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15 Epic Facts About Heat

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Twenty years ago today, Heat—an almost three-hour-long epic heist film starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino—was released into theaters. Written and directed by Michael Mann, it featured no special effects, was filmed in 65 real locations around L.A. (no soundstages), and approached its material with a kind of realism rarely seen in films before or since, which is one reason why many critics and fans consider it to be one of the greatest crime dramas of all time. Here are 15 burning facts about this seminal movie.

1. IT’S BASED ON A MEETING BETWEEN A REAL-LIFE DETECTIVE AND A BANK ROBBER.

In 1963 a Chicago detective named Chuck Adamson dined in a Chicago coffee shop with convicted bank robber Neil McCauley—the same name as De Niro’s character. As Den of Geek tells it, a year after the fated meeting, Adamson tracked McCauley and his crew to an in-progress supermarket heist. A chase ensued and McCauley was shot on a front lawn. Adamson befriended Michael Mann when they worked together on Thief and Crime Story, but the genesis for Heat came from the idea of two men who are on opposing sides of the law coming together and understanding each other.

2. AMY BRENNEMAN WAS AGAINST TAKING A ROLE IN HEAT—BECAUSE OF THE GUNS.

The actress, who played De Niro’s love interest Eady in the film, almost wasn’t in it. Mann had seen her on NYPD Blue and gave her the script, “which was a lot of boys and guns.” Coming from a liberal background, Brenneman didn’t think the role was right for her. “I said, ‘I don’t want to do men and guns,’” she recalled to the Huffington Post—but Mann still wanted to meet with her. “I said okay, I don’t think of myself doing this movie. At that point I was reading for Ashley Judd’s part. So I came in and Michael Mann said, ‘I hear you don’t like my script.’ He said, ‘Why?,’ and I said, ‘I’m sick of men and guns. I don’t understand why they don’t sit down and talk.’ And Michael said later I’m the one person in that movie, going like, ‘Who are you people?’ He realized at that point I had to play the part."

3. ONCE MANN FIGURED OUT THE ENDING, THE STORY FELL INTO PLACE.

Though he’d written the script for Heat more than a decade before it reached the screen, the original ending troubled Mann. In particular, he couldn’t figure out the best way to resolve the relationship between Hanna and McCauley. “What I came to later was to the perfect equivalence of the connection,” Mann told an audience during a 20th anniversary screening at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. “It occurred to me that Neil was fortunate enough to die in contact with the only other guy on the planet who was really similar, almost like him, and understood him totally. That became the end of a dialectic, which I then reverse-engineered into a lot of previous scenes which preceded it. I could build off that final moment.”

4. THE IDEA TO PAIR DE NIRO AND PACINO CAME DURING A BREAKFAST MEETING.

Producer Art Linson and Mann had breakfast at the now-closed Broadway Deli in Santa Monica, where McCauley and Eady meet in the film. Mann asked Linson if he wanted to co-produce the film with him. “And he said, ‘You’re out of your mind. You’ve got to direct it.’ Then we came up with the idea of Bob and Al. Who were the best people we could imagine for these parts? It was Bob and Al.”

5. THE RESTAURANT WHERE DE NIRO AND PACINO FINALLY MEET CLOSED LAST YEAR.

For nearly 30 years, Kate Mantilini in Beverly Hills was a well-known gathering place for Oscar voters and star-studded movie premiere after-parties. But because of rising rents, the owners decided to close the restaurant last year. The now-iconic scene between McCauley and Hanna was filmed there, and was commemorated when the restaurant hung a blown-up still from the scene on the wall.

6. MANN DOESN’T CONSIDER HEAT TO BE A GENRE FILM.    

Sure, it’s about bank robbers and has two protagonists in opposition to one another and some chase scenes, but as Mann told Deadline, “The most important parts to me were these choruses where you take everybody home.” Mann talks about how the viewer sees Neil McCauley’s home life, and both Hanna’s and Val Kilmer’s conflicted marriages at their respective homes. “Then you go back to the plot drive of the crime story, the police story. And then you’re back again. So the real engine is the people, the characters. It’s not really a genre film.” 

