How author Meg Gardiner teamed up with filmmaker Michael Mann on ‘Heat 2’ – Daily Breeze
When writer Meg Gardiner was offered the chance to collaborate with filmmaker Michael Mann on a follow-up novel to his 1995 film “Heat,” the bestselling crime-thriller author said she had no idea. didn’t take a long time to decide.
“I mean, Michael is an icon of mine,” Gardiner said recently by phone from his home in Austin. “I’ve always loved his work, and nothing beats a Michael Mann action movie: ‘Collateral’, ‘Manhunter’, ‘Miami Vice’. I know it’s a legend.
“And when you get the opportunity to work with someone you’ve admired for so long, I took a deep breath and realized that was going to be a big responsibility,” she says. “That we really succeeded and did things well. Which we shot into a book that matched or surpassed the kind of propulsive, action-packed drama you get from a Michael Mann film.
And then there was this.
“As I took that breath, I also thought to myself, I’ve always wanted to write a heist novel,” Gardiner says. “And when will I ever have a greater opportunity than to write a sequel to the greatest heist movie ever made?”
Let’s talk about this movie for a minute. It’s the story of master thief Neil McCauley, played by Robert DeNiro, and relentless LAPD detective Vincent Hanna, played by Al Pacino, who starred onscreen together here for the first time in their careers.
DeNiro’s team, which includes Val Kilmer as Chris Shiherlis, has meticulously planned to rob a bank in downtown Los Angeles, which goes according to plan until, of course, it’s not. not the case. Cops and robbers shoot each other with casualties on both sides.
“Heat 2” begins the same day the film ends. The book, which Mann plans to adapt for the screen, arrives Tuesday, August 9, the same day a new 4K Ultra HD disc of the film is released.
Also that day, the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema Downtown Los Angeles will host a day-long screening of “Heat,” just blocks from where the bank robbery and street shooting were filmed.
For Gardiner, “Heat 2” is the first time she’s collaborated with another writer on a book. The offer came to her from her literary agent Shane Salerno, who also represents Mann, she says.
“Michael wanted to write the sequel/prequel to ‘Heat’ for quite a while, and he wanted to write it as a novel,” she says. “Michael is an extraordinarily accomplished writer in his own right, although all of his work has been in film and television.
“So moving into a different discipline, he wanted to work with someone who had written crime novels before, had written thrillers.”
Mann read Gardiner’s 2017 thriller “Unsub,” the first of three to date in a series about FBI profiler Caitlin Hendrix, and called her about what turned into several hours on the phone.
“He had the concept for the book,” she says of Mann, who is currently working in Italy on “Ferrari,” a biopic of the Italian sports car designer starring Adam Driver and Penelope Cruz. “He wanted to talk to me about how I could see him living on the page with him. And I wanted to understand his ambitions for the novel and how we could work together to achieve them.
They started working in July 2020, limited by the pandemic to phone calls, emails, and notes and drafts sent online.
“He knew he wanted to write it as a prequel and a sequel,” Gardiner said. “Because ‘Heat’ takes place in a very narrow time frame in the characters’ lives, a period of a few weeks. And it wanted to tell the story years back and years to come.
It opens in Los Angeles in 1995 immediately after the movie’s robbery and shooting, but quickly jumps back to 1988 and Chicago where DeNiro, Kilmer and the rest of the team plan an earlier bank robbery, and Pacino is a detective in the Chicago police not yet moved to Los Angeles.
From there, the novel jumps back and forth with long sequences set in Paraguay in South America in the mid-90s, on the Arizona border between the United States and Mexico in 1988, before finally move to Los Angeles and Indonesia in 2000.
Gardiner says she worked hard to capture the personalities and voices of characters who had appeared in “Heat,” and also to match them well with the new characters introduced in “Heat 2.”
“I had to watch ‘Heat’ a few more times, which I love and it’s never a chore,” she says. “It’s always a joy. And I read the script for “Heat,” to see the raw dialogue, the raw way Michael had portrayed these people on the page.
“Then I just had to try,” says Gardiner. “I spoke to Michael a lot to try to make sure I understood who the main characters he already had in mind were, and we worked together to create new characters.”
In July 2021, they were finally able to meet in person in Los Angeles to work together in the same room, she says; from there, the work flowed faster.
“It was really wonderful not having to wait to schedule a phone call, but having to debate and rewrite and toss around some dumb ideas and come up with better ones,” Gardiner said. “Amplify the action and give the characters deeper, more important emotional reasons for doing or not doing something.
“It was intense and profitable.”
Upon completion of the writing, Gardiner felt that she and Mann had both learned something from each other.
“I learned a tremendous amount from him about structure and pacing and about the size and imagination that we could get from writing action sequences or imagining the drama of these characters’ lives,” she says.
“And he had never written a novel,” says Gardiner. “He didn’t have the experience of telling a story in 120,000 words on the written page. Scripts can be very dense and rich, but their word count is nowhere near that.
“So he observed how a novelist sees the way of pacing the story. How would you use a monologue or internal point of view, or when to cut and move on to another scene or time period. Needless to say it is an extremely fast study.
Mann said he intends to adapt “Heat 2” for the screen eventually, likely with an all-new cast given the new book’s storytelling needs.
Gardiner’s upcoming books include a new volume in his “Unsub” series. The most recent, “The Dark Corners of the Night,” was picked up by Amazon for a possible film or TV adaptation.
The author, whose other series include heroes such as lawyer Evan Delaney and forensic psychiatrist Jo Beckett, says she came out of ‘Heat 2’ with a fondness for villains and anti-heroes from the Mann’s world.
“I love all the characters,” she says of Neil McCauley, a thief with a moral code, and Vincent Hanna, a cop who will break the law in search of justice. “Except the villain. There’s a villain, villain, villain in the story, but I sympathize with how he became as villainous as he is.
“Other guys, I mean, we’re talking big criminals here who I absolutely adore,” Gardiner says. “You give them goals that could be illegal. You show that they are outlaws and that they are going to be professional about it.
“They’re creative and smart and they come up against people who are sometimes worse than them, who betray them and try to harm them and their family’s lives,” she says. “By comparison, they seem to be relatively on the side of the people we want to win over.”