Michael Mann

Michael Kenneth Mann (born February 5, 1943) is an American director, screenwriter, and producer of film and television who is best known for his distinctive brand of stylized crime drama.[1] His most acclaimed works include the crime films Thief (1981), Manhunter (1986), Heat (1995), and Collateral (2004), the historical drama The Last of the Mohicans (1992), and the docudrama The Insider (1999). He is also known for his role as executive producer on the popular TV series Miami Vice (1984–89), which he later adapted into a 2006 feature film.

Michael Mann
Mann at the 2014 Comic-Con International
Michael Kenneth Mann

(1943-02-05) February 5, 1943
ResidenceLos Angeles, California, U.S.
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Other namesMichael K. Mann
Alma materUniversity of Wisconsin–Madison, B.A. 1965
London Film School, M.A. 1967
OccupationDirector, screenwriter, producer
Years active1968–present
Summer Mann (m. 1974)
AwardsBAFTA Award for Best Film
2005 The Aviator
NBR Award for Best Director
2004 Collateral
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Miniseries
1990 Drug Wars: The Camarena Story
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Limited Series or a Special
1979 The Jericho Mile

For his work, he has received nominations from international organizations and juries, including the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Cannes, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Total Film ranked Mann No. 28 on its list of the 100 Greatest Directors Ever,[2] Sight and Sound ranked him No. 5 on their list of the 10 Best Directors of the Last 25 Years,[3] and Entertainment Weekly ranked Mann No. 8 on their 25 Greatest Active Film Directors list.[4]

Early life and education

Mann was born February 5, 1943, in Chicago, Illinois, to a family of Russian Jewish ancestry.[5] He is the son of grocers Esther and Jack Mann.[6][7]

He received a B.A. in English at the University of Wisconsin–Madison,[8] where he developed interests in history, philosophy and architecture. During this time, he saw Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove and fell in love with movies. In an L.A. Weekly interview, he described the film's impact on him: "It said to my whole generation of filmmakers that you could make an individual statement of high integrity and have that film be successfully seen by a mass audience all at the same time. In other words, you didn't have to be making Seven Brides for Seven Brothers if you wanted to work in the mainstream film industry, or be reduced to niche filmmaking if you wanted to be serious about cinema. So that's what Kubrick meant, aside from the fact that Strangelove was a revelation." He later earned his M.A. at London Film School.

His daughter Ami Canaan Mann is also a film director and producer.



Mann later moved to London in the mid 1960s to go to graduate school in cinema. He went on to receive a graduate degree at the London Film School in 1967.[9] He spent seven years in the United Kingdom going to film school and then working on commercials along with contemporaries Alan Parker, Ridley Scott and Adrian Lyne. In 1968, footage he shot of the Paris student revolt for a documentary, Insurrection, aired on NBC's First Tuesday news program and he developed his '68 experiences into the short film Jaunpuri which won the Jury Prize at Cannes in 1970.

Mann returned to United States after divorcing his first wife in 1971. He went on to direct a road trip documentary, 17 Days Down the Line. Three years later, Hawaii Five-O veteran Robert Lewin gave Mann a shot and a crash course on television writing and story structure. Mann wrote four episodes of Starsky and Hutch (three in the first series and one in the second) and the pilot episode for Vega$. Around this time, he worked on a show called Police Story with cop-turned-novelist Joseph Wambaugh. Police Story concentrated on the detailed realism of a real cop's life and taught Mann that first-hand research was essential to bring authenticity to his work. His first feature movie was a television special called The Jericho Mile, which was released theatrically in Europe. It won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Limited Series or a Special in 1979 and the DGA Best Director award.


His television work also includes being the executive producer on Miami Vice and Crime Story. Contrary to popular belief, he was not the creator of these shows, but the executive producer and showrunner. They were produced by his production company and his cinematic influence is felt throughout each show in terms of casting and style. Mann is now known primarily as a feature film director. He has a distinctive style that is reflected in his works: his trademarks are intricate scene setups, during Miami Vice to such an extent that a whole scene was completely color-coordinated, from props to backgrounds to actors' wardrobes, as well as powerfully-lit night scenes and combining exterior filming in such a way that shots of completely unrelated filming locations can appear as being of the same building or landmark. In terms of sound, he is known for unusual scores, such as Tangerine Dream in Thief or the new-age score to Manhunter. Dante Spinotti is a frequent cinematographer of Mann's pictures.

