On the surface, Michael Mann doesn’t have much to promote these days, but the Brooklyn Academy Of Music’s retrospective “Heat & Vice: The Films of Michael Mann” has facilitated lots of change for the legendary filmmaker. First off, he’s recut his hacker thriller, “Blackhat” on his own — it’s unclear if it’ll get a proper release — and he’s supervised the prints of every film playing at BAM. In fact, for “Collateral,” his 2004 thriller starring Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx that was mostly shot digitally, Mann supervised the first DCP “print” of the movie, which he described as far superior to the theatrical prints struck at the time that did not reflect the nuance of how the digital photography captured light and texture at night. And that version will be shown for the first time (and only time?) tomorrow night (February 16th).
Mann, also sat down for a lengthy conversation at BAM, independent of his film screenings, which we recapped here, but during this brief promotional tour for his retrospective, Mann also stopped by the Happy Sad Confused podcast.
The conversation started with “Blackhat,” and the host asked, was this the director’s cut? “No, because the director's cut is the last [version],” Mann laughed. But it turns out he just wasn’t fully satisfied with what hit theaters.
“I wasn’t 100% happy with it,” Mann admitted of the original cut. “It was a challenging film to do because the ambition of the film was to an event driven narrative and develop characters within scenes, but have a very rapid narrative with rhythms imitative of how fast our world moves today in the digital information age. So this is why I intentionally had a rapidly driving plotline. But the engine of that was cyber tech so you had to track with the search for the code… which leads you on and on and on through various hacking techniques. So in moving some of the big pieces of story around I may have obfuscated [the audience] tracking the events of the basic plot.”
Mann said he put things back how they “originally” were, suggesting that in his pre-release cut, the soy hack was in front of the nuclear hack and thus this new version is what he originally intended, but he either second-guessed or overworked the theatrical edit.
It’s also not the first time he’s done this. While he suggested that “Heat” and “The Insider” are perfect in his mind, he made significant changes to “Last Of The Mohicans” when it was released on Blu-Ray. “That [film] had a lot of changes. Like ‘Blackhat,’ I brought it back to the original concept,” Mann explained. “It doesn’t have the end speech by Chingachgook [Russell Means] and relies on the audience to get the sense of the last of the Mohicans, an annihilation of a people. And a lot of it is tightened. A lot of excess was taken out.”
Finally, Mann mentions never taking on big super hero or franchise projects because of his dislike for green screen. And yet the filmmaker does mention briefly a sci-fi project that interests him. “[Green screen] has kept me away from [those kinds of films,],” he said. “But there’s a science fiction thing I wanted to do, so I may find myself in exactly that situation, although now with he way LEDs are used, it’s not as brutal.” Asked about details, Mann would only say, “We’ll see. It’s in the distant future for sure.”
As for the Enzo Ferrari movie that he’s recasting (Christian Bale dropped out recently), it’s definitely not a cradle to grave biopic. “It’s the exact opposite [of a biopic]. It’s a very narrow slice of one year in his life, so it’s really an opera, a family drama,” Mann explained. “[Ferrari] literally had two house holds functioning simultaneously. He lived in town that he had two opera companies, two football teams and two race car manufacturers. And they all knew each other and cut each other up with a strafing wit. And everything was always in crisis and it got worse in 1957.” Note, Mann says he's in talks with a new actor to take the part, but wouldn't reveal who that is at the moment.
At the end of the conversation, Mann is asked what films he could potentially revisit and he mentions prequels for "Heat," 'Mohicans' and another take on the protagonist of "Public Enemies," but it's all more in the realm of "if you had all the time in the world" rather than a reality.
As is often the case with Mann, it’s a fascinating conversation and you can listen to it in its entirety below.