'Heat' at 25: How Al Pacino hurt himself running away from Robert De Niro

Twenty-one years elapsed between the time Al Pacino and Robert De Niro first appeared in a movie together — The Godfather Part II, in which they never shared the screen — until they reunited. But the wait was well worth it. Michael Mann’s 1995 crime saga Heat, which opened 25 years ago on Dec. 15, 1995, was a taut and masterfully crafted cat-and-mouse thriller that found the acting titans in top form.

Even if they didn’t always stay that way during the film’s production.

In a 2017 Role Recall interview with Yahoo Entertainment, Pacino revealed he hurt himself while filming the climactic foot chase, his character, Lt. Vincent Hanna, tracking De Niro’s career criminal, Neil McCauley, onto an LAX tarmac before eventually killing him.

“There I was, in my 50s, and I’m up there really about to chase this guy,” Pacino said (watch above, with Heat starting at 5:05). “So I warmed up, I did everything right. I did the first run after Bob, and I ran really speedy. And I did it again [in another take], and I thought, ‘I can do this.’ And that was it. It was over.

“I hurt my hamstring, and poor Bob had to run around all night by himself, being chased by an understudy.”

Hinting at a playful rivalry between the screen greats who later re-teamed for Righteous Kill (2008) and The Irishman (2019), Pacino’s tone shifted from sympathetic to dastardly.

“I just laid up in my camper. It was a worthwhile injury,” he said laughing.

While the chase scene remains memorable, the film’s tense diner standoff between Pacino and De Niro marked their best moment together.

As Pacino explained, the key to capturing their verbal clash was not practicing it advance to lend the sequence spontaneity.

“He’s so great, and he was smart because he said he didn’t want to rehearse the scene with me,” Pacino said of De Niro. “He didn’t want to rehearse it. And at first I [had doubts about that]. But then I realized he was right. It really made a difference and that was very clever.”

Heat is currently streaming on Amazon.

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