7. XANDER BERKELEY IS THE ONLY ACTOR FROM HEAT WHO ALSO STARRED IN L.A. TAKEDOWN.

Before there was Heat there was L.A. Takedown, a television movie (originally intended as a two-hour series pilot) from which Heat evolved. Xander Berkeley is the only actor to appear in both projects: in L.A. Takedown he played Waingro, and he took the role seriously. In fact, he got so into the psychotic character that he got hives and had to go to the ER. “I just thought, ‘Wow, that’s dark stuff. I think I’ll steer completely clear of that in the future,’” Berkeley told The A.V. Club.

Berkeley knew he’d have to play a similar role when the opportunity to appear in Heat came around, but he’d been offered a part in the Pamela Anderson film Barb Wire and wasn’t available. Kevin Gage played Waingro in Heat, but Mann was able to convince Berkeley to play the smaller role of Ralph, against Pacino. “I felt greatly honored to have been the only one to be a part of both projects,” Berkeley said. 

8. THE HOME WHERE DANNY TREJO DIES IN THE MOVIE HAS A LARGE BLOOD STAIN UNDER THE FLOORBOARDS.

The East L.A. house on stilts where McCauley kills Trejo (Danny Trejo) was featured in Heat: Return to the Scene of the Crime, a DVD featurette. A camera crew visited the family that lives there now, who said they knew it was “The Heat House” when they bought it. In the movie, McCauley shoots Trejo and a pool of blood forms around his dead body. Sure enough, the owners pulled up the carpet and were surprised to find the fake blood stain, which is a rather bright red, not brown like real blood. “A little piece of [the] history of Heat right there under the floorboards,” homeowner Jayme Mazzochi proudly stated.

9. MANN PICKED THE AIRPORT FOR THE CLIMAX BECAUSE IT LOOKED "SURREAL."

The ending takes places in an abandoned field near an airport, outside of the city. “I wanted to find a landscape that was so transient that it started to achieve a surreal effect on you but still maintained the gritty reality of the movie,” Mann told Deadline. “For me, it’s always the couple hundred yards before the runway starts at airports. Most people don’t go there; it’s a place where transients populate. There are towers, those orange and white buildings. I’m just attracted to places like that. The edge of runways, with those blue lights in them for example, they’re quite beautiful at dusk or at night. They’re part of our urban landscape but they have an unusual quality.”

10. DESPITE BEING IN THE SAME FILM, PACINO AND JON VOIGHT HAVE NEVER WORKED TOGETHER.

The actors didn’t share any scenes together in Heat, and somehow throughout their veteran careers they haven’t gotten around to appearing on-screen together. When Maxim asked Voight which actor he most wanted to work with, living or dead, he said Pacino. “I really love Al’s work, and himself, and we’re friends … so that would be something that would be fun for me to do. I like the audacity of his work, and the greatness of his work. I’m very aware of it.”

11. DE NIRO HELPED TOM SIZEMORE GET SOBER.

Tom Sizemore’s personal struggles with drug abuse and domestic violence have been well documented. But after working together on Heat, Sizemore and De Niro became pals, and one night De Niro tried to intervene. De Niro told Sizemore he needed to stop using heroin, and drove him to his private plane in order to get him the help he needed. “It was magical,” Sizemore told The Independent. “I watched this guy in the dark when I was 14 and wondered who he was. And here he is. I’m in his car and he’s driving me to the airport, he’s telling me that the gig is up, he’s telling me I’m a wonderful actor, that he’s not gonna let me die. ‘I love you,’ he told me, 'like you’re my son.' I didn’t wanna go, but I couldn’t say no to him.”

