Robert De Niro and Al Pacino had been in the same movie before. But they play characters from different time periods in The Godfather Part II. In 1995, writer/director Michael Mann gave the two legends an opportunity to appear together onscreen for the first time. The movie was Heat, and fans of the film know the coffee shop scene as perhaps the movie's signature moment.
However, Heat is much more than one moment. It's an all-time heist film, created with a realism that's not for the faint of heart. Want to test out your new sound system? Watch the bank robbery sequence and listen to the bullets fly.
Mann, one of the few directors out there you can instantly recognize thanks to his handheld, close-up style, was already an established talent by the time Heat was released on December 15, 1995. But the film brought him a new young audience craving a new De Niro or Pacino movie to claim as their own. Turns out, they would get both. For college kids with Scarface and Goodfellas posters on their dorm walls, Heat was everything. Now, 25 years later, the film still holds up. Here are 20 things you never knew about Heat:
1. Heat is based on real-life criminal Neil McCauley and the cop who nailed him, Detective Chuck Adamson, in 1964. Many of the film's heist moments are taken from McCauley's life of crime, including the armored car robbery and the diamond drill bit heist. McCauley and Adamson also met for coffee in real life and the conversation they had is the one you see in the film.
2. Michael Mann wrote Heat in 1979, and eventually turned the script into a TV pilot called L.A. Takedown that aired in 1989. Creative differences pushed Mann away, however, and the show was cancelled.
3. Mann never wanted to direct Heat, offering it to Walter Hill in the '80s, who refused.
4. De Niro and Pacino were Mann's first choices for the roles of Neil McCauley and Vincent Hanna (the character based on Adamson).
5. Keanu Reeves was originally signed to play Chris Shiherlis, but Mann wanted Val Kilmer and Reeves lost the role when Kilmer's Batman Forever schedule opened up. He filmed both movies at the same time.
6. Amy Brenneman disliked the script and didn't want to be in the movie, saying it was filled with blood and no morality. Mann told her she would be perfect for the role of Eady and got her to do it.
7. The coffee shop scene: De Niro suggested not rehearsing so the unfamiliarity would bleed into the scene. Mann agreed. The decision also fostered improvisation between the two famous actors. Mann used two cameras simultaneously so the conversation would be more fluid. The scene was shot at Kate Mantilini (now closed) in Beverly Hills.
8. In June, 2002, the bank robbery and shootout sequence was shown to United States Marine recruits at MCRD San Diego as an example of the proper way to retreat while under fire. In the movie, both McCauley and Hanna are former marines.
9. Heat was shot entirely on location. It was filmed in 65 locations in and around Los Angeles.
10. Mann, De Niro, Kilmer, and Tom Sizemore (who plays Michael Cheritto) traveled to Folsom State Prison before filming to interview inmates and research their characters.
11. The character of Nate, played by Jon Voight, is based on real-life criminal Edward Bunker, who died in 2005. Bunker had previously starred in another famous '90s heist film: Reservoir Dogs. He plays Mr. Blue. Voight initially turned the role down, but Mann always wanted to work with him and convinced him to do it. Bunker was also a consultant on the film.
12. In an early draft of the script, Vincent Hanna had a cocaine habit, which explains his bombastic outbursts, according to Pacino.
13. Waingro (played by Kevin Gage) is based on another true life criminal (named Waingro) who turned state's evidence against Chicago mobsters and ended up nailed to a shed in Mexico after he went "missing."
14. Gage was imprisoned himself, for two years, in 2003 and all the other inmates called him "Waingro."
15. Pacino improvised the line: "...Because she's got a GREAT ASS!" Hank Azaria, who shares the scene, was surprised by the reading and his reaction is genuine.
16. Mann has said McCauley's gray suits were designed to help him blend into a crowd and not draw attention to himself.
17. Chicago police officer-turned-actor Dennis Farina was a consultant on the film. He and Mann worked together on Crime Story years earlier.
18. Danny Trejo was hired for the role of "Trejo" in the film, but he also helped as a crime consultant. Both he and Bunker had served time for armed robbery.
19. The scene of McCauley standing against a window and watching the ocean (above) is inspired by the painting Pacific by Alex Colville.
20. Mann opted to use real audio for the robbery shootout as opposed to dubbing in post-production. The live sound design is as real as it gets and the scene has gone down as one of the best of its kind, if not the best.
[Editor's note: This article was originally published December 15, 2015.]
[h/t to IMDb, Wikipedia, and the Heat DVD extras.]