(Credit: Netflix)

Films

One of Al Pacino's greatest roles has a secret

One of Al Pacino’s greatest roles is now available to watch on Netflix. However, before you sit down to gaze at Pacino and Robert De Niro starring in the Michael Mann-directed classic Heat there is one little secret you need to know.

A career as vast and varied as Al Pacino’s has provided the actor with an incredible opportunity to get behind his roles and really commit. Famed for his portrayal of Michael Corleone in the Francis Ford Coppola masterpiece The Godfather trilogy, as well as starring roles in Scarface, Serpico and countless other great movies, Pacino has perfected a hyper-realised style of delivery that has made him low-hanging fruit for mimics.

Pacino’s powerhouse vocals have always meant that any cheap comedian worth his salt has tried to deliver a famous Pacino speech. While it has often been a part of of his more famous roles, there is one character who allowed Pacino to kick his larger-than-life monologues into overdrive; LAPD detective Lt. Vincent Hanna in Michael Mann’s heist thriller Heat.

Still recognised as one of the greatest crime heist movies of all time, Pacino stars in the film alongside a staggering ensemble cast that includes the likes of Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Natalie Portman and Tom Sizemore. Placing Pacino opposite De Niro as an LAPD detective tracking down the professional bank robber and his team of criminals, both influential actors shine in Mann’s iconic thriller. Concluding in a diner scene that sees the two stars face-off, the trio of De Niro, Pacino and Michael Mann helps to keep the intensity of the three-hour film at a constant high.

As well as allowing the two icons of cinema to square off for the first time o screen — the Godfather II deleted scenes don’t count — it also gave Pacino license to ratchet up his cartoonish crime fighter. In a particular scene, when standing across from Hank Azaria, Pacino’s Hanna hits the gas pedal as he pressures him to become a police informant. As Hanna illustrates the downsides of messing around with the wife of a cold-blood bank robber and murderer, he concludes that it’s “because she’s got a great ass!”

Pacino delivers the line like a jumped-up squeezy doll, eyes bulging and mouth-frothing, to deliver some of the film’s finest moments. It had always seemed strangely out of line from Hanna’s role as an intense yet intelligent operator. In recent years, Pacino has offered up the reasoning for this particular choice and suggested that a deleted scene would have provided all the context needed.

Pacino confirmed that Hanna was meant to have a serious cocaine addiction in the original script. It makes sense too. While he struggles sexually to maintain an erection, Hanna is also combustible and violent, unwavering in his decision-making and unrelenting in his pursuit of achieving those goals. The actor confirmed Hanna is “​​strung out on cocaine throughout the film” and that is where “some of the behaviour comes from.”

It all makes much more sense now. Despite the earlier script providing character context for Lt. Vincent Hanna, it would appear not all the cast got the memo and when Pacino returned for yet another take of the chaotic scene, he ended up frightening a young Hank Azaria, who was celebrating his 30th birthday. Watch the scene, and Hank Azaria’s explanation of it, below.

Watch Heat on Netflix now.