12. VAL KILMER’S GUN-HANDLING SKILLS WERE IMPRESSIVE.

One of Heat’s most iconic moments is the climactic 10-minute shootout scene, which was filmed every Saturday and Sunday in downtown L.A. for six weeks. The actors trained with men from the British Special Air Service (SAS) and at the L.A. County Sheriff’s combat shooting ranges. “We did everything for real,” Mann told Deadline. “[The actors] got so good that the footage of Val Kilmer, firing in two directions and doing a reload without a cut, they used that at Fort Bragg for Special Forces training.”

13. AFTER HEAT CAME OUT, COPYCAT CRIMES OCCURRED ALL OVER THE WORLD.

It’s unclear whether criminals had seen the film and were trying to mimic it, but in Cali, Colombia in 2003, 18 masked robbers drove a bus into an armored van and stole $350,000 in cash, which mirrors a scene in Heat. In 1997, a 44-minute shootout occurred in North Hollywood in which the gunmen, Emil Matasareanu and Larry Eugene Phillips, Jr., robbed a Bank of America wearing heavy body armor and carrying assault rifles. The shootout ended with both gunmen dead— Matasareanu was shot 29 times and wasn’t given any medical attention. It was later revealed that the gunmen had cited Heat as an influence for the robbery.

14. VAL KILMER’S IDEA FOR HEAT 2 ENTAILS ROMANCING NATALIE PORTMAN.

During a 2013 appearance on Larry King’s Hulu show, Kilmer—who played Chris Shiherlis in Heatshared his idea for a potential Heat sequel. “You remember Natalie Portman in it? She’s Pacino’s adopted daughter, so she comes home and says, ‘Daddy, daddy, I want you to meet my fiancé.’ And it’s me. He’s retired and I come to Chicago where he’s retired back to and I’m going to torture him, and then I’m going to kill him.” It's worth noting that Portman was only 14 years old when Heat came out, and Kilmer was 35.

15. HEAT IS ONE OF BEN AFFLECK’S FAVORITE HEIST FILMS.

For The Town, the 2010 bank robbery heist movie that he co-wrote, directed, and starred in, Ben Affleck found inspiration in Heat. “A movie hasn’t been made since that has a deeper feel of authenticity,” Affleck told The Daily Beast of Heat. “It feels so real that bank robbers then copied Heat. And when I was interviewing people in prison they referenced Heat. And when I was interviewing the FBI, they referenced Heat. So, aside from feeling bummed out that I’d always be in the shadow of Heat, I can certainly tell you, for sure, with great authority, that Heat is the one movie that’s cited as the real thing by people who really do that stuff."

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Amergin, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0
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The Bizarre Death of Bridget Cleary, the Irish "Fairy Wife"
The town of Tipperary, Ireland
The town of Tipperary, Ireland
Amergin, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The policemen had been combing the green yards and fields of Ballyvadlea, Ireland, for a week when they finally found Bridget Cleary. The 26-year-old's body had been wedged beneath several inches of clay and a jumble of thorn bushes, but her corpse showed wounds caused by something much worse than branches: Her spine and lower limbs were so badly burned that parts of her skeleton were exposed. She was naked, except for a stocking and one gold earring, and her head was encased in a sack.

The judge would later describe the events leading up to Bridget's death as demonstrating "a degree of darkness in the mind, not just of one person, but of several—a moral darkness, even religious darkness." It was the end of the 19th century, not exactly the Middle Ages, but those involved in the end of Bridget's life had become convinced that she wasn't really herself—and that a supernatural creature had taken her place.

GONE WITH THE FAIRIES

Bridget was the wife of a cooper named Michael Cleary, and the pair were regarded around town as a relatively happy couple. They shared their cottage, in a remote townland near Tipperary, with Bridget's father, Patrick Boland, and had no children. Michael was nine years Bridget's senior and earned a decent salary; she brought in some extra income by working as a seamstress and egg-seller. By all accounts, they were more prosperous than their neighbors, likely thanks to her resourcefulness. As a literate, independent, and fashionably dressed working woman, she was part of an emerging class in a rural society that had long been based in agriculture and the oral tradition.