Mann's first cinema feature as director was Thief (1981) starring James Caan, a relatively accurate depiction of thieves that operated in New York City and Chicago at that time. Mann used actual former professional burglars to keep the technical scenes as genuine as possible. His next film The Keep (1983), a supernatural thriller set in Nazi-occupied Romania, was an uncharacteristic choice. Though it was a commercial flop, the film has since attained cult status amongst fans.

In 1986, Mann was the first to bring Thomas Harris' character of serial killer Hannibal Lecter to the screen with Manhunter, his adaptation of the novel Red Dragon, which starred Brian Cox as a more down-to-earth Hannibal. In an interview on the Manhunter DVD, star William Petersen comments that because Mann is so focused on his creations, it takes several years for him to complete a film; Petersen believes that this is why Mann does not make films very often.[10]


He gained widespread recognition in 1992 for his film adaptation of James Fenimore Cooper's novel into the epic film The Last of the Mohicans. His biggest critical successes in the 1990s began with the release of Heat in 1995 and The Insider in 1999. The films, which featured Al Pacino with Robert De Niro in Heat and Al Pacino and Russell Crowe in The Insider, showcased Mann's cinematic style and adeptness at creating rich, complex storylines as well as directing actors. The Insider was nominated for seven Academy Awards as a result, including a nomination for Mann's direction.


With his next film, Ali (2001), starring Will Smith, he started experimenting with digital cameras, while Smith was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance. For his crime film Collateral, which cast Tom Cruise against type by giving him the role of a hitman, Mann shot all of the exterior scenes digitally so that he could achieve more depth and detail during the night scenes while shooting most of the interiors on film stock. In 2004, Mann produced The Aviator, based on the life of Howard Hughes, which he had developed with Leonardo DiCaprio. The Aviator was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture but lost to Million Dollar Baby. After Collateral, Mann directed the film adaptation of Miami Vice which he also executive produced. It stars a completely new cast with Colin Farrell as Don Johnson's character Sonny Crockett, and Jamie Foxx filling Philip Michael Thomas' shoes.

Mann served as a producer with Peter Berg as director for The Kingdom and Hancock. Hancock stars Will Smith as a hard-drinking superhero who has fallen out of favor with the public and who begins to have a relationship with the wife (Charlize Theron) of a public relations expert (Jason Bateman), who is helping him to repair his image. Mann also makes a cameo appearance in the film as an executive. In the fall of 2007, Mann directed two commercials for Nike. The ad campaign "Leave Nothing" features football action scenes with former NFL players Shawne Merriman and Steven Jackson.[11]

In 2009, Mann wrote and directed Public Enemies for Universal Pictures, about the Depression-era crime wave, based on Brian Burrough's nonfiction book, Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933–34. It starred Johnny Depp and Christian Bale.[12] Depp played John Dillinger in the film, and Bale played Melvin Purvis, the FBI agent in charge of capturing Dillinger.


In January 2010 it was reported by Variety that Mann, alongside David Milch, would serve as co-executive producer of new TV series Luck. The series was an hour-long HBO production, and Mann directed the series' pilot.[13] Although initially renewed for a second season after the airing of the pilot, it was eventually cancelled due to the death of three horses during production.

On February 14, 2013, it was announced that Mann had been developing an untitled thriller film with screenwriter Morgan Davis Foehl for over a year, for Legendary Pictures.[14] In May 2013, Mann started filming the thriller, named Blackhat, in Los Angeles, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Jakarta.[15] The film, starring Chris Hemsworth as a hacker who gets released from prison to pursue a cyberterrorist across the globe, was released on January 16, 2015 by Universal.[16] It received mixed reviews and was a commercial disaster, although many critics included it in their year-end "best-of" lists.[17]

In January 2015, it was reported in The New Yorker that Mann is developing a film about Ferrari founder Enzo Ferrari.[18] Christian Bale was originally cast to play the title character, but later dropped out citing health concerns due to rapid weight gain required to shoot as per schedule.[19] Financing is coming from Vendian Entertainment in the United States and China's Bliss Media.[20] Distribution rights have already been purchased by Paramount for the US and Bliss Media for China.[21]

Filming style and themes

F.X. Feeney describes Mann's body of work in DGA Quarterly as "abundantly energetic in its precision and variety" and "psychologically layered".[22]

