Behind the scenes of ''Miami Vice'' -- No pastels or upturned collars, this flick is loaded with live ammo, terrorist activity, and natural disasters
A guy getting shot wasn’t that big a deal. At least not the way Michael Mann saw it. That’s exactly why you go out and contract the Dominican military to guard your $135 million movie. Because you never know when a seemingly drunk-out-of-his-skull local is going to show up waving a pistola and demanding access to your set. It’s the way it goes sometimes: One minute you’re directing Jamie Foxx in sunny Santo Domingo, the next there’s a pop pop! and an ambulance is on the way. ”He was inebriated,” says the director, in the middle of back-to-back all-night editing sessions in Los Angeles, just weeks before the release of his new film. ”When they told him, ‘You can’t get on the set,’ the guy pulled his weapon and started firing. So they fired back.” Mann shrugs. ”It coulda happened on Sunset here in L.A.”
The shot from security hit the unwanted visitor in the side. He lived. But the movie still had a few more bullets to dodge. In fact, what should have been a total cupcake — a visionary director remaking his own classic TV show with a virtually unlimited budget and two highwattage stars — turned into a borderline-ridiculous struggle featuring terrorist syndicates, hurricanes, horrific injuries, technical disasters, and dead turtles.
Hell, some of it was even in the script.
Michael Mann looks tortured. But looming deadlines and complex marketing strategies aren’t what’s bothering him. It’s Phil Collins. The 63-year-old director — a coiled knot of edgy intelligence, long esteemed for films like Manhunter, Heat, and The Insider — has been going back and forth over where to use a cover of ”In the Air Tonight” by Nonpoint in his Miami Vice remake. Actually, he?s been trying to decide for weeks. The song goes in. It comes out. In again. Out. And the postproduction staff is starting to go a wee bit insane.
”What do you think?” the notoriously detail-driven director asks his latest guinea pig, as one of his producers mouths a silent sigh. ”I kind of love it before the last battle, but the crew are all like, ‘Don?t do it!’ ”
A lot of people said the same thing about making the movie. Including Mann. Despite the fact that he executive-produced the original series — which boasted a splashy and surprisingly persistent cultural influence at the height of the Reagan era — Mann thought he’d left Miami Vice behind back in 1989, when it petered out in a legacy-annihilating haze of silly cameos, aliens, and bad fashion. (”The last years were crap,” he says now. ”I’m a bad executive producer. My attention span is two years.”) But that was before Jamie Foxx sidled up to him at Muhammad Ali’s birthday party in 2001.
”I go up and say, ‘Hey, man, you did that Miami Vice thing, right? Why are you playing around? You need to do Miami Vice: The Movie,’ ” says Foxx, who played cornerman Bundini Brown in Mann’s Ali. ”And he has an ominous presence. I was a baby petting a pit bull. The baby doesn’t know it’s a pit bull and the pit bull just growls.”
But the more Mann thought about it, the more it made sense. In its day, the Don Johnson?Philip Michael Thomas TV show was seriously dark stuff. Nihilistic. Tense. Cool. The director began doing research, taking meetings with deep undercover agents — squirrelly narcotics bookkeepers, hate-crime cops posing as gangbangers, white-supremacist-gang infiltrators — and his brain crackled. He started writing in 2004, and what came pouring out was an ultra-violent meditation on identity and duality that had almost nothing in common with the original series other than a location, a job description, and that Collins track. The plot was pure genre — following cops Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs as they wormed their way into an international crime syndicate — but it was all 21st-century, and dripping with the kind of bloody violence that never would have made it onto NBC in 1984. (If you’re hoping for white linen jackets and teased-to-the-heavens hair, put down this magazine and go rent The Wedding Singer instead.)