Michael Mann details his 30-year journey leading to Ferrari, comments on the SAG-AFTRA strike, Heat 2, and more.
At 80 years old, Michael Mann has achieved more in his lifetime than most people can dream. He’s a father of four, has developed top-tier television programming, and wrote a bestseller in his novel expanding the Heat Universe. He’s one of Hollywood’s most prolific creators, goal-oriented, and not about to stop entertaining the masses anytime soon if he has his way. Speaking with Variety, Mann opened up the hood for his upcoming film Ferarri, a biographical drama starring Adam Driver, Shailene Woodley, Penélope Cruz, Sarah Gadon, and more about the life story of Italian sports car entrepreneur Enzo Ferrari.
Speaking with the outlet, Mann detailed his 30-year Ferrari journey, saying it’s been a personal labor of love since 1967, when he was a draft-dodging film student in London, living off a meager sum as he forged ahead. Mann says the inspiration for Ferarri first hit when he emerged from the London Underground and witnessed a Ferarri 275 GTB four-cam moving through the street. “It was just this integration of performance speed and sheer beauty,” Mann tells his interviewer. Mann says that moment was love at first sight, and the image of that vehicle burned into his mind’s eye, like a white-hot brand pressing into pink flesh.
Mann is content knowing Ferarri isn’t attached to a major studio. “The origins of the movie and the content of the screenplay and the movie that you saw do not fit into the kind of film that would be embraced by the conventional studio system,” he says. “It’s truly appropriate that it is an independent film being distributed by Neon, a very independent distributor.”
Ferarri‘s independent status also helps in the face of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Mann remembers the previous striking period in 1988 when actors forfeited home video returns. Seeing how streaming has changed the landscape, he doesn’t want creatives to lose out on a better deal for their hard work. “I think that the struggle is kind of late-stage capitalism,” he says. “Writers are massively underpaid — even top feature-film writers. They all start with this.” He holds up a blank piece of paper. “We begin with nothing, absolutely nothing.”
Turning his attention to Heat 2, the failure of 2015’s Blackhat still haunts him. A cyber-thriller starring Chris Hemsworth, Blackhat earned $19.6 million worldwide against a $70 million budget. The film never found an audience, and Mann believes he knows what went wrong.
“It’s my responsibility. The script was not ready to shoot,” says Mann. “The subject may have been ahead of the curve, because there were a number of people who thought this was all fantasy. Wrong. Everything is stone-cold accurate.” Mann explains that Blackhat came at a time when audiences had yet to learn about the true horrors of technology. Mann says he edits with care, with no frames wasted. Blackhat is the one exception, and the project suffered as a result.
Knowing that time waits for no one, Mann addresses the idea of running out of time to make Heat 2. Mann likens the circumstances to an architect friend of his. He says the friend is continually establishing new projects. They have since the 1980s. There’s a desire to die while making at least one of them. The way Mann talks about it, he’s ready to pass while doing what he loves most: making films.
The following day, he approaches the interviewer from Variety again to clarify his previous statement. “The thing is, I don’t think about mortality. I’m busy. What good would it do me? If I absolutely had to make ‘Heat 2,’ I wouldn’t have got lost in this beautiful story of Ferrari. And I took two years to write a novel.” He offers a mischievous smile and adds, “Fortunately, it became a New York Times No. 1 bestseller.” Then he says, “The things I’m into are things that fascinate me and keep me moving forward.”
Mann says he’s poured much of himself into developing Heat 2, but he won’t lose sleep if the film never sees the light of day. He won’t feel incomplete if it never comes to pass.