For nearly three decades, Michael Mann’s Heat has stood tall as a celebrated crime epic – a three-hour cat-and-mouse behemoth boasting astonishing performances from Al Pacino and Robert De Niro as cop Vincent Hanna and criminal Neil McCauley, respectively. Now, all these years later, Mann is back with a direct follow-up – it’s even called Heat 2. It just might not be in the format you expect. Later this summer, his sequel will be published as a novel, taking place both after and before the film in a Godfather Part II sequel-prequel structure, largely focusing on Hanna and Chris Shiherlis (the character played in the film by Val Kilmer). But while Heat 2 is arriving as a book first, Mann tells Empire that he very much intends to make it for the big screen too.
“It’s totally planned to be a movie,” Mann says in a major new interview in the upcoming Avatar: The Way Of Water issue. He’s aware that a cinematic version would be one hell of an undertaking – and though he ventured into serialised territory with this year’s Tokyo Vice series, he doesn’t see Heat 2 as a small-screen proposition. “Is it a modest movie? No. Is it a very expensive series? No,” he says. “It’s going to be one large movie.”
There are just a few sticking points. For one, De Niro and Kilmer wouldn’t be able to reprise their roles (“I love those guys, but they’d have to be six years younger than they were in Heat”). Plus, it would have to be able to succeed in the current Hollywood landscape. But Mann is confident in the staying power of the 1995 original. “It’s sustained in culture,” he reasons. “It’s known. I could delude myself into thinking that the whole world is familiar with it, but when you check out its prominence in home vid for over 20 years, this thing really has legs. People are still watching it, people are still talking about it. It’s a brand. It’s kind of a Heat universe, in a way. And that certainly justifies a very large ambitious movie.”
For now, though, fans can get stuck in on the page this August. “The ability to which you can deep-dive into the internal world is fascinating, and you can do that best in a novel,” Mann says, explaining the book-first approach. “I try to evoke that experience in the films I make, to locate the audience within the internal world of a character. The novel form allows me an even greater arena.” Stay tuned to see if the film version picks up some, well, heat in the coming years.
Read Empire’s full Michael Mann interview in the Avatar: The Way Of Water issue, on sale Thursday 7 July and available to order online here. Mann’s Heat 2 novel – co-written with Meg Gardiner – is published on 18 August.