Crime Story, which Adamson created and Mann executive produced. Adamson really did track down and ultimately kill a real life master criminal named Neil McCauley, though it wasn’t at LAX like in the film. McCauley was killed during an armored car hijacking outside an Illinois supermarket.
3. The L.A. Metro stop used in the opening appears in another of Mann’s films.
It’s the same station seen at the end of Mann’s 2004 film Collateral.
4. There are no CG effects used in the heist that opens the movie.
The production actually tipped over an armored car while shooting on location—it was top-heavy and weighted to make the stunt possible.
5. The graphics on the side of the tow truck in this scene have personal significance for Mann.
The side of the truck reads “RAJA,” which are the first initials of director Mann’s four daughters’ names. His daughter Ami served as the second unit director on Heat.
6. Robert De Niro and Al Pacino were the director’s first picks to star.
In fact, they were the only actors offered the leading roles.
7. Heat is the first movie to feature De Niro and Pacino onscreen together in the same scene.
While they both had roles The Godfather: Part II, they never appeared onscreen at the same time. Following Heat, De Niro and Pacino would go on to appear together in the 2008 film Righteous Kill. They are also scheduled to reunite in an upcoming Martin Scorsese film titled The Irishman (slated for a 2015 release).
8. De Niro and Pacino hardly appear onscreen together.
The two stars spend less than 10 minutes of the entire 170-minute film in one another’s presence.
9. Heat is Natalie Portman’s second feature film.
Her first is Leon: The Professional; in it, she plays a child assassin.
10. Jon Voight’s character Nate is based on ex-con and writer Eddie Bunker.
Mann made Bunker’s book, “No Beast So Fierce”, required reading for the actors in De Niro’s criminal crew. Bunker also served as a technical consultant on Heat.
11. Michael Mann did a lot of research for the film.
He spent 7 months on ride-alongs with the LAPD’s robbery and homicide department.
12. In preparation for the bank heist sequence, the film’s technical advisors had the actors case a real bank without anybody noticing.
Tom Sizemore (who plays Cheritto) actually began fake negotiations for a bank loan with a bank employee during the stunt.
13. Heat’s robbery scenes are thought to be so accurate that real thieves have copied its tactics.
In fact, the 1997 North Hollywood shootout was allegedly inspired by the heists in the film.
14. To prepare for the downtown shootout sequence, the actors went through three months of firearm.
An estimated 800-1,000 blank rounds were used per take while shooting the scene.
15. All the gun sound effects in the shootout sequence were taken from onset audio.
Mann originally planned to add gunshots to the audio in post-production. But when he tried to do so, he didn’t feel like it sounded real enough, so he kept the audio as is.