Crime Scene Return With Heat 2: Austin author Meg Gardiner and Oscar-nominated filmmaker Michael Mann team up for a literary sequel to the classic heist flick

Meg Gardiner, co-author of Heat 2the prequel novel/sequel to the 1995 classic Heat (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Meg Gardiner has done it all. The Austin novelist practiced law and taught writing. lived in California, Oklahoma and London, England; made a lot of money on Danger! a few decades before he could win again and again, and then his daughter did it over 30 years later. She’s published 14 thrillers, won a handful of awards for them, and is well regarded in her field.

But she never did anything like her last novel.

Co-written with legendary filmmaker Michael Mann, Heat 2 is the literary sequel to the director’s increasingly deified epic crime film, Heat. The 1995 original was a movie Mann had always wanted to make, the story of an unstoppable force (Al Pacino as highly motivated LAPD robber/homicide Detective Vincent Hanna) and an immovable object (a ice-cold Robert De Niro as the equally compulsive career criminal Neil McCauley). Co-starring a row of murderous Mann regulars/A-Team character actors (Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Wes Studi, Tom Sizemore, Diane Venora, Amy Brenneman, Ashley Judd, Mykelti Williamson and Ted” Will you fuck me? I’d fuck me” Levine), many of whom would become cult icons in their own right, Heat has, over time, generated its own gravity field.

Gardiner was well aware of this when she was approached to work on a sequel. “Michael had in mind for a number of years to expand the world of Heat“, Gardiner said. “The film is iconic, but it’s a snapshot of the characters’ lives. A very intense and revealing snapshot, but just a snapshot.”

Spoilers for a nearly 30-year-old movie: Not everyone survives.

Gardiner said Mann had long thought about who these people were, “where they came from, and how he might send them into the future.” Dude was and is a brilliant and accomplished screenwriter, but this is his first novel. They were linked by their joint agent after Mann read his serial killer procedure unsubscribe and I wanted to talk to him about working together. And that, as they say, was that.

Gardiner called the process exhilarating. They worked at their own pace moment by moment, talking on the phone for hours and hours, constantly sending each other plans, notes, ideas and excerpts, exchanging drafts of chapters. She was in Austin; he was in Japan to film his HBO Max series, Deputy Tokyo. The pandemic meant they couldn’t meet in person; they wrote together for a year before ending up in the same room.

Before entering Heat 2, it is important to understand this Heat is.

A generation of (probably, but not always, male) moviegoers can probably remember the first time they saw Heat. It was released on December 15, 1995, just as middle schoolers were heading home for Christmas vacation. Perhaps they were filmmakers who knew Mann from his early films such as Thief and adaptation of the Thomas Harris novel man hunter (the latter would generate a sort of sequence called Thesilenceofthelambs and was eventually remade as Red Dragon). They probably knew about Mann’s work and didn’t know him as the executive producer of miami vice, one of the most iconic American television shows of the 1980s and the one these college kids probably watched as teenagers and college. They definitely knew about his last film before he unleashed a crime wave on LA, the romantic blockbuster The Last of the Mohicanswhose soundtrack was a dorm staple during the Clinton administration.

They probably didn’t know Heat was, above all, a remake of a 1989 feature film pilot, written and directed by Mann, titled Teardown of LA. With a successful capital of MohicansMann revisited the script, rewrote it a bit, changed some names, and created one of the great detective epics.

At the time, Heat was highly regarded but barely broke even domestically, raking in $67 million against a budget of $60 million (it grossed almost twice as much overseas). But over the years, the cult has grown, never leaving the minds of fans, including a mess of directors. Mann is everywhere at Nicolas Winding Refn Conductwhile the opening sequence of Christopher Nolan’s second Batman movie, The black Knight is practically a tribute to the banking profession Heat. (Nolan’s Batman is a pretty Mann-ish guy: work-obsessed, shitty about romance, more of an agent with an expert skill set applied in a specific moral direction than a classic hero). And clearly, Heat never left Mann’s mind either.

Heat is “one of those films where, very quietly over the last 20 years, it’s sort of affirmed itself as this classic”.
–Meg Gardiner

“It’s one of those movies where, very quietly over the last 20 years, it’s sort of affirmed itself as this classic,” Gardiner said. “You watch it for the first time and you’re overwhelmed, almost viscerally overwhelmed. And then you keep watching it over and over again. And every time you do, you discover something new and the action always pops up and the characters reveal themselves with more nuance and subtlety, and it never feels like a second is dragging on.”

They were almost mythical characters and Mann wanted to dig deeper. He brought Gardiner for the ride.

Ever since Gardiner and I spoke, Mann (filming a motorsport biopic Ferrari) made noises in the press about the introduction Heat 2 on the big screen. While that’s certainly its prerogative, there’s something wonderful about making the prequel/sequel a novel rather than a movie. The ties to the movies – not to mention the dreaded “novelization” – have a certain air of being cheap, but they certainly don’t have to be. Mann and Gardiner have produced an excellent thriller that just happens to star characters that some fans will know cold. (However, it is slightly disconcerting to hear Mann refer to the “Heat universe” in interviews like someone might talk about DC or Marvel. Never let it be said that the guy isn’t keeping up with his times.)

In any event, Heat 2 is filling up The Godfather Part II. In 1988, before the events of the movie, Neil’s team is doing some work and we find out exactly why he doesn’t get attached to anything he can’t get out of in 30 seconds flat if he sees heat coming around the corner. street. We also see pre-Los Angeles Chicago detective Vincent Hanna take on a particularly savage home invasion squad. After the film, attention shifts to Chris Shiherlis (Val Kilmer in the original film), having survived the bank robbery in 1995, heading to Central America to regroup and figure out the next step in his career as he discovers Asian crime families at war. vying for a serious prize.

It’s full of the usual Heat tropes (Neil against sheet music, Vincent against whatever he pursues), Mann’s themes (life is short, time is luck, you are your job, the internet is helpful for planning sheet music) and Phrases Mann’s Loons Will Recognize From Other Movies. And Gardiner was tasked with helping bring it to life. “I felt challenged on the best way to win my A game every day,” she said. “I felt a great responsibility to honor these iconic characters and find out what else happened to them before and after in a way that was true to who they were.”

Which is to say, when Michael Mann asks you if you want to write this book with him, you take a deep breath. “That’s a big ask,” Gardiner says. “But I’ve always wanted to write a heist novel and I thought, ‘When will I ever get the chance to write my dream heist novel that’s also something so much more?'”

From the start, Gardiner said they were writing a novel, not a screenplay. “That meant understanding everyone’s point of view and giving their interior monologues a completely different detail from a Mann script.”

And while Gardiner said it was impossible to keep the actors’ voices out of her head as she and Mann swapped chapters, “these performances are so vivid and grounded and nuanced that I could see these people in 3D for that I was writing all the words.” Which was a challenge, because Mann had worked with those actors and created those characters, so Gardiner had to work to understand them as deeply as he did. And if you’re going to work with Mann, a man famous for his work ethic and his immersion in the characters he builds, you’re going to do some research. “I love it,” Gardiner said. “You can just let yourself go where the research suggests and call it writing. I’ve written over a dozen novels, but I’ve never done more research than when I worked with him on this subject. The caption is accurate.”


Heat 2: a novel by Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner, William Morrow, 480 pages, $24.99, will be released August 9.

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