True Story Behind The Movie “Heat”

Heat (1995 film) movie poster with title and picture of the actors Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer and Al Pacino
Heat (1995 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I might be the one of the few to not know this but the Michael Mann movie, Heat (1995), was inspired by a true story. Well, in part. There actually was a serial criminal named Neil McCauley, who is portrayed in the movie by Robert De Niro. He was caught by Chicago cop Chuck Adamson in 1964. I just happened to find this info as I was browsing for something else. I have the unfortunate habit of reading production notes on movies I’ve watched. Spoilers are up head for those who haven’t seen the film.

There are two scenes in the movie, Heat, said to be inspired by real life events. One scene is where the police stakeout a score by McCauley and his team. McCauley hears a noise and walks away. Chuck Adamson, the detective who collaborated with Michael Mann, said in real life someone flushed the toilet and McCauley and his team took off. The second scene that also happened in real life was the meeting between McCauley and Adamson under non-violent circumstances in a coffee shop. In real life, Adamson said he asked McCauley to cause trouble somewhere else and McCauley told him he liked Chicago. Isn’t that interesting? It’s the little things. Anyway, I’m posting this more for myself than anything. If you’re a fan of the movie, did you know of its origins?

Roger Ebert’s Crime in the Emptiness Of Los Angeles ( 2011) is a wonderful essay about the style of the film and discusses its origins. You all should read it.  The Blu-Ray DVD version of the film has a featurette with Chuck Adamson (he has since passed away) discussing the good ole days when he was tracking McCauley in Chicago. I actually own this DVD copy and watched it for the first time the other night. Normally, I don’t watch the special features on DVD’s which explains why I overlooked it. Not the curious type at the time I suppose. Heat is one my favorite movies. What hooked me besides Pacino and De Niro being in it was the romance. Heat is also known for its shoot out scene during a bank robbery. No music. Just guns firing everywhere for a good long time. As for this post, I just became fascinated by the story behind the story several years after the fact. So laugh at me. I don’t mind. If you haven’t watched this film you should. Roger Ebert deemed, Heat, as “the single greatest Los Angeles crime epic of all time”  

13 thoughts on “True Story Behind The Movie “Heat””

  1. Keishon – I always think it’s so interesting to learn about the real-life events that inspire movies. Sometimes they’re even more interesting than the film is. But even if the film is truly great, it’s still an added layer to know the background.

  2. Keishon, great film and I could do with a re-watch soon as I saw it a good few years ago. You aren’t alone in the not knowing, it was true-ish thing. I will see if I can persuade the team to watch it this month. Thanks for the reminder,

  3. Keishon, I remember liking the movie Heat quite a bit when I first saw it. I don’t think I knew that it was based on a real story but it has been a long time since we watched it. We should give it another viewing. Thanks for the link to the Roger Ebert article.

    1. It’s a great essay as are a lot of his writings. Thanks Tracy for the feedback. I can say that this movie is still pretty darn good after multiple viewings.

  4. I love this movie. It really is an epic crime story and the acting is stellar. I think I heard somewhere that parts of it were inspired by real-life but I didn’t know the specifics.

  5. I am not sure how I came upon your blog, but when I saw that you had an entry on Heat, I couldn’t help but post. Michael Mann is one of the few director’s who treats firearms/shootouts with the respect that they demand. Heat is no exception. But the merits of this film go beyond that. It’s a great showdown between two men who have considered their life styles, and are committed to the paths they’ve chosen. The gravitas that Pacino and Di Nero bring to the film is obvious, but it’s the scripting, realism, and direction that puts this film over the top. Thanks for posting – and thanks for the article. I also host a blog, but I deal mostly with a podcast about television and movie. I won’t spam your site, because that’s rude, but feel free to contact me if you’re interested!

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