December 3, 2022

It’s been more than twenty-five years since Robert De Niro and Al Pacino’s epic three-hour heist film was released, but Heat remains an icon in its genre. Michael Mann‘s film had no special effects, was shot on 65 locations and brought to cinemas a realism that had never been seen before. It’s no coincidence that critics and audiences still regard it as the best crime thriller of all time. And like all such cult films, this one has its own backstory, this time dating back to an ordinary breakfast.

In the mid-nineties, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino were already iconic stars, yet audiences had never seen them on screen together. Of course, many people will immediately think of The Godfather II, and while it’s true that they both starred in that film, the chronology of the story meant that they never had a single scene together. That is why there was a lot of hype surrounding Heat from the moment it was revealed who would play the lead roles. But how did we get here?

The story goes back to a now-defunct Santa Monica restaurant, the Broadway Deli, where producer Art Linson and director Michael Mann spent a breakfast together to talk over their film project. Not incidentally, this is the same restaurant where McCauley and Eady met in the film.

Mann arranged the meeting to bring Linson on board as co-producer, as he was originally only going to be involved as a producer. “Are you kidding? You have to direct this,” Linson replied to the director’s question. “That’s when we came up with the idea of Robert and Al playing the lead roles. We couldn’t think of a better cast than them. We were sure they had to do it.”

After that, nothing could stand in the way of the producer and director. Mann eventually took the director’s chair, and Robert De Niro and Al Pacino agreed to direct. Do the best ideas come at breakfast? We don’t say that, but in this case everything worked out perfectly, and Facing the Eye has rightly become one of the most defining landmarks in film history and the crime genre.

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