It was also a society steeped in legends of the supernatural. Fairy belief, in particular, was pervasive in Irish rural societies at the time, and had long coexisted with Christian doctrine. Children grew up hearing legends of the Little People from their earliest days, and learned how to appease them by leaving untasted food on the table, for example, or saying "bless them" whenever the fairies were mentioned. The fairies were blamed for everything that went wrong—lost items, spoiled milk, bad crops. As one County Sligo man interviewed at the start of the 20th century told an anthropologist, "Nothing is more certain than that there are fairies."

Bridget herself was known to be fascinated by the beings, and to take trips to the most fairy-ridden spots around town. She may have visited such a spot on Monday, March 4, 1895, when she went to deliver eggs to her father's cousin, Jack Dunne, near Kylenagranagh Hill. The area was home to a ringfort, an early medieval circular fortified settlement believed, in Irish folklore, to be a "fairy fort," and thus to be avoided at all costs. Yet Bridget often visited the fort, and she likely spent time there that Monday after delivering the eggs.

It was a cold morning, the mountains still covered in the snow that had fallen the previous day, and after the two- or three-mile walk Bridget couldn't seem to warm up once she got back home. She spent the following day in bed, shivering and complaining of "a raging pain in her head."

That Saturday, her father walked four miles in the heavy rain to ask the doctor to call on her. But the doctor wasn't able to visit until the following Wednesday, and by then her husband had also gone to summon him twice. They should have been reassured by the doctor's diagnoses—"nervous excitement and slight bronchitis"—but it wasn't this ailment that worried Michael. He was convinced that the bed-ridden woman in their cottage was "too fine," in his own words, to be his wife, and that she was "two inches taller" than the woman he had known. At some point, Michael had developed the belief that Bridget had been replaced by a fairy changeling as she passed near the fairy fort on Kylenagranagh Hill.

"ARE YOU BRIDGET BOLAND?"

It is likely that this idea was planted in Michael's head by his confidante, Jack Dunne. According to Irish historian Angela Bourke, who has researched the case extensively, the 55-year-old Dunne was a charismatic man rumored to have the power of divination. He was known in the area as a seanchaí, a sort of storyteller well-versed in fairy mythology.

On Wednesday afternoon, after the doctor's visit, a priest visited. He wasn't overly concerned about the illness, but decided to administer the last rites in case it worsened. The ceremony emphasized the fact that Michael could lose his wife, which distressed him even more. He talked to Dunne, who urged him to act immediately, or the "real" Bridget would be lost forever. "It is not your wife is there [sic]," the older man reminded him. "This is the eighth day, and you had a right to have gone to Ganey"—the local "fairy doctor"—"on the fifth day."

The cooper duly visited Ganey following morning. He came back with a mixture of herbs that needed to be boiled in "new milk," the nutrient-rich first milk produced by a cow after calving.

That night, Michael forced the bitter concoction down Bridget’s throat while Dunne and three male cousins pinned her down in bed. Relatives outside the house heard someone—likely Michael—shouting, "Take it, you witch, or I'll kill you!" The men threw urine at her and shook her, yelling, "Away with you; come home Bridget Boland, in the name of God!" Other relatives and neighbors came and went, witnessing her ordeal and hearing her screams, but were too scared to intervene. Michael asked his wife to answer her name three times: "Are you Bridget Boland, wife of Michael Cleary, in the name of God?" The men then brought her to the fireplace and held her over the grate—ordeals by fire were known to drive out the fairies—while they repeated the questioning.

By midnight Thursday night, the ritual seemed to be completed. Bridget was "wild and deranged," according to her cousin Johanna, but her husband seemed satisfied, and her relatives thought there had been some sort of catharsis. The following morning, at Michael's request, the priest said mass in Bridget's bedroom in order to banish the "evil spirits" that were left in the house.

