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60 Minutes veteran Mike Wallace loathed Michael Mann‘s account of how the news magazine squashed one of its most explosive stories, about wrongdoing in the tobacco industry, as Mann presented the events in 1999’s The Insider. “It really upset him,” he said of the 1999 exposé that earned seven Oscar nominations and severely damaged Wallace’s once-towering reputation. “He detested the film.” He added, “I know it injured Wallace, and I feel bad that it injured him.”
Speaking to students at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles on Sept. 17, Mann described several phone conversations with Wallace, and said at one point he even asked if he could tape-record them. “I said, ‘Mike, do you mind if I record this?’ ” Mann recalled. “And he said, ‘Why?’ And I said, ‘Because I want to put this right into the movie.’ ” Wallace replied, “Turn on your tape recorder, dear boy.”
Mann was a guest in the second season of The Hollywood Masters, the interview series moderated by THR‘s executive features editor Stephen Galloway. The series of 90-minute interviews, to be televised later, will also feature James L. Brooks (Oct. 1), Charles Roven (Oct. 8), Billy Bob Thornton (Oct. 15), Hans Zimmer (Oct. 29), the Farrelly brothers (Nov. 5) and Hilary Swank (Nov. 12).
The filmmaker discussed in detail his upcoming movie Blackhat, about cyber hacking, on which he has been working for 2½ years, and said he had met with several hackers — including ones who had been imprisoned. “The U.S. is involved in foreign espionage as aggressively and avidly as they can,” he said, though he added that he believes the American government has not played any part in commercial espionage.
“All of our trade secrets, our commerce, our defense contractors, our businesses, our accounts, our banks, are subject, are vulnerable to invasion,” said Mann. “I really believe I was doing the kind of research that maybe anthropologists do, where if they’re going to write about a tribe in the Nilotic Sudan, they go live with a tribe in the Nilotic Sudan for a year.
Has Mann himself been hacked? “Probably,” he said.
He also revealed that he had kept up a lengthy correspondence with a serial killer, Dennis Wayne Wallace (no relation to Mike), when he was researching his movie Manhunter. “He corresponded with me for quite a while,” said Mann. “He would write me ‘psych-type poetry,’ as he called it, ‘Jim Morrison psych-type poetry.’ ”
He added, “He used to ride around in a hearse with a hard hat with a decal on it from Mad magazine that said, ‘Support mental illness or I’ll kill you.’ A very dark sense of humor.”
The full transcript of Mann’s interview is below.
Stephen Galloway: Welcome to the second season of The Hollywood Masters, filmed live at the campus of Loyola Marymount University. We really have one of the great American filmmakers here today. You all know his work: Collateral, Heat, Thief, The Insider, Ali. It’s an incredibly impressive body of work from someone who’s a producer, a writer, a director. But he’s also been a major figure in television. Miami Vice absolutely changed the nature of what television drama could do. And that’s what really stamped his reputation. It’s incredible that he has managed to have a career at the top of the industry doing great work for more than three decades. I’m absolutely delighted to welcome truly a Hollywood Master, Michael Mann. [Applause.]
Michael Mann: Hell of an introduction.
Galloway: Let’s talk about your upbringing. You grew up in Chicago, a long way from Hollywood.
Mann: Yeah. I grew up in an inner-city neighborhood, kind of working class, low-middle-class neighborhood. I come from a family of very modest means. I’m even more aware now, I think, of the drama in my parents’ lives than I was then, in the sense of better understanding what it meant to live through the Depression and the Second World War, and my father [was] a combat veteran in Europe. And what the ’50s meant, because I first became conscious of being intensely bored with Chicago. You know, as everybody does when you’re 11 or 12, what the ’50s meant — 1955, ’56, ’57. It may have been torture for me, but for them [it was] probably the first peaceful period after 20 years of extreme hardship. The city had decayed, starting with the Great Depression of ’29 and then the war. And Chicago didn’t really start rebuilding again until the ’50s. So the idea of barbecues and a sedate life after what they’d been through was quite something for them. For me, I just had to get out of the city that was flat. And all the streets were, you know, at right angles to each other.
Galloway: You had quite a lot of experience doing blue-collar work before you became a student.
Mann: I was everything from a taxi cab driver to a short order cook when I was 19 to a janitor in the summers for the Chicago Flat Janitors Union while the janitors took their vacation for three weeks. They’d hire some kid like me to carry the garbage then. There’s a film that came out in 1956 called Blackboard Jungle. And I think that scared everybody of my parents’ generation that their kids were going to look like Elvis Presley and run around and join gangs. So my father’s plan [was] that I work. So I worked part-time after school and on weekends and then during summers. When I went to university, I found myself being one of very few people who had any experience on the street, and who had any understanding of what life was on the West Side of Chicago for construction workers, or tenements or anything, or itinerant groups of fast food chefs who were mostly Scotch-Irish, Appalachian, and how they moved around. I mean, there were so many interesting encounters. But also the kind of relationships that these cooks would have with the waitresses, particularly where some were attracted to them. Kind of a sexual exchange transaction. There were so many dynamics. I found myself in a population of students who, for the most part, were unexposed and uninitiated to anything to do with even the smattering of real life that I had experienced in small ways as an 18- or 19-year-old.
Galloway: You went to University of Wisconsin. Why?
Mann: It wasn’t flat. [Laughter.] I’ve gotten over my fear of flat places, but it was beautiful. It was a campus that was about 40,000 students. Probably 30,000 were in liberal arts programs, mostly from Chicago and New York. And it had a world-famous history department at that point. I became an English lit major. And a Psych major. And then a history major. Then back to an English lit major. So I basically didn’t know what I wanted to do. But it was a very exciting campus. And it was a time in the early ’60s when things were starting to get very political, ’62, ’63, ’64.
Galloway: Political in what way?
Mann: Oh political as in left politics against the war in Vietnam. The big Civil Rights struggle. S.D.S. was started. That later became Weathermen, was started in Wisconsin and Michigan. Stokely Carmichael, S.N.C.C., that period.
Galloway: Were you involved with any political activities?
Mann: Yeah. Yeah, the Civil Rights marches in Cicero, Illinois. Demonstrations in Wisconsin. I was talking with Mario Savio and the Free Speech Movement. Berkeley, Wisconsin, Columbia. They were probably three of the more politically active campuses.
Galloway: Did you ever think of going into politics?
Mann: No. No.
Galloway: And what did you think of doing then?
