Why Michael Mann wrote ‘Heat 2,’ his movie sequel, as a novel

Heat 2 is an odd breed of novel: a debut from filmmaker Michael Mann that happens to be a sequel to his 1995 film Heat. But it doesn’t mean, Mann points out, a return to the LA neo-noir classic that first brought Al Pacino and Robert De Niro together on screen. That’s because man never left it.

“Or it never left me,” he says on a Zoom call from Rome. “The material is so extensive, which is what I knew and found fascinating about the origins and potential future of [De Niro’s criminal] Neil McCauley and [Pacino’s LAPD detective] Vincent Hanna is where they would go after the events of ‘Heat’.”

Chris Shiherlis, played by Val Kilmer in the film, is the last man alive the day after the film ends and the book begins. Wounded and desperate, he has to get out of LA. “Heat 2” follows Shiherli’s escape to Ciudad del Este in Paraguay. There he works for the Taiwanese conglomerate behind a black market software system. The narrative uses a The Godfather Part II-like structure, interrupting its story with chapters set seven years earlier, in 1988, when McCauley’s crew is attempting to take down a drug cartel at a Mexicali motel. Back in Chicago, Hanna is on the hunt for a home invasion gang who love rape and torture.

Michael Mann is sitting in a theater.

The story of Heat has followed Michael Mann since the 1970’s, becoming a made-for-TV movie, a 1995 classic, and now a novel sequel, Heat 2.


So why the novel? It took some convincing from Mann’s agent Shane Salerno of Story Factory to decide that this was the best format for a sequel. One of the obvious logistical snags in filmmaking: time. All the actors were older, no longer age appropriate. A novel allows Mann to revisit the era and its characters unhindered by casting decisions—not to mention the contortions and delays of the development process. Salerno brokered an imprint for the filmmaker at HarperCollins, who have two more books under contract, including perhaps a second in the “Heat” universe.

Then it was time to find a co-writer. After a series of interviews, Mann chose Edgar Award-winning crime writer Meg Gardiner, who shares his passion for the subject and dedication to research.

“Michael has amazing connections with all sides of law and order around the world,” says Gardiner, whose novel The Dark Corners of the Night is being adapted into an Amazon series. “It was a revealing and extremely informative phone call we had for a few hours with a retired bank robber. We also had a revealing late night drive through some parts of Los Angeles with two LAPD sergeants to see what happens after most businesses have closed.”

The couple worked their way through the worst of the COVID-19 lockdowns, exchanging chapters and notes for a year before finally meeting face to face. “Your descriptiveness is fantastic,” says Mann. “Before we started writing, there was probably a 65-page narrative of what this novel was going to be. When people say story structure, it means working out every single bar of that story and how all the pieces will work together. ”

Like the film, the book deals with cops and robbers who are functionally at their game but existentially hitting the ground running. There is a moment in the novel when Hanna, on his way home one night while his investigation is at a standstill, suddenly finds himself on a southbound highway. On a deserted country lane, he turns off his headlights and kicks to the ground as he speeds suicidally through the darkness. It’s a moment from Mann’s own youth.

“You’re just driving around town in the middle of the night. And you find yourself in the black plains of Illinois, on your way to Kankakee, and you’re like, ‘How long can I drive if I turn off the lights and it’s dark on this highway?’” he recalls, asking himself to have. “I can’t see anything, and you’re just kind of dancing with death, kind of a sick indulgence, but you do. But I had no idea what I wanted to do, and it was driving me… crazy.”

Al Pacino takes on the LAPD at Michael Mann's "Heat."

Al Pacino takes on the LAPD in Michael Mann’s “Heat.” The new novel Heat 2 jumps back and forth from the events of the original film.

(Warner Bros./Warner Bros.)

Mann soon found direction as an aspiring novelist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he earned his bachelor’s degree, followed by a master’s degree from the London Film School. He found early success in Hollywood writing for TV shows before directing the 1979 TV prison film The Jericho Mile. He made his feature film debut in 1981’s Thief, based on real-life criminal John Santucci – and established a pattern for using real people as character inspiration.