"IT IS NOT BRIDGET I AM BURNING."

An image of fairies from fairies from "The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley"
Fairies from "The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley"
British Library, Europeana // Public Domain

On Friday, March 15, for the first time in 11 days, Bridget got out of bed and dressed in her usual, fashionable clothes "to give her courage when she would go among the people," as Johanna later told the magistrates. Several family members had joined them in their cottage for tea later in the day when an argument erupted. Bridget had asked for some milk, which had rekindled Michael’s suspicions; fairies are known in folklore to yearn for fresh milk.

Bridget was probably exhausted, and she didn't want to be questioned any more. "Your mother used to go with the fairies and that is why you think I am going with them," she told her husband. Michael was furious. He demanded that she eat three pieces of bread and jam—perhaps to reinforce his control over her—asking her to say her name again. She answered twice and ate two of the three pieces, but when she hesitated for a moment with the third, her husband flung her on the ground and threatened her: "If you won't take it, down you will go."

Michael jabbed his knee into her chest, forcing the bread and jam down Bridget's throat. He began tearing off her clothes, leaving only her chemise, then grabbed a hot stick from the fire and held it close to her mouth. He struck her head against the floor, then set her chemise alight. Within a few minutes, he had also poured paraffin lamp oil over her, encouraging the flames.

As her body was burning, Michael said in front of shocked relatives: "She's not my wife. She's an old deceiver sent in place of my wife." Relatives yelled at Michael to put out the flames, but Bridget "blazed up all in a minute," according to their later testimony. They huddled in fear in a nearby bedroom, the flames soon barricading their way.

Once the flames had died down, Michael wrapped her body in a sheet and shoved it in an old bag. Then he left the house, locking Bridget's relatives inside with the corpse. They waited for about an hour, praying. When Michael returned, he was wielding a knife and threatened to kill Bridget's cousin Patrick Kennedy if he didn't help him bury Bridget's body. "Come on out here now," he shouted. "I have the hole nearly made." The two men carried the body to a boggy area about a quarter-mile uphill from the cottage, and buried it in a shallow hole. Back in the cottage, Michael made the rest of the family swear they wouldn't tell the authorities.

ON A WHITE HORSE

The following morning, an agitated Michael arrived at Drangan church with Dunne. Dunne wanted Michael to speak to a priest, but when the priest saw him kneeling in front of the altar—weeping, tearing his hair, and asking to go to confession—he thought he wasn't fit to receive the sacrament. He spoke to Dunne instead, who hadn't been at the cottage at the time of Bridget's death, but told the priest that Michael had claimed to have burned his wife the previous night. "I've been asking them all morning to take her up and give her a Christian burial," Dunne added. Bewildered, thinking them both insane, the church minister reported their conversation to a police sergeant.

For the next few days, the police searched for Bridget and questioned her friends and relatives. Even though Michael spoke about emigrating or committing suicide to escape the law, he still hoped his "real wife" would come back: For three consecutive nights starting the day after visiting the priest, he waited at the ringfort on Kylenagranagh Hill, where he believed she would appear, galloping on a white horse. He said he would only have to cut the ropes that bound her to the animal so she would be his forever.

On Wednesday, March 20, the Royal Irish Constables issued arrest warrants for eight people from Bridget's circle, as well as Denis Ganey, the "fairy doctor." Two days later, police found Bridget's body. The prisoners were brought before the magistrates on March 25, ushered in by the angry screams of a crowd who had learned of the case through extensive press coverage. On July 5, 1895, after a two-day trial, Michael was found guilty of manslaughter and imprisoned, along with Jack Dunne, Patrick Boland, and four of Bridget’s cousins, including Patrick Kennedy. The judge ruled out a verdict of murder, explaining they all had acted out of genuine belief.

Michael was released in 1910, after which he boarded ship for Montreal. Dunne served a three-year prison sentence before returning to the area, where he kept working as a laborer. "God knows I would never do it but for Jack Dunne," Michael had reportedly said not long after burning Bridget. "It was he who told me my wife was a fairy."