Mann: I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was tortured by it ’cause I thought I ought to have a real focus on what I want to do. And I tried things on and none of them really fit. And I took the first film history course at the University of Wisconsin. I probably told myself I was attracted to it more than I thought I was, but mostly we were going to look at interesting movies for three credits. So I kind of was there like a shot. It was taught by a guy named Byrne, who was just fantastic. One of those really rare teachers who are passionate and make something really come alive. And I was just taken with it immediately. We looked at everything starting with, you know, Eisenstein and Pudovkin and Pabst; and German Expressionism influenced me particularly. And then the second semester, they had a course in Film Theory. And pre-semiology, you could cover all of written film theory in one semester. [Laughter.] There wasn’t that much of it then. I remember clearly, it’s probably only one of two times it happened to me in my life. I was walking down Bascom Hill. It was about 10 degrees below zero, one of these Midwestern, clear nights where all the stars were out. And the air was dry, about 10:30 p.m. I was halfway down the hill. And it just occurred to me, “You’re going to make films. This is what you want to do.” It just kind of hit me. This is what you’re doing. It was just such a total being overcome by a powerful, powerful realization and an emotion and there was not even a question. So by the time I got to the bottom of the hill, it was done. This is what I was going to do with my life. And I consider myself extremely fortunate that that happened, because I am suited for it, neurochemically, neurological, you know, culturally inherited dynamics. I found myself at my age now having had a life that I absolutely was suited for.
Galloway: Why were you suited for it?
Mann: I always had an ambition to have something adventuresome and to have an adventure to move into. I’m curious about how life really is for somebody and some situation and the more removed it is from my own, in some ways that makes it more fascinating. I don’t like being in one place for very long. There’s a certain cycle in making films where you’re by yourself and you’re writing and just when you’re tired of being by yourself and writing, you maybe if you’re lucky enough you’re in preproduction. And then that grows into something logistical and very large. And it’s 150 people who are helping you execute your vision and in, uh, in the best circumstances, there’s a tremendous rapport and solidarity with people who are working with you to try and realize a set. Or wrangle the logistics for shooting in an incredibly difficult place to shoot. What comes to mind is Mozambique, where we shot Ali. And then I get to be by myself with what I shot with very few people in an editing room. And when I get sick and tired of being in the editing room, this movie’s done and this whole cycle starts all over again. But aside from the logistics, I pre-visualize. I dream. I kind of push my imagination. And so I see things, I’ll hear a fragment of conversation, I’ll imagine somebody’s character. It’s involuntary. I can’t really control it. My wife, I’ve been with for 40 years, will see me look at somebody in a restaurant and I’m doing character analysis, imagining what they were like when they were 11. Why are they the way they are? Why are they holding the glass of water that way? Is this something I want to use and build into a character?
Galloway: Do you consciously dream? Do you lock yourself away in a room to think? Are you more introverted or extroverted like that?
Mann: I think extroverted. I mean, it comes from life. If you track the geology of an idea that may become a motion picture, what sparked it was something that took you over emotionally — it’s rarely logical. In one instance, it was a image I had of American Indians with very strange haircuts, in conjunction with European military people, the 18th century, in uniforms. I was used to Westerns and there were a plethora of Westerns in the 1950s. So why were these people who had seemed to be coming out of an opera with people who were Iroquois? And I remembered something about a very poignant kind of a corollary tragedy, something tragic that happened with a young girl. So this is a memory I’ve had from when I was 4 or 5 years old. And I couldn’t really put the two together. Until I didn’t know what I wanted to do in 1990 or ’91. And realized that literally every single week in my entire life I had been thinking about Last of the Mohicans. I saw it when I was three and it was just rattling around in there. And then the film is not about that. It was just that particular anomaly I found interesting. And then I came to discover the formalities of the uniforms, European uniforms were quite specific. The fashion design changed every year or two. It was a function of how you bowed. The style of bowing altered. And that caused people to change the [costume]. I got into it all, when you get into the kind of detail when you’re making a film. The wardrobe design, costume design. And that kind of led me to Last of the Mohicans. And Joe Roth at 20th Century Fox [said], “it’s a great idea, let’s go do it. And we did it.
Galloway: Before that, you went to film school, but you didn’t go to film school in America.
Galloway: You didn’t come to LMU, why not? [Laughter.] What the hell is wrong with you, Michael Mann?
Mann: You guys have no idea how easy you have it. Boston University had a film program — it was two Bolexes, that was it. And maybe a film school had a couple of Arri’s, beaten up old Arri’s. And there was obviously no Internet, so you couldn’t really find out about anything. You just had to go to the library and get, you know, a book. [Laughs.] And a syllabus and catalog for a school and try to extrapolate from that. What’s the experience going to be like? If I commit myself to this thing, what’s it going to be? So there was UCLA, USC, NYU, and Boston University and that was about it. Those were the only schools offering film programs in ’64, ’65. Except the European schools, IDHEC [now Le Femis] was very difficult in France. The Prague school was quite famous at the time. They had a Latin and Greek requirement to get in. And it was all done at the graduate level. And London Film School had exactly what I was looking for. It was a two-year program. It had about everything to do with how sound and pictures get on film. And they were associated with the BFI.
Galloway: British Film Institute.
Mann: British Film Institute. So all the history and the film theory programs came from there. And I found myself in a walk-up on Charlotte Street, north of Oxford Street.
Galloway: That’s not a bad place to be in London.
Mann: Well, it was pretty rundown then. I was broke. And it was a bad place to be.
Galloway: You were living on about five pounds a week or something?
Mann: Ten. I had five pounds for rent. Five pounds …
Galloway: This is nothing; this is 50 dollars.
Mann: Five pounds for food. And about a third of the other students were Americans. A lot of them were staying out of Vietnam, as was I. There was a large, significant population of South Africans who couldn’t go back to South Africa because of Apartheid. If they went back, they were arrested whether they were white or they were black. There were Portuguese who were evading the Portuguese draft because in 1964, ’65, Angola, the struggle in Angola for liberation, as large a war as Vietnam. The Cultural Revolution hit about a week after I got there.
Galloway: But you spent some time in Paris in 1968 when there were student revolts and you went there and filmed that.
Mann: Everything was happening in ’68. Five hundred students were gunned down in Mexico City. The Democratic Convention in the U.S. March at the Pentagon. In France, what started as a small dispute turned into a very large demonstration and resulted in contradictions and a student walkout. They were joined by young workers and led to a 40 percent general strike. Meaning 40 percent of the population of France wasn’t going to work anymore. And they had taken over television — only two television stations. So if you turned on ORTF for the 6:00 p.m. news, there was a girl without her shirt on sitting on the desk doing the news. [Laughter.] So it was a crisis for de Gaulle, because he was, um, basically a prisoner in the Elysee Palace.
Galloway: French President.
