HOLLYWOOD — When director Michael Mann decided to make Miami
Vice his next feature film after his hit Collateral, it was a case of something
old and something very new. Old, because the four-time Oscar-nominated Mann,
whose credits include The Insider, Heat and Ali, first made his name directing
this seminal and influential TV series back in the mid-'80s. New, because the
writer/producer/director, who is well known as a demanding perfectionist,
decided to shoot the feature film project using the very latest HD camera
systems, the set-up he'd first pioneered on Collateral.
As he puts it, "It's
the only technology out there" that would allow him to translate the gritty,
visceral Miami Vice images he had in his head onto the big screen, which in
turn necessitated new production and post approaches.
Mann, who also wrote the script, is quick to stress that
those gritty images are "a long way" from the sunny vibe and pastel shades of
the popular TV series. "The proposition that really became really exciting was
the idea of really getting into undercover work, and what it does to you, what
you do to it, and the whole idea of living a fabricated identity that's
actually just an extension of yourself, and doing it in 2006 — right now," he
notes. "You're not gonna have crocodiles or alligators, you're not gonna have
sailboats, you're not gonna have nostalgia. And you're gonna do it for real as
a big picture, and it's gonna be R-rated because you do dangerous work in
difficult places, where bad things happen. You have relations with women,
there's sexuality, there's language, and that became an exciting proposition."
He says it was never conceived as a derivative. "It's 2006,
it's Miami Vice for real, and it has in its core kind of an emotional, overt
way of telling its story, and it takes place in the alluring, kind of perfumed
reality of Miami, in which you've got this layer of things which are very
sensuous and beautiful, and underneath it there's stuff that's very, very
To capture that sense of raw danger, Mann took his cast,
including leads Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx, on an intense shoot that included
locations ranging from the lesser-seen back streets of Miami and its docks to
the Dominican Republic, Paraguay and Uruguay.
The director once again teamed up with DP Dion Beebe, who
shot Collateral for Mann and whose credits include Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha
and Charlotte Gray. "When we did Collateral, we shot about half the movie on
35mm film, and then about 20 to 25 percent with the Sony CineAlta HD camera,
and the rest with the Viper FilmStream [from Grass Valley]," he reports. "This
time, we did it all HD, mainly with the Vipers."
In addition to four Vipers, with two back-ups, the digital
camera package from Plus 8 Digital in Burbank included two Sony F950s and one
Sony F900. Adds Mann, "We had two DPs on [Collateral], for various reasons;
this time it was just Dion, who was just great on this, especially considering
how difficult and challenging it is to try and shoot a whole movie on HD. In
that sense, we were way out on the frontier here of what's possible, and I
loved the look we were able to get."
Mann says that most of the film — "about 75 or 80 percent" —
was shot entirely at night. "And while the technology wasn't really different
from how we shot Collateral, we really pushed it to the limit on Miami Vice,
especially in terms of sensitivity and night shoots," he adds. "The other big
advance was that we also shot all the daylight stuff on HD, including all the
speedboats and scenes with planes and jets and so on."
In fact, he reveals, the film originally opened with a
spectacular speedboat race that he ended up cutting completely. "I always felt
the story should be tight," he explains. "You should be dropped into their
lives, and I wanted it to have an intensity, and a drive, where bang, you're in
it, and when that movie ends, it goes to black, and that's as much of this
story as we're telling right now. And so consequently, I have to make a lot of
really difficult, hard, heart-breaking decisions sometimes about material that
I really love, and people do fabulous work in, and unfortunately, you have to
serve the greater good of that experience, so this stuff will absolutely be on
The film was edited by William Goldenberg and Paul Rubell,
"who both edited The Insider for me," says Mann, "and I also worked closely
with Company 3 in Santa Monica and colorist Stefan Sonnenfeld, who did
Collateral for me, on the DI." After color correction was completed on the da
Vinci 2K, it was all recorded out to film at Hollywood's EFilm.
Summing up, Mann says that "there was a little tweaking here
and there," but that post ran "pretty smoothly. It definitely helped that we'd
gone through this whole process on Collateral already, so we knew what to
expect. And I love the way the film looks. For me, HD's the future."