We’re closing in on 30 years since the release of Michael Mann’s Los Angeles crime epic Heat, which remains a career highlight for stars like Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and, perhaps most of all, Val Kilmer. Kilmer’s turn as bank robber, compulsive gambler and hopeless wife guy Chris Shiherlis is perhaps the best performance of his career; he thrives in a complex role and wins the audience’s affection despite his involvement in several deadly robberies.
A box-office hit upon its release in December 1995, Heat’s reputation has only grown, as new generations of fans have fallen for Mann’s somehow simultaneously sprawling and taut film. When Mann started a book imprint back in 2016, the idea of a Heat prequel novel was already in the pipeline, and the book—by Mann and prolific thriller author Meg Gardiner—was released to positive reviews and massive commercial success in August 2022. The book functions as both prequel and sequel, expanding on the histories of De Niro’s Neil McCauley and Pacino’s Vincent Hanna while also exploring the aftermath of Heat’s events in flash-forward. (Mann and Gardiner’s book also introduces Otis Wardell, a sadistic midwestern criminal who could become an iconic villain if cast correctly.)
Last week, in an interview with Vulture to promote his new film Ferrari, Mann said that while the initial plan wasn’t to turn Heat 2 into a movie, “you can’t separate the two.” He also talked about the book’s “cinematic pace and a story-driven structure,” saying that he wanted to show the events that led the characters to be the versions of themselves we see in the 1995 film. As for casting, Mann said, “You wouldn’t want to do the same thing. Look, this is a crapshoot. You want to reinvent these characters. There are certain qualifications. You have to be a great fucking actor to play McCauley. I think Adam Driver is a great actor, like De Niro. Then who’s Hanna, who’s Chris Shiherlis? Who can take it someplace fresh?”
Mann’s comments have been widely interpreted as confirmation that the McCauley part is Driver’s to lose, although technically the director has only confirmed that he’d consider Driver. “Let me put it this way,” he said during a Deadline Hollywood event in London on October 9th. “Adam and I got along like a house on fire [on Ferrari]. We have the same work ethic – which is pretty intense. We like each other, and we had a great time working together artistically.”
Meanwhile, Al Pacino has suggested that Timothee Chalamet would make a fine Vincent, although online Heat-heads seem to be pulling for Oscar Isaac instead. That leaves Shiherlis, who graduates from supporting character to co-lead in the novel, levelling up to white-collar crime in a subplot involving Taiwanese and Paraguayan gangsters. In a 2022 interview with IGN, Kilmer said he’d like to see a Heat sequel be made, and that he has “a great deal of trust” in Mann. With Heat 2 looking like more of a when than an if, here’s a breakdown of the best casting options for the young Chris Shiherlis.