Mann: Yeah. And you couldn’t rely on the French Army that was in France, because they would show up in their armored personnel carriers and some girls with flowers would throw the flowers at them. They’d abandon the armored personnel carriers and wander off. The cops wouldn’t beat up students, because young workers were with the students. So de Gaulle made a deal with the French Army in Germany — Germany was still occupied, there was a French section, a British section, an American section — that they would come march into France. The general in the French Army in the Rhine agreed to do it only if de Gaulle released [Raoul] Salan and some other general, some other military figures, who had started a revolt against de Gaulle from the right. They were part of the O.A.S. They were against Algerian liberation, the decolonization of Algeria. And had a plan to assassinate de Gaulle, which is what the movie Day of the Jackal is about. It was an unbelievable time to be walking around the streets of Paris.
Galloway: Do you think people are as political today?
Mann: The world’s turned. World’s changed. The politics are the same and the politics are different. The class contradictions are the same. I think everything else about our life’s is very different. It’s frustrating. It’s different. It’s hard to convey unless you went through it — the polarization of the United States in 1968, ’69. Culturally, politically, in every way, in everybody’s life. There was a real us versus them. And an entire spectrum of antiwar groups. People who were, uh, who considered themselves serious revolutionaries and weren’t. I mean, it was a cultural thing. Uh, it manifested itself in all the music from the ’60s. But as a young person, you were very much, you categorized yourself and you were categorized very specifically.
Galloway: You came back to America after several years in England, started working in television and then the first really big thing you did for television was a really terrific TV movie, The Jericho Mile, and you spent some time in Folsom Prison for research, very much dealing with the them side of the equation. What attracted you to that and what did you learn from it?
Mann: Dustin Hoffman was going to direct his first picture, which eventually became a picture called Straight Time. And he hired through Tim Zinnemann, who was the son of Fred Zinnemann, great director. Dustin hired me to rewrite the screenplay, which I did for the next three months. That put me in touch with a man named Eddie Bunker, who wrote probably the greatest prison novel in American literature called No Beast So Fierce, which became Straight Time. And, um, and Eddie was a bank robber who was in San Quentin and Folsom. And then became a writer. And then we spent time in Folsom. I’d never been in a prison, particularly a maximum security prison like Folsom. And my expectations were all wrong. I had it all wrong. I thought that it’d be a downtrodden prison population with kind of a forceful population of prison guards controlling convicts. And it was the exact inverse. All the guards looked like — there used to be these ads in the back of magazines for Charles Atlas: “You can build up your body if you buy this elastic rubber band thing.” These guys all looked like the before [picture].
Galloway: The 90-pound weaklings in the advertisement.
Mann: Right. And the prison population guys who were working out were aggressive. You could tell they were very self-possessed. [They] found any way they could of expressing their individuality in terms of wearing shorts or basically a lot of hip-hop wardrobe was observable in the early ’70s in prison systems. When I got to know more about how it broke down, I became fascinated with what life is like there and why it is the way it is. The prison was run by three gangs: the Black Guerrilla Family; it was Bluebirds, which became Aryan Brotherhood in later years; and it was M.A., Mexican Mafia. And it was rigid. A rigid organization, rigid rules. If by mistake if you were distracted and you sat at the wrong bench, and if you were a white guy and you happened to sit in a bench that’s normally M.A., you might get killed or you’d have to kill somebody — because you knew they would come after you. It was as if the whole of our body politic, our culture, our society had all been compressed and into a geographically compressed space. Almost like a lab experiment. A bad lab experiment. And so all the dynamics that were outside were inside on steroids.
Galloway: Were you ever in danger there?
Mann: Yeah, probably. When we went in to shoot The Jericho Mile, we were told by the warden that there’d be individual stabbings, and that happens routinely. But if there was a gang war or a race war, they’d throw us out and we couldn’t finish shooting. And we had 28 convicts in major roles in the picture. So I wanted to organize it in a way so that this wouldn’t happen. So through Eddie Bunker, I was able to talk to people who ran M.A., the Black Guerrilla Family and also the Hells Angels. And Taft-Hartleyed about eight or nine of each group’s guys to be actors in the film. And the deal I made with them, the quid pro quo, was that there can’t be a gang war and there can’t be a race war while we’re in here. And so there still was violence around us. I thought that the actors would be terrified. I thought the crew would be OK, but the actors would be intimidated. It was just the other way around. The actors just kind of integrated with whoever they were playing, whatever they were playing, including a guy named Miguel Pinero who wrote a play called Short Eyes and won the New York Drama Critics Award. And had also been to Rikers Island. He was in Sing Sing. He was in Attica during the riots. He was an ex-con and a renowned playwright by that point. He also played Calderon, who was the villain in Miami Vice in the pilot and the first couple of episodes.
Galloway: This was the beginning of your real fascination with the underworld and the criminal world and I wondered how your first film with its title Thief.
Galloway: Let’s watch a clip from Thief.
[Video clip.] [Applause]
Galloway: So when you see that again, what do you think?
Mann: How interesting it was working with Willie Nelson. He hadn’t done many films. But I think this may have been his first one. When I was in Folsom, I saw there were two ways to do time. There was a successful adaptation to the fact that you were locked out from life. That normal life is flowing around. That there are people who are free to get in their car and go somewhere and get a pizza and not stay home, do whatever they want to do. And you are locked in a gray cell and everything’s monochromatic and stinks of Lysol and urine. And how are you going to do your time? And one of the successful adaptations is to involve yourself with a society in the joint by joining prison gangs. But it’s an invasion. It’s a way to not track with the flow of life that’s happening that you’re missing as your body decays and you’re moving toward death. So it’s an easier way to do time. So prisons turn into fatally dangerous high school. That’s what it was like, an inner-city high school in Chicago in the ’50s is what prison was to me, except, you know, you’re outside. You don’t get in a fight and get beat up, you get killed.
During Jericho Mile I passed one cell and there was no pornography on the walls — there weren’t chicks from Playboy and Penthouse on the walls. This guy had on his walls very bad black-and-white prints of his wife, not particularly attractive, giving birth. And they were all over the walls. And it was heartbreaking because I knew that this guy was doing the hardest kind of time. He was forcing himself to stay awake, to stay alert, to all the life that he couldn’t have, that he wasn’t part of, because that was authentic.
So then the idea of a guy doing his own time like this guy really became interesting to me. And then hence Frank [James Caan‘s character], who is doing his own time, who had imagined in prison, this is prison before TVs, Internet and everything else. Imagine yourself being locked away from when you were 18 to when you’re 29 or 30. All the things you don’t know. You don’t know how to use a coin, you don’t know how to use a telephone. You don’t, you’ve never seen, may not have seen television. You haven’t heard music. You are isolated. And Frank doing his own time had to figure out what he wants on the outside. And all he got, all he can, [his] only source for that was magazines. So he cut out pictures. I’ll have this kind of car, this kind of house, this kind of wife, this kind of kid. And kept rotating around on this little collage that he had. So what then interested me was the notion of taking somebody like this, who has a mechanical view of what life should be like, and now release him. It’s an interesting wild child’s view of ourselves from a perspective of somebody who’s approaching it at a very mechanical, a very understandable, I think, empathetic way. But inside of him are the same codes that he had, codes that he had in prison. And that was the invention of Jimmy’s character.
