Any concerns about terseness during a Q&A panel on Heat, a film in which men prefer to let their automatic rifles speak about their feelings for them, were quickly dismissed in the dazzling theater last night United Palace of Manhattan in Washington Heights.
The Tribeca Film Festival event dedicated to the 1995 crime classic by Michael Mann – who was unable to attend due to a positive Covid test, but took care to record a video message from the Italian set of his upcoming film Enzo Ferrari, recalling nostalgically its initial pitch all those years ago a Broadway Diner lunch – began with a standing ovation for the reunited talent: producer Art Linson, as well as stars Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, a couple of guys unable to have a cup of coffee in New York without a round of applause. Things only got worse from there.
Mann’s No. 1 moderator and fan, Bilge Ebiri, expertly curated a pre-screening chat session that threatened to go off the rails at any moment, between the raucous crowd and the hard-to-corral personalities on stage. True to form, De Niro kept his lips tight between his cut-off responses, while Linson and Pacino (resplendent in his standard black Thespian scarf) visibly relished the energy they received from an audience more unruly than most. There couldn’t be 90 seconds without a comedian on the balcony shouting a quote from the movie, an “I love you!” in the direction of either star, or on the question of which young actors could handle Heat today, a shout of “Harry Styles!” met with warm boos. Pacino’s response that Timothée Chalamet could take on crazed LAPD Lt. Vincent Hanna went viral on Twitter within seconds and further amped up the excitement in the room. Twice Pacino said “those people want to see the movie!” and tried to cut the conversation short, only for Ebiri to point out the small clock causing them to continue “for, like, 20 more minutes, Al”.
Perhaps all the lighthearted heckling was for the best, loosening up some stone actors and leading to candid conversation that found new insights in deep text. Pacino learned for the first time that Hank Azaria, his scene partner in the interrogation that culminates with the immortal line of “She’s got a BIG ASS”, had no advance notice of the direction their dialogue would take. “How about that,” Pacino said last night. “I I didn’t know I was going to do this! Pacino showed genuine affection for the volatile and semi-scrupulous Hanna, reflecting that “he did weird things and really enjoyed it”, and that the character “had a little help too”, mimicking a bump of coke to the delight of the crowd. He dropped a pearl of wisdom on the chaotic and disorienting nature of a cop-and-robber shootout like the final shootout that shut down much of downtown Los Angeles: “Michael said to me, I think in private, that the Los Angeles police were trained as attackers and weren’t used to playing defense. The big criminals, the professionals, always attack each other.
However withdrawn, De Niro was far from verified, most engaged by the opportunity to reminisce with a lifelong friend. Discussing their preparation, including firearms training with live ammunition, he said: “I robbed a few banks.” The most entertaining tangent of the evening saw Pacino talk about his enthusiasm for The Offer, the Paramount Plus series dramatizing the making of The Godfather. He turned around and asked De Niro what he thought of it, signaling the actor with a perfectly timed “I didn’t see it.” Pacino was enthusiastic and affectionate as he reflected on Hanna’s meeting with nemesis Neil McCauley, the first time the two actors shared the screen. “You can do anything with Bob,” he said. “He’s going to hear it, react to it and connect with it. He’s always there, ready.
Linson said it best when he remarked that “if you read [the script], the characters look a bit like Bob and Al! They were the deserving main attraction of a night rich in male camaraderie, which is fitting given Heat’s muted macho romance between its dueling protagonists. The absent member of this cohort, director Michael Mann, still had a few good times thanks to those representing him; we learned that Mann had carefully insulated his cast from the knowledge that there had been a bomb scare at LAX shortly before their filming there, and Linson recalled an agitated Mann telling the suit yelling at him for working too slowly: “If you keep me here any longer, it’s going to go even slower. And maybe that could also explain the brewery vibe in the house, a natural side effect of fandom for a tragedy about the impossible divisions between kindred brothers. If nothing else, the atmosphere proved that there is a passionate and personal connection between Heat and his followers. The crowd greeted the stars as if they all knew each other After a lifetime of obsessing over the couple’s movies, everyone just wanted to kick back and talk about the good old days with their friends Bob and Al.
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