Ever since Michael Mann became one of the first A-list directors to embrace digital filmmaking with 2004’s “Collateral,” he’s left film behind, shooting all of his subsequent features using digital capture rather than celluloid. That might change, however; as Mann told a sold-out crowd at the American Cinematheque on January 5, he’s considering a return to film — and it will be for a sequel to his most beloved movie.
Following the Cinematheque’s screening of “Heat,” which kicked off the organization’s ongoing Michael Mann retrospective, Mann participated in a Q&A in which an audience member asked if he would ever shoot on film again. “My next film is going to be ‘Heat 2,’” Mann responded. “And I’m considering shooting that on film.” The director explained that although he has shot five films in a row on digital, he’s agnostic when it comes to formats. “I have no prejudice either way. The only orientation I have is that if you’re going to shoot video, treat it like a new medium and shoot to exploit what the new technology can do.”
Mann went on to elaborate that for “Collateral,” he wanted to lean into the unique look digital could give to his night exteriors. “If I’m using high-def, it’s not to make it look like film,” he said, adding that he utilized digital technology for a different reason on “Public Enemies.” “I didn’t want ‘Public Enemies’ to have a nostalgic view of the ’30s. I wanted to put you in the 1930s, not have you observe the 1930s. I felt that with film, it would be very beautiful, but you wouldn’t really be in the reality of 1933.”
In addition to teasing details about “Heat 2,” which he said would begin right where “Heat” left off, with the Chris Sheherlis character played by Val Kilmer in the original trying to get out of Los Angeles, Mann shared many fascinating tidbits about the evolution of “Heat” — including the fact that he almost didn’t direct what came to be his most iconic film. “In the writing, I never got to a point where there was a gratifying ending,” Mann said. “So I asked my friend Walter Hill to direct it. He said, ‘You’re crazy,’ and I took a look at it again, and that’s when I devised the existing ending and reverse-engineered the movie from that and rewrote it.”
The American Cinematheque’s Michael Mann retrospective continues through January 14.