Galloway: If you were in prison, which of the two categories would you fall into?
Mann: I wouldn’t be. That’s one of the main-
Galloway: Don’t get away from the question. Would you be the gang guy or would you be collecting the magazines?
Mann: After the 19 days we were in Folsom, what we saw and everything else, I was convinced if I was ever going to prison, I’d be hijacking an airline and getting out of here. [Laughter.] I was no, not going to prison.
Galloway: That distinctive Michael Mann style begins on TV with Miami Vice, so was that a conscious development or did you stumble into it?
Mann: No, I stumbled into it. I’d been developing a number of things. Going through the frustration of developing a project, ideas I’m passionate to make into a film and [there’s] a six to one ratio that you actually get to do. And the guy who ran television at Universal, who I knew from when I was writing CV, asked me if I wanted to do it and he sent me this script by Tony Yerkovich called Gold Coast and it was Miami Vice and it was a terrific, terrific script and I immediately said, “Okay, great, how can I get this… make this a movie?” And the answer was, “You cannot.” So I then signed on to executive produce it, which becomes kind of an executive director, because we shot 22 episodes a season and we shot every episode in seven days, but what it quickly became was taking all these stories, including a lot of stories about undercover cops and the unique situation they find, the very dramatic situations that they find themselves in, and other things I had been developing, some far afield, like some stories that took place in Southie, in the Shan Mountains, in the Golden Triangle, and putting them into development, and working with a lot of folks I made movies with, and we had a great time for about a year and a half or two years. As good looking as some of the people were in the show, if you imagine the absolute opposite of that, that’s what we all look like. [Laughs.] It was a wreck.
Galloway: You had a good time for a year and a half, and then you didn’t?
Mann: Then I started another television series called Crime Story, which is my favorite. They hit it by me, the idea of doing a serial. There hadn’t been one telling a continuous story, like, a 22-hour story on primetime television, and it was based on a Chicago character named Tony Spilotro, who I knew of and knew people who know. Joe Pesci played Spilotro in Casino. That’s who he was based on.
Galloway: Oh. Huh.
Mann: And somebody I knew, Chuck Adamson, had pursued him when he was on a major crime unit in Chicago PD. Chuck had become a writer, the guy who used to work with Chuck was Dennis Farina, who I used in Thief, then Dennis became an actor, then Dennis became the lead in Crime Story and I made him John Santucci, who is a professional thief, that Thief was based on in a continuing character. So it was kind of the same, you know, constrained ensemble.
Galloway: You hung around with these guys in real life? Are they friends of yours?
Mann: I sought them out because when I was doing Thief, I really believe I was doing the kind of research that maybe anthropologists do, where if they’re going to write about a tribe in the Nilotic Sudan, they go live with a tribe in the Nilotic Sudan for a year. So I wasn’t really satisfied with other films about these or books about these. I wanted to meet and know people intimately.
Galloway: And you corresponded with a serial killer for Manhunter, I think.
Galloway: You say that very casually.
Mann: Yeah. His name was Dennis Wayne Wallace and he had killed three or four people. I don’t know if he’s exactly called a serial killer. He was disturbed, he was in Vacaville and he used to ride around in a hearse with a hard hat with a decal on it from Mad Magazine that said, “Support mental illness or I’ll kill you.”
Galloway: Gosh. And then he did! [Laughs.]
Mann: He had a dark sense of humor.
Galloway: That’s a very dark sense of humor.
Mann: It’s a very dark sense of humor. He was not just an abused child, but beaten as an infant, a victim of horrendous abuse, and develops into a paranoid schizophrenic and acute exacerbation, which was the terminology from that time in the 70’s. And commits heinous acts. And what’s your perspective on that? I gave to William Petersen in Manhunter that view. Both are true. You know, as an adult, as he says, pardon the language, “I blow the sick f—k out of his socks.” As a child, my heart bleeds for him. Both are true. And I thought that was a very dramatic.
Galloway: So, you do have some empathy for those.
Mann: Well, it’s not so much empathy as a truthful understanding that, as a child, this is a victim. As an adult, he’s totally responsible for his actions. And you will hunt him down and you will incarcerate him or you’ll kill him. And both are true. And he maintains that duality at his own expense. Crawford, played by Dennis Farina, does not. And as Graham [Petersen] pushes himself to imagine, push himself into a creation of the imagination of the killer he’s after, Francis Dolarhyde, before he knows who that person is, so that he can predict his behavior, so that he can intercept him and stop him. He’s building within himself, like a character builds a character within himself the the psyche of-of Francis Dolarhyde. That’s what Graham is trying to do. An actor says, “What’s my action? What’s my motivation, what do you want to do?” This is what he’s wanting to do.
Galloway: But you, as a creative person, have to do the same thing when you’re working on the script.
Mann: Yeah. You have the killer [in your mind].
Galloway: How does your wife react to that?
Mann: She was in the waiting room at one point and,when I went in to see Dennis Wayne Wallace and the door opened briefly and she caught a glimpse of him for maybe a second and a half, and she never wanted to. It was a chilling experience. Part of the thing, a chilling experience, is that Dennis Wayne Wallace is also a master at gaming you. So, he has attitude in the interview. And having been in Folsom, I was somewhat experienced in that. I wasn’t falling for, you know, the cold, deathly stare and all the other stuff. I mean, this is a guy who had manipulated, who could convince a psychologist in the prison system — he could determine what she’s writing in his psych jacket because he’d go to the prison library and he’d get books on psychology and knew what to say.
Galloway: Did you like him?
Mann: Um, no.
Galloway: Did he like you?
Mann: He corresponded with me for quite a while. He would write me “psych-type poetry,” as he called it, “Jim Morrison psych-type poetry.”
Galloway: Did you keep it?
Mann: Oh, yeah. Yeah. And he and his girlfriend’s song was “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” which is how “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” got in the end of Manhunter.
Galloway: What always fascinated me was that Michael Mann always wanted to cast William Friedkin, who directed The Exorcist, as Hannibal Lecter, who then was played by Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs.
Mann: He said, “I don’t want to.” We saw a lot of each other. Film directors who come from Chicago who grew up in the city don’t make comedies. Myself, Billy Friedkin, Phil Kaufman, all grew up within two miles of each other, and all of the comedies that come from Illinois, they all grew up in the suburbs.