ILLNESS—OR INFIDELITY?

During her illness, Bridget was visited by her aunt, Mary Kennedy, and told her, "He [Michael]'s making a fairy of me now. He thought to burn me about three months ago." Her words suggest this wasn't the first crisis of its kind.

Although we can only speculate about the couple's disagreements, there were rumors in Ballyvadlea that Bridget had a lover. Contemporary newspapers reported Michael saying his wife "used to be meeting an egg-man on the low road" [sic], but the rumors pointed to young caretaker William Simpson, who had visited the Clearys' cottage with his wife the night before Bridget’s death. In his court testimony, Simpson explained he had arrived as the four men were restraining Bridget, and he had asked them to leave her alone.

Although Michael and the other people involved in the killing were never formally psychiatrically assessed, a 2006 article from the Irish Journal of Medical Science suggested that Michael may have been suffering from a psychotic state known as Capgras syndrome, which involves the belief that a person has been replaced by an impostor. The authors suggest Michael "may have developed a brief psychotic episode" as he struggled to deal with his wife's illness, sleep deprivation, and the recent death of his father—news of which had reached him in the middle of his attempted "cure" on Thursday night. In Capgras syndrome, the socio-cultural context of the sufferer determines the nature of the impostor, which can be another person or even a supernatural being, such as an alien or a fairy changeling.

In her discussion of the supernatural beliefs related to the case, Bourke notes that the message of fairy legends is that "the unexpected may be guarded against by careful observance of society's rules." Bridget Cleary was ambitious, independent, and childless; a modern woman. She didn't conform to the patriarchal norm, which may have made her appear, to some in her life, as closer to the fairy realm than to their own.

Even today in Tipperary, her story hasn't been entirely forgotten. The local children have a nursery rhyme that runs: "Are you a witch or are you a fairy, / Or are you the wife of Michael Cleary?"

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Queen Anne of Brittany's Heart Stolen From French Museum
Guillaume Souvant, AFP/Getty Images
Guillaume Souvant, AFP/Getty Images

Bringing new meaning to the idea of stealing someone's heart, thieves in France made off with a 16th-century gold relic containing the once-beating organ of Anne of Brittany, the only woman to ever have been twice crowned the queen of France.

Over the weekend, burglars smashed a window of the Thomas-Dobrée museum in Nantes and lifted the six-inch case from its display, The Telegraph reports.

Anne was crowned queen when she was just 12 years old after marrying Charles VIII of France in 1491. After his death in 1498, she married Louis XII and once again ascended the throne, where she stayed until her death at age 36. Although her body was buried at the Basilica of Saint Denis, she requested that her heart be kept alongside her parents’ tomb in Brittany.

“The thieves attacked our common heritage and stole an item of inestimable value," Philippe Grosvalet, president of the Loire-Atlantique department, which owns the museum, told The Telegraph. "Much more than a symbol, the case containing the heart of Anne of Brittany belongs to our history.”

The gold relic was saved from being melted down after the French Revolution, and it has been kept safe at the Thomas-Dobrée museum for more than 130 years. The case contains an inscription in old French, which translates to: “In this small vessel of pure, fine gold rests the greatest heart of any woman in the world.”

This practice of burying the heart apart from the rest of the body was not entirely uncommon among European aristocrats in the Middle Ages. The hearts of both Richard I and Anne Boleyn were kept in lead boxes, and the hearts of 22 former popes are stored in marble urns at Rome's Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio a Trevi church.

It's also far from the only instance of relic theft. In a slightly more bizarre case, fragments of the brain of John Bosco, a 19th century Roman Catholic priest, were contained in a reliquary at his basilica in Castelnuovo, central Italy, until they were snatched by a thief in 2017. The reliquary was ultimately recovered by police from the suspect’s kitchen cupboard.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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