The Big Picture

  • Michael Mann debunks a popular fan theory about a coffee shop scene in his film, Heat.
  • It was rumored that Al Pacino and Robert De Niro weren't actually in the same place at the same time.
  • Mann explains that the scene was filmed with three cameras, but he chose to only use the two overshots in order to keep the audience immersed and engaged in the conversation between the two characters.

For those of us on the outside looking in, a film’s production process is a thing of wonder that relies on a multitude of moving parts to lock in for the final product. While we all feel that indescribable feeling when the lights dim, and we see the movie play on the big screen, there are also plenty of fandoms dedicated to those behind-the-scenes moments - specifically mysteries with answers known only to the director and creative team. Michael Mann’s Heat has long been a beloved title among the filmmaker’s sprawling following. Starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro as a cop and criminal, respectively, caught up in a game of cat and mouse, the movie falls under the category of an absolute must-watch action flick. But, one scene has kept audiences talking for nearly three decades.

The scene in question sees the characters sitting down for a cordial conversation at a coffee shop. Over the years, fans have pointed out that it appears as though De Niro and Pacino weren’t really talking to one another but that the person on the listening end was created by a touch of movie magic. Chatting with Collider’s Steve Weintraub while promoting his upcoming film, Ferrari, Mann debunked the fan theory and explained exactly what went down.

Admitting that while he was there to talk about all things Ferrari but had also been fielding a handful of questions about Heat, Mann said, “I’ve been asked a whole bunch of questions about Heat and the coffee shop scene, which, by the way, is an event that really occurred in real life. When Al [Pacino] and Bob [De Niro] were facing each other, for some reason there was some rumor that they weren’t actually there at the same time. I don’t know why everybody thought that.”

Explaining why the scene may have looked off to some, Mann continued,

“What it was, there’s actually three cameras and what you’re wearing on your chest is what the third camera was shooting, which is the profile two-shot, but I never used it because every time I went to that shot it removed us and made us observers of the two men instead of being empathetically, subjectively inside that dialogue. So, I always only use the two overs because everything we did was simultaneous. I had two cameras set up just out of reach, just out of sight of each other, shooting that scene."

And just like that, one of the biggest questions keeping Heat fans and theorists awake at night was answered.

Michael Mann’s Drive To Engage Audiences

For Mann, one of his biggest goals in filmmaking - if not the biggest - is to ensure that the audience is properly engaged in all aspects of the storyline and characters. In a recently dropped Ferrari featurette, the Collateral helmer spoke about how much he hated being “an observer” when watching a movie. With this in mind, his comments about really digging into the conversation between De Niro and Pacino’s characters come full circle, better explaining why he chose to shoot the coffee shop scene the way he did.

Luckily for those who loved every second of Heat, Heat 2 is officially on the way with Ferrari star Adam Driver rumored to be in the driver's seat. You can check out the trailer for Ferrari below and watch it when it zooms into theaters on December 25. Read up on everything there is to know about Mann's latest project here.

Ferrari Film Poster

Set in the summer of 1957, with Enzo Ferrari's auto empire in crisis, the ex-racer turned entrepreneur pushes himself and his drivers to the edge as they launch into the Mille Miglia, a treacherous 1,000-mile race across Italy.

Release Date
December 25, 2023
Michael Mann
130 minutes
Main Genre
Biography , Drama , History
Troy Kennedy Martin , Brock Yates

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