Galloway: Then you moved to The Last of the Mohicans, which people loved. Let’s take a look at a clip. [Clip.] [Applause.] Daniel Day-Lewis was not Daniel Day-Lewis at this point. What pressure was there on you not to cast him?
Mann: Absolutely none. Joe Roth was running Fox, Roger Birnbaum was his number two. You know, Birnbaum, he runs Spyglass.
Mann: And Roger came out of the music industry. And with a wider perspective of possibilities or a broad imagination So, when I said, “I want to cast Daniel Day-Lewis,” Roger thought about it for a second. “You going to build him up?” I said, “Absolutely.” He said, “Terrific. What a great idea.” That was it. Easy. I had to convince Daniel he could do it. That took a lot. Because Daniel has always been very athletic. He was a long-distance runner and he’d get up in the morning and run 10, 15 miles. But his upper body was totally undeveloped. He had arms about this thin.
Galloway: He’s English We don’t do gym stuff there.
Mann: But he [said], “Why me?” And then he worked for about eight months, developing all of the skill sets, uh, of this character. I love this deep immersion into a subject and the characters and places and trying to make every part of it alive so you can kind of project and imagine that you were in 1757. Nothing’s better than working with an actor who’s on that same page and that’s, of course, Daniel. It was fantastic. By the end of it, when we started shooting, Daniel could live in wilderness for a week with nothing but 18th century gear. Daniel Boone could move through the wilderness, and had three meals a day and survive for a year with nothing except what he could carry on his back, which starts with navigation: how do you know where you’re going pre-compasses? How to stay warm, how to stay dry. So Daniel built himself up into what you see. It culminated in seven days in a 3,000-acre forest in Alabama where he did just exactly that. If you didn’t shoot it or trap it, you didn’t eat. And so he became this guy. There’s something interesting about this scene: the actors and myself know what’s behind his plea, this imperative that he’s imposing on her to submit. No matter what, you have to survive. He knows that she knows what’s in store for her as a captive, that she’s probably going to be raped, humiliated, she may wind up married to somebody, she may be impregnated, and that’s what’s going to happen and the plight of women in the 18th century. A woman, Mary Draper, and her sister were both taken by Shawnee in 1755. Mary Draper eventually escaped. Her sister was happily married to a Shawnee and she didn’t want to escape and she never did. But they were shunned by Euro-American society, including their husbands. They were totally excluded and so they had a miserable fate. If they had children or children were taken by American Indians, it was to beef up the population, because it had been decimated. They lost maybe half of their numbers to diseases by the time the 18th century rolled around. But he, as a cultural hybrid, knew exactly what he was saying to her when he was telling her to submit. “No matter what happens I will find you.”
Galloway: Your films are very male-oriented. Why?
Mann: I don’t know that they are. I don’t think of them as male-oriented. I mean, I’m a man, but I don’t think of them as male-oriented. I don’t know how successfully, but I try to imagine myself as Ashley Judd‘s character in Heat, the research that went into who she was, why she has the attitude she has, why she gives him a pass, the hard-minded practical perspective of a woman whose husband is in prison and she’s on the street with a kid she has to provide for. I had one of my daughters, Amy, do a lot of research with women who were convicts’ wives who had been prostitutes. Because, in my imagination, [Judd’s character] was turning tricks while he was inside and if that’s what she’s doing, what’s sex on the street compared to going home to your husband? And one of the answers we… that got taped was, “You don’t understand.” That’s what this lady said. She said, “I’m turning a trick, that’s shaking hands. I go home to my husband, I’m making love.” You know? And just that understanding gives me, as a director, a whole approach to work with Ashley Judd on building that character who is hard-bitten, experienced, and really should turn Val Kilmer in. For the future of her son, she ought to turn him in. And then she doesn’t.
Galloway: Let’s take a quick look at Heat, which is many people’s favorite film of yours. [Clip.] [Applause.] Two American icons of the screen. Were you scared?
Mann: Uh, no. We were too busy anticipating this scene to be scared. There’s a healthy amount of apprehension, we knew it was a terribly important scene and all three of us wanted to be very careful about how we approached it. Early on, I decided I never wanted to rehearse that scene, I wanted to bring everybody’s understanding to it, and Al and Bob and I, we’d talk through what it means and kind of just kind of sketch, you know, “I’m going to have you sit [here].” But we were all smart enough to not want to have it get stale. The imperative was to keep it fresh so that what occurred spontaneously could occur right there. And, along those lines, they had very simple lighting, very simple setup, both sides were shot simultaneously, there was a third camera shooting a two-shot, which I never used any of, and knew that the guys were so good, and we’re all looking forward to this scene so much that I knew that there would be an organic unity to each take, because of the character’s actions, why they’re doing what they’re doing, why they’re meeting, why they’re talking to each other, why Pacino went to get him and why Neil McCauley [De Niro] thought he could get something from this meeting, too. I knew that there would be this organic unity if Al shifted this much in the scene, you know, Bobby would be like this, because Al was watching his right hand the whole time — was his hand going to go to his gun? — and so they’re not sitting like this, you know, if there’s a holster back here, with his hands very close to the gun. So, all of that body language they were clocking, they were so intensely focused on each other, and that was the case. So, everything you’re looking at is take 11.
Galloway: Two cameras or just one?
Mann: Yeah, I had two cameras, and there were two guys facing, you and I, there’s two over-the-shoulders and this camera is barely keeping that camera that’s shooting me out of the frame. I mean, if it moved over half an inch, it would pick up that crew shooting that camera.
Galloway: Did they know each other before this?
Mann: Yeah, yeah. They had talked about working together and they knew each other, you know, casually. They weren’t best friends, but they knew about each other and then this opportunity arose and they meant different things in each character’s life at that moment in time. Al’s [character, the detective] Vincent Hanna’s marriage was falling apart and in the depths of a depression about his screwed-up marriage number three, a big idea occurs to him, “Go get this guy. Go talk to him.” I’ve had really great cops, these really great detectives tell me this — Hanna is feeding into his conscious mind and his subconscious mind details about this guy. He’s learning things, he’s soaking things up. He will pick up something and, down the road, there’ll be a move that Neil McCauley’s making and Vincent Hanna won’t know whether to go A to A or B, you know, and there’ll be some intuition that he’ll have because of this meeting. He’ll guess that Neil McCauley was going through the B door, and that’s what he got out of this.
Galloway: What’s interesting about this is that it was hard for you to get off the ground and you did get off the ground as a TV pilot. LA Takedown, which you can see online is fascinating because you can see the same scene and dialogue from different actors. What happened and was it then difficult to make the film?