“Santucci was a high-profile professional jewel thief. He was a burglar. And I got very close to him. He never stopped being a thief, even when he was in front of the camera,” says Mann, referring to Santucci’s short film and television career. “Santucci was an occasional whistleblower and a full-time professional thief.”

He was played by James Caan, who died last month at the age of 82. “I loved him. He was rude,” says Mann, recalling the time Caan told a top film exec to quit, “and then went through all the reasons why that particular exec should fire himself.”

From Thief, Mann moved on to classics like Manhunter, which introduced Hannibal Lecter to moviegoers, and The Insider, which earned him three Oscar nominations. 2004’s ‘Thief’, ‘Heat’ and ‘Collateral’ established him as a peerless chronicler of modern day Los Angeles’ criminal underworld.

The most indelible scene on “Heat” is a casual meeting between McCauley and Hanna. In their first scene together, De Niro and Pacino play deadly adversaries who share a grudging respect for one another’s drive and professionalism. The scene is based on a real-life encounter described to Mann by Detective Charlie Adamson, the former partner of Dennis Farina, who left the Chicago Police Department to pursue a successful career in Hollywood. Adamson, who was dropping off his dry cleaning, looked across the street and saw the real McCauley walking into the Belden Deli.

Criminal Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) and LAPD cop Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) in Michael Mann's "heat" (1995).

Criminal Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) and LAPD cop Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) in an indelible scene from Michael Mann’s “Heat” (1995) based on a real-life meeting the director heard about.

(Warner Bros./Warner Bros.)

“There was a gunfight in the parking lot, and then Adamson said, ‘Come on, I’ll buy you a cup of coffee,'” recalls Mann. That single moment of enemies breaking bread “opened a whole world to me — I respected and admired McCauley’s professionalism,” even though Adamson “would knock his socks off in an instant.” Both can be true. That is not a contradiction.”

Adamson was part of a team that gunned down McCauley in 1964.

The novel sequel is just the latest twist in the long journey across genres of a story that has been Mann’s constant companion throughout his career. He began writing the screenplay in the 1970s and eventually turned it into a 1989 TV movie, LA Takedown, before reworking it into the 1995 feature film. “I’ve met the real people that are in this book and I’ve been in the milieus that are in this book,” he explains. “In the real world, this stuff is way more exciting than anything you can dream up in a room in LA.”

That hard-earned authenticity, based on insider knowledge and a journalistic eye, is a valuable asset in crime fiction, from ex-cop Joseph Wambaugh’s thrillers to ex-reporter David Simon’s “The Wire.” Mann, who gained his expertise through decades of relationships with cops and criminals, has now brought it to both screen and page via the same narrative.

The 27-year gap has allowed Mann to mark the effects of time on both mortal humans and the crimes they commit. Toward the end of Heat 2, Shiherlis finds himself on the precipice of a new world of cross-border crime – software systems that can penetrate any defense or protect criminals from crime-solvers. He realizes that bank jobs like the ones he pulled off with McCauley’s crew go the way of the dinosaur.

Mann wants Heat 2 to be a theatrical release and talks are underway to make it the 79-year-old director’s next film after completing his current project Ferrari, starring Adam Driver and Penelope Cruz and Shailene Woodley and was filmed in Italy (hence the zoom from Rome). But even in Hollywood, time moves on; The future of entertainment appears to be on the small screen, making the novel, easily adaptable to film or streaming, the ideal form.

“I think what we’re doing is evolving so rapidly that it’s impossible to predict what the best way to present will be 18 months from now,” said Mann, who most recently directed the pilot of HBO’s Tokyo Vice Max directed. “I love streaming, we really are in an ongoing golden age. The writing and the content on TV is fantastic.” He shrugs and looks at his computer. “But of course I want that on the big screen.”

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/books/story/2022-08-08/michael-manns-l-a-classic-heat-has-a-sequel-and-its-a-novel-heres-how-he-did-it Why Michael Mann wrote ‘Heat 2,’ his movie sequel, as a novel

Sarah Ridley

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