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Al Pacino and Robert De Niro refused to rehearse Heat’s best scene

Heat features an iconic scene between Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, and the actors actually declined to rehearse the thriller movie moment.

Al Pacino in classic action movie Heat

Experience grants you confidence, even when tackling the best movies. Al Pacino and Robert De Niro have a wealth of acting knowledge between them, allowing for a looser approach on Michael Mann’s seminal thriller movie Heat.


Their legendary back-and-forth in the diner, where their characters meet for the first time pits Pacino and De Niro against each other, and the scene was done on location and without rehearsal. “We decided that we just wanted to talk it through and just save it for the event of shooting it,” Mann said during an Academy conversations panel for the film.” That’s the only thing we probably did that with. But I tend to not want to rehearse things to the point where I wish I had shot it. That’s a disaster.”

The event had De Niro and Pacino in attendance, moderated by Christopher Nolan. Pacino commented that it was De Niro’s idea, based on how little set up was needed for the drama movie scene.

“We were stationary, so it wasn’t that we had to rehearse blocking or anything, and discover how our physical moves would be,” De Niro states. “We started late, and I loved the scene, I wanted it to be the best that it could be, so I was a little unhappy that we started so late, but we did, and it was fine.”

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Many would say more than fine, since this scene is now part of action movie history. Mann’s Heat, released in 1995, has Pacino as detective Vincent Hanna, trying to rumble De Niro’s Neil McCauley, a career criminal. Much of the pleasure is derived from the tension in their face-offs and sheer resistance to losing their nerve.

If you’d like to test your mettle, check out our lists of the best detective movies and best thriller series. Our new movies guide will let you know of any modern classics on the way, too.