Mann: No, because nobody had paid much attention to the pilot. I’d written the screenplay years prior and it never had the ending. And I had everything leading up to the ending. The screenplay was about 160 pages long. I took part of it and then did it as this movie. I owned the pilot. I raised the financing, because I wanted to control it, because if I wanted to make it a film, I didn’t want to have to then go to somebody for the rights. And then I got the ending, which is basically that De Niro’s character is fortunate enough to die in the presence of the only other guy on the planet who he’s actually quite similar to in certain respects. Very different in other respects, but the premise of the film, the conceit of the film, is that they are the only two people in the universe of this movie who are totally self-aware. They’re completely conscious.
Galloway: Do you think of yourself as self-aware?
Mann: No. [Laughter.] I struggle like all of us.
Galloway: You reunited with Pacino on The Insider. Very different film, one of my favorites of yours. Let’s take a look. [APPLAUSE.]
Mann: Thank you.
Galloway: If I have one favorite scene in your films, it’s that. [Applause.] Do you all know who Mike Wallace was? He was one of the great American journalists and, though the argument that he makes to the 60 Minutes producers who uncovered a cover-up is a flawed one, it’s a pretty good one.
Mann: That’s what’s wonderful about life. I mean, it is true. You know, they’re both true, they’re both multi-faceted arguments. That’s our life. I’m more interested in that, those kind of dramatic constructions than I am in the fiction of, you know, “Well, you have a binary choice.” There are no binary choices. There’s five choices. There’s complexities with all of them. Everything’s true. Bergman felt horrible and he has an imperative, he has to do what he did because he promised Jeffrey Wigand, who’s the whistleblower, that he’d protect him. What made it engaging is he didn’t like Jeffrey Wigand and Jeffrey Wigand had a lot of flaws. If Jeffrey Wigand was a saint, I wouldn’t have been as interested in this story. Precisely because of the unpleasantness about Wigand, but what he revealed. The act of revealing it took immense courage, even if the motivations were flawed. He basically was the head scientist for Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company and detailed how, even though they got in front of Congress and said that “We don’t manipulate nicotine levels, we just take a bunch of leaves, roll them into cigarettes, and you smoke them, and whatever happens happens” — that that was all a pack of lies told in Congress under oath by the heads of all tobacco companies, that they adjust the nicotine addiction levels, they manipulate it through chemistry, and he was the chief guy who was doing that at the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Company. Bergman got him to go on 60 Minutes. So the moral dilemma is obvious and it is crushing to Wallace. Wallace, 10 years ago, probably wouldn’t have faded the play the way he did then. I’m moved by it because that is fact, that is real. Wallace is saying how Mike Wallace really felt.
Galloway: Mike Wallace called you up?
Galloway: What did he say?
Mann: He said he would call me because he had read the screenplay. This is when we were in pre-production and about to start shooting, and he would prefer the film not to be made. And he would call me, and have these engaging dialogues. They were funny, they were hilarious. And halfway through one of them I said, “Mike, do you mind if I record this” And he said, “Why?” And I said , “Because I want to put this right into the movie.” “Turn on your tape recorder dear boy.” And I did, and much of what Wallace says in that speech, particularly, “How fortunate I am to have to have Lowell Bergman to shine a light on the path of moral rectitude.” That’s directly a quote from him. So we had a lot of dialogue, I had a lot of dialogue while this was going on, and the film was dead [accurate], it’s not just accurate, it’s authentic. And, a higher standard, and I know it injured Wallace, and I feel bad that it injured him.
Galloway: Did you talk to him after the film?
Mann: I did. I talked to his wife Mary.
Galloway: And him?
Mann: And him.
Galloway: And what did he say?
Mann: Uh, he detested the film. People around him told him, “Mike, you know, you kinda come back at the end, it happened, you know, you don’t come off that badly”, but really, it upset him.
Galloway: He told you that directly, I detest this film?
Galloway: Angrily or politely?
Mann: Oh, very politely. I mean, I was staying on Central Park West when we were shooting in New York, and I came out of the elevator, and in a very small elevator, next to me is Don Hewitt.
Galloway: Who’s the executive producer [of 60 Minutes].
Mann: Who’s Mike Wallace’s partner and executive producer. Both these guys started the first magazine news show in television history called 60 Minutes. There’s an irony in some of this stuff because NBC tried to do the same thing and that was called The First Tuesday series and that’s where I shot the stuff in Paris [in 1968]. And I had no idea, that Hewitt, who’s also a major character in this piece, lived in this building. What is he doing in an elevator standing next to me? And he didn’t know who I was, and we’re shooting this film, and Hewitt has been railing against this film on Page Six, and the elevator’s going down about five or six floors, I had a van and, like, whole crews waiting outside to go to location scouting. I said to myself, “You know I could say absolutely nothing, and he’ll go on his way and I’ll go mine,” and I said, “I can’t do that.” And I said, “Mister Hewitt, how do you do? I’m… I’m Michael Mann.” And he was shocked for about two milliseconds, then he puts his arm over my shoulder, and as the doors to the elevators open he says, “That f—-ing Lowell Bergman!” [Laughs.] And I instantly became his best buddy, and we were walking out.
See more Remembering Mike Wallace
Galloway: Did you ever see him after that?
Mann: No, I never did. But the point is that I respected both these guys tremendously, for the work they did. And Don Hewitt and Mike Wallace could manipulate media, and make moves in their sleep.
Galloway: Let’s come to one of your next films, and maybe my favorite of yours, Collateral. I love this because it seems to be a genre film, but there’s so much more going on, I think it’s maybe film the most interesting film made about Los Angeles. I just think that’s extraordinary filmmaking, we know something is going to happen, but Michael Mann just keeps us waiting for it. You know, and gradually the sound changed in the background, and you’re in closer in these shots, and the intensity is so great, and it’s all so restrained, and suddenly that bam, bam, bam! And then he catches his head, and you think, wow, this is a professional.
Mann: There’s a breach in his indifference in that moment, when he catches his head. You feel, for once he’s not indifferent, that there is some sympathy that he wished didn’t happen, he looks dislocated for a moment, and that’s during the time that Jamie runs out. And that’s the breach in the armor of the solipsism of Cruise’s perspective on everything. And eventually Fox becomes the agent of our understanding and Cruise’s understanding of how his life is, as fractured and screwed up as the Fox character’s is inhibited. That’s when Tom says, “Jazz, that’s funny coming from you, ’cause jazz is improvisational, and there’s nothing improvisational about Jamie Fox’s life, he fears moving, he’s dominated by his mother, he has a dream he’s not realizing, and then I’m taken with how great Barry Shabaka Henley is — a friend, a close friend — and how terrific he is in that scene.
