Any concerns about the scarcity of a Q&A panel dedicated to Heat, a film in which men prefer to let their automatic guns talk about their feelings for them, were squashed quickly last night at the glitzy United Palace Theater in Manhattan’s Washington Heights put aside.
The Tribeca Film Festival event dedicated to the 1995 crime classic from Michael Mann – who was unable to attend due to a positive Covid test but took care to capture a video message from the Italian set of his forthcoming Enzo Ferrari film in which he wistfully recalling his initial pitch all those years ago at a Broadway Diner luncheon — kicked off with a raucous standing ovation for the assembled talent: producer Art Linson, as well as stars Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, a couple of guys who couldn’t keep up with one Cup of coffee in New York without applause. From there it only got louder.
Host and Mann-Fan #1 Bilge Ebiri expertly crafted a pre-screening talkback session that threatened at any moment to come apart between the boisterous crowd and the elusive personalities onstage. As befits De Niro’s lips tightened between his terse replies, while Linson and Pacino (beaming in his standard-issue black Thespian scarf) visibly enjoyed the energy they received from an audience more recalcitrant than most . Not 90 seconds went by without some comedian on the balcony shouting a quote from the film, an “I love you!” to one of the two stars, or what young actors today could handle Heat’s leadership Scream of “Harry Styles!” met with hearty boos. Pacino’s response that Timothée Chalamet could take on wacky LAPD Lieutenant Vincent Hanna went viral on Twitter in seconds, adding to the excitement in the room. On two separate occasions, Pacino stated that “these people want to see the movie!” and tried to break off the call, only for Ebiri to point out the little clock, which told her to “about 20 minutes left, Al.”
Perhaps the whole mild mess was for the best, loosening up some rock-solid actors and leading to an open conversation that found some new insights in an exhaustively brooded text. Pacino first learned that Hank Azaria, his co-star in the interrogation that ends with the immortal line “She got a Great ASS,” had no advance notice of where their dialogue was going. “How about this,” Pacino said last night. “I didn’t know I was going to do that!” Pacino showed a genuine affection for the erratic, semi-ruthless Hanna, reflecting that “he did weird things and he really liked it” and that the character “had a little help, too” in saying A coke bump mimed to the delight of the crowd. He dropped a pearl of wisdom about the chaotic, confusing nature of a shootout between cops and robbers, like the recent firefight that crippled much of downtown LA: “Michael told me, privately, I believe that the Los Angeles Police Department was trained as an offense and they weren’t used to playing defense. The big criminals, professionals, always go on the offensive.”
Though reclusive, De Niro was far from checked out, most preoccupied with the opportunity to reminisce with a lifelong friend. Discussing their preparation, including live firearms training, he said dryly, “I robbed a few banks.” The most entertaining tangent of the evening was Pacino’s enthusiasm for The Offer, the Paramount Plus series that fueled the making of The Godfather dramatized. He turned and asked De Niro what he thought, which prompted the actor to say a perfectly timed “Didn’t see that.” Pacino was ebullient and loving as he reflected on the dinner set meeting between Hanna and nemesis Neil McCauley, the first time the two actors had ever shared the screen. “You can do anything with Bob,” he said. “He will hear it and react to it and connect to it. He’s always there, ready.”
Linson put it best when he remarked, “If you read [the script], the characters sound kinda like Bob and Al!” They were the deserved star attraction in a night of male camaraderie, fitting given Heat’s muted macho romance between his dueling leads. Absent member of that cohort, director Michael Mann, got a few more good moments courtesy of his reps; We learned that Mann was eager to shield his cast from the knowledge that there had been a bomb threat at LAX just before they were filmed there, and Linson recalled one agitated man yelling at the studio suit for working too slowly: “If you keep me here longer, it’s going to be even slower.” And perhaps that could also account for the beer hall vibe in the house, a natural side effect of fandom for a tragedy about the impossible breakups between kindred brothers. Last but not least, the atmosphere proved that there is a passionate, personal connection between Heat and his followers. The crowd greeted the stars as if they had all known each other forever. After a lifetime obsessing over the couple’s films, they all just wanted to kick back and chat about the good old days with friends Bob and Al.