Galloway: This film started as a script called The Lost Domino, it was developed with Russell Crowe, and Adam Sandler. [Laughter.] How did it come your way, and how did Tom Cruise come your way?
Mann: It was one of those funny screenplays.
Galloway: And what the hell is wrong with Adam Sandler, come on?
Mann: Nothing’s wrong with Adam Sandler, but it kinda envisioned a — it took place in New York, the Jamie Foxx character was a badly-written Jewish cab driver, with the kind of stereotypes that can only come from someone writing that kind of a character who’s foreign, who’s not American, that doesn’t live in New York. It was Woody Allen playing the guy. And I didn’t like the screenplay, I didn’t like the dialogue, I didn’t like writing, but if you took the screenplay, and put it under an MRI, or an X-ray machine, and took a look at it, you realize this thing has beautiful, beautiful bones. It’s one of the most beautifully constructed stories I’d had ever run into. And it was gemlike, and it all took place in one night, and the roles each guy played in the other’s realization of himself, and it was just a beautiful piece of writing by Beattie. But I loved the story structure of it, so I rewrote it.
Galloway: You took it to Tom Cruise.
Galloway: And at one point, you were talking to him about playing the taxi driver. How did that shift?
Mann: Very briefly.
Mann: I don’t remember exactly why, but I was thinking about him playing the cab driver, um, because I had somebody else in mind for who was going to be the hit man.
Galloway: Go on, tell us who.
Mann: I can’t tell you. [He laughs.]
Galloway: Come on. You’re with friends here. And a large audience on television. Why didn’t he play the role?
Mann: It was a woman.
Galloway: Oh, interesting.
Mann: Yeah. And then, it was an interesting choice, and I realize I was interested in the interesting choice than in the actual, you know, real dynamics for it, and I love idea of Jamie playing the cab driver. And we had just done Ali together, and knew each other really well.
Galloway: How’d you direct Tom Cruise?
Mann: Really interesting. He’s the hardest working guy on the planet. He’s indefatigable, he’s bound for the cause, and so we spent a lot of time on this character, a lot of time training, all the physical skills, but also the mental attitudes. He’s gifted in a sense that he has wonderful control of his body, like a dancer, so he moves beautifully, and knows how to do it. And not all actors can do that, I think actors from an older generation, that becomes a skill set that was common, but not so much now. But Tom is great. When he’s sliding across the floor, he got who this guy was, and we built quite an elaborate back-story that’s not part of the picture, but the reason for the jazz scene, in a way, is because, I told him that he had a difficult relationship with his father, and his father was probably war wounded, a Vietnam veteran, and his father’s best friend was a jazz musician who died early, and his father listened to jazz, and eventually became mentally troubled, and he was raised by a single father, pretty certain dynamics, in his lonely childhood, so jazz played a very strong role in his life. I had him spend a lot of time with a guy I know who is ex-British SAS, who was in charge of the training that we did when we did Heat, which was very elaborate.
Galloway: This British guy does work out in the gym I guess [Laughs].
Mann: Oh yeah. And he’s Welsh.
Galloway: Oh, well, that’s —
Mann: And after Scotland who knows, I mean maybe [Laughs].
Galloway: We’re all Welsh somewhere. Let’s come to your new film, about which I know nothing, except it’s called, it was called Cyber.
Mann: It wasn’t really. That was kind of a nickname and guide, because walking around calling it Michael Mann’s Untitled Movie…
Galloway: Why Blackhat? What does it mean?
Mann: Blackhat is a term for hackers who write malicious code, designed to do thing that other people tell them they’re not supposed to do. So they do, they find vulnerabilities, they do invasions.
Galloway: How long have you been working on this?
Mann: Started about two and a half years ago. I was fascinated. How many know what Stuxnet is?
Mann: Stuxnet was kind of the first self-directed viral malware that was just kind of a self directed drone, that invaded the Iranian centrifuges, and spun them out of control, so that they couldn’t produce plutonium, and they’d been operating that way for a number of months before it was detected. And it was a very complicated piece of malware. And probably written by either Americans or Israelis, or probably teams of both, absolutely, it’s too complex to be anything but state actors, and it was discovered about a year and a half ago. So it’s the world we live in. I started in Washington doing research on it, talking to a lot of folks, FBI, CIA, NSA, people at several security companies. And what was known, what we’re reading about right now, was apparently two and half years ago, if you did the research, it just wasn’t common knowledge. In terms of the degree, how porous everything is, how vulnerable it all is, and the degree to which, all of our institutions, all of our trade secrets, our commerce, our defensive contractors, our businesses, our accounts, our banks, are subject, are vulnerable to invasion. And have been.
Galloway: Was this before the Edward Snowden stuff emerged?
Mann: This was before Edward, yeah.
Galloway: Did you try to meet him?
Mann: It didn’t really relate to the story. I met with Mike Rogers who was head of the Congressional intelligence committee at the time, recently got appointed head of NSA, I met with black hat hackers, I met with, there’s a lot of them, the skill sets are profound. When they’re caught and prosecuted, they either go to prison for a long time, or they wind up doing a deal with the government, and then they graduate out of those deals, and set up boutiques and become consultants in cyber security. They’re hired by big companies to test for vulnerabilities. I spent [time] with one guy who spent some time with Kevin Polsen, who’s the executive editor of Wired magazine, and did five years in federal prison, wrote a book on a guy named Max Vision, who’s doing time. I become interested in someone named Steven Watt, who is a seven-foot tall, blond, dreadlocked weightlifter, who was a brainiac, who was a major programmer for Merrill Lynch, and wrote the TJ Max hack, but never took any money for it, because these guys are motivated by, very much by the challenge of, you can’t come in here, you can’t do this, and their impulse is, “Oh yeah, you want to bet?”
Galloway: Who was the most interesting one that you met, and what was the scariest thing you found out?
Mann: The scary stuff that you find out is from people in Washington. It’s not from the blackhat hackers. The degree we’ve been invaded, how vulnerable these systems are, the ability to move in and hack, control the PLC, the program and logic controllers, which control our water supply, stoplights, our financial institutions. We all read these headlines, you know, four million credit cards identities sold to somebody in Estonia. It’s the, you know, who’s design is that Chinese fighter jet right now, you know, that, you know, looks very similar to our F-35?
Galloway: We all know about foreign espionage with US companies. How much is the US involved in foreign espionage?
Mann: Well it’s, the US is involved in foreign espionage as aggressively, and avidly as they can, and the US makes a distinction between, at least reporting, between that and cyber intrusions that are designed to steal for commercial objectives. The Chinese on the other hand, say there is no distinction. Everybody —
Galloway: Do you believe the US Government when it says it’s not involved in stealing?
Mann: The US Government says it’s involved in cyber espionage both out of, for defense, and that’s because that’s the state of the art. The statements that have come out from the military is that it’s a bigger threat than weapons of mass destruction.
Galloway: But do you believe they’re involved in commercial espionage too?
Mann: Do I? No, I think I believe them. I think they’re not. I mean, they’re not trying to steal uh, you know, designs for new TVs.
Galloway: Yes. Have you ever been hacked?
Mann: Probably. We’re very, very careful. If I did, I’m not that computer-adept to know it.
Galloway: Just before we go to audience questions, briefly, what was the hardest thing about making this film?
Mann: The hardest thing was the story of Hathaway, who was a convicted black-hat hacker, who was doing a 15-year sentence, and he’s offered a deal, after he’s done four years, he’s got a conditional release, if he’ll work with a group trying to find a cyber criminal network, somebody, somewhere in the world, and if he succeeds in identifying and apprehending them, his sentence will be commuted. That throws him into an investigation with some people from the FBI, with some people from, some Chinese folks from their cyber defense, and one guy’s sister, and takes them into Hong Kong, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur. Unexpected events, unintended consequences change everything that t we think is going to happen. And Hathaway becomes a fugitive in flight, someone who’s hunted, and hunting at the same time, and a predator going after his prey, and his prey is very, very dangerous. So that’s the basic story.
Some of the most difficult stuff was, first of all, getting a basic understanding of computing, and then being able to jump on terminal, and kind of write code, which Chris did, with a lot of help from a lot of our friends, people that we recruited. Using his skills as a hacker, and to become part of, to become the engine of the storytelling, so that it embedded in the storytelling, how events occur in the story. Some of it is via hacking, in other words it’s not just a veneer on a thriller. That and being able to shoot in Jakarta, which was wonderful. And Malaysia. The last film to shoot in Indonesia was The Year of Living Dangerously, and they got kicked out after a couple weeks. So we were going into countries that have no infrastructure, and Jakarta has 10 million people at night, and 20 million people during the day. 10 million people commute into the city. That was a fascinating, great place, but we had an absolutely spectacular experience in Malaysia.
SOPHIE: I’m Sophie, I’m a screenwriting senior student. And first of all, thank you so much for inspiring with your films. The Last of the Mohicans is my favorite film of all time. Regarding the historical research that you have done since you both directed and co-wrote this script, is that any different from the research you do as a director, and how much historical research did you do to make sure it was, well historically accurate, or did you have an assistant on set helping you with that?
Mann: No, I did all the research myself, and it’s the same amount of research I do on everything. And it was fascinating because it’s not like I could go in a certain neighborhood and hang with some guys and spend three, four months, and go to a bar and find — see speech patterns and how a guy picks up a glass, you know, so what I had to do, the equivalent to that, so we did a vast amount of stuff. Parkman, a famous Harvard historian, he did a kind of oral history at the end of the 19th century, where he walked during the French and Indian War — we call it the French and Indian War, they called it the Seven Years War in Europe — where he walked the routes of the French army, when they came down towards lake, towards Fort William Henry, and was able to talk to people who were in their 80s, who had heard stories when they were very young from their grandparents, about what had occurred. Comte de Bougainville who, from where we got the Bougainvillea, was this genius mathematician who was the aide to French General Montcalm. And who was very, very good. And he wrote a day-by-day diary of everything going on in that summer, including the assault on Fort William Henry, and then the ambush afterwards, and the massacre afterwards. And it read as if it was written, you know, two months ago, and you’re reading in The New Yorker, you know, you talked about how Montcalm had to keep his alliances happy with the different Indian tribes, because somebody made a mistake, and this group of Potawatomi weren’t camped close enough to his campfire and they were angry, and so they were leaving, and he so the day to day struggles of people. There’s a Swedish travel writer who wrote something about life in Albany, New York, in 1759, and it reads like a kind of snarky travel, something you might read in the New York Times, you know. About how it’s very clean, but they’d charge you for the air if they could.
LAURA: My name is Laura, I’m a graduate student here at the school of film and television. You have been both director and screenwriter for most of your projects, and sometimes you’ve been producer, director, and screenwriter. Do you think that as a filmmaker, you feel more involved in your projects when you are both of those roles, or the three of them, at the same time?
Mann: You know, the titles are variable, the function isn’t. Which is basically, I have an idea, you know, I want to write it, or co-write it, or however I get it into a screenplay, and then I want to make the movie, and then I want it to be my vision, and it’s the movie that I’m going to make, in a very individualized way. So, my approach is always the same. I don’t, I’m not interested in — I wish I could be a journeyman director, because I love shooting, and go from film to film to film, but I’m not made that way. I feel pretty passionately about something when I do it, and I’ll put everything into it, and so, you know, so sometimes you have this credit, sometimes there’s that credit, but it’s always the same, for me.
Galloway: Next question. This is the last question, by the way.
JONATHAN: I’m Jonathan, I’m a second year grad student in the television, writing and producing program. You made two movies back to back, with Eric Roth, The Insider and Ali, and both dealt with a true life events, in recent history. How do you deal with, how do you balance true life events that people remember with facts, with your need to tell a dramatic story with a dramatic structure?
Mann: There are always true life events, because I find what happens in reality more fascinating than something I’m capable of making up. And so I’m always moving into, I mean that’s part of the thrill of doing that, for me, is the ability to move into into someplace that, for myself personally, is some kind of a frontier, something I don’t know that much about, I’m not that familiar with. And to just immerse myself in it as deeply as I can and find out things. So they’re all fact-based, in one way or the other, and then it’s manipulated around to a dramatic imperative, because I’m a storyteller. Just because something happened a certain way, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s — I’m going to, I’m compelled to use it exactly that way. I like my things to be authentic, but they’re all drawn from events that really occurred.
Galloway: Is there any one film you wish you could make again?
Mann: Uh, probably The Keep. [Laughs.]
Galloway: Which is a hard film to get to see.
Mann: It’s a hard film to get to —
Mann: It was a script that wasn’t quite ready, and, [a hard] script to schedule, because of how the picture was financed. And a key guy in the making of it, a man named Wally Veevers, who was a brill — wonderful, wonderful man, who was a very talented visual effects designer from 2001 all the way back to The Shape of Things to Come, tragically passed away, right there in the middle of our post-production. And, so it became for me, a film that was never completely, never completely realized.
Galloway: And lastly, are we going to see you make Agincourt at some point?
Mann: Uh, I may. We’re still trying to get that screenplay that works.
Galloway: Good. Michael Mann, thank you for taking part in The Hollywood Masters.
Mann: Thank you.
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