Indiewire's 2014 retrospective of director's filmography focused on the intensity of Mann's ongoing interest in "stories pitting criminals against those who seek to put them behind bars (Heat, Public Enemies, Thief, Collateral, Miami Vice). His films frequently suggest that in fact, at the top of their respective games, crooks and cops are not so dissimilar as men: they each live and die by their own codes and they each recognize themselves in the other."[23]


Mann directed the 2002 "Lucky Star" advertisement for Mercedes-Benz, which took the form of a film trailer for a purported thriller featuring Benicio del Toro. Mann also directed the 2008 promotional video for Ferrari's California sports car. In 2009 Mann also directed a commercial for Nike that featured several stylistic cues, most notably the use of "Promontory" from the soundtrack of The Last of the Mohicans.


Feature films

Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
1968 Insurrection Yes No No Short film
1971 Jaunpuri Yes No No
1972 17 Days Down the Line Yes No No
1978 Straight Time No Uncredited No
1981 Thief Yes Yes No Nominated – Palme d'Or
1983 The Keep Yes Yes No
1986 Manhunter Yes Yes No Cognac Critics Award for Best Film
Nominated – Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Motion Picture
1992 The Last of the Mohicans Yes Yes Yes
1995 Heat Yes Yes Yes
1999 The Insider Yes Yes Yes Humanitas Prize for Feature Film
Paul Selvin Award
Satellite Award for Best Director
National Board of Review Freedom of Expression Award
Paul Selvin Award
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Picture
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Director
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Director
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay
Nominated – DGA Award for Outstanding Directing – Feature Film
Nominated – Empire Award for Best Director
Nominated – Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Director
Nominated – PGA Award for Best Theatrical Motion Picture
Nominated – Writers Guild of America Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
2001 Ali Yes Yes Yes Nominated – Black Reel Award for Outstanding Film
2004 Collateral Yes No Yes Hollywood Film Award for Director of the Year
National Board of Review Award for Best Director
Venice Future Film Festival Digital Award
Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Direction
Nominated – Empire Award for Best Director
Nominated – Saturn Award for Best Director
2006 Miami Vice Yes Yes Yes
2009 Public Enemies Yes Yes Yes
2015 Blackhat Yes No Yes Huading Awards for Best Global Director for a Motion Picture

Producer only

Year Title Director Notes
1986 Band of the Hand Paul Michael Glaser
2003 Baadasssss! Mario Van Peebles
2004 The Aviator Martin Scorsese BAFTA Award for Best Film
PGA Award for Best Theatrical Motion Picture
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Picture
2007 The Kingdom Peter Berg
2008 Hancock
2011 Texas Killing Fields Ami Canaan Mann
2019 Ford v Ferrari James Mangold Executive


Year Title
Director Writer Executive
1976 Bronk No Yes No 2 episodes
Gibbsville No Yes No Episode: "All the Young Girls"
1975–77 Starsky and Hutch No Yes No 4 episodes
1976–78 Police Story No Yes No 4 episodes
1977 Police Woman Yes No No Episode "The Buttercup Killer"
1978–81 Vega$ No Yes No Creator
1979 The Jericho Mile Yes Yes No Television film
Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special
DGA Award for Outstanding Directing in Specials for TV
1980 Swan Song No Yes No Television film
1984–90 Miami Vice No Yes Yes Wrote episode "Golden Triangle"
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series
1986–88 Crime Story Yes story Yes Wrote 8 episodes;
Directed "Top of the World"
1989 L.A. Takedown Yes Yes Yes Television film
1990 Drug Wars: The Camarena Story No Yes Yes Miniseries
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Limited Series
1992 Drug Wars: The Cocaine Cartel No Yes Yes Television film
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Limited Series
2002–03 Robbery Homicide Division No Yes Yes Wrote episode "Life is Dust"
2011–12 Luck Yes No Yes Directed "Pilot"
2012 Witness No No Yes Documentary series
TBA Tokyo Vice[24][25] Yes No Yes In-development


Critical reception

Film Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic
The Keep40%[26]34[27]
The Last of the Mohicans95%[26]76[27]
The Insider96%[26]84[27]
Miami Vice46%[26]65[27]
Public Enemies68%[26]70[27]
Average 73.4%67.7


  1. Editors. "Michael Mann". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved November 18, 2017.
  2. "The Greatest Directors Ever". Total Film. August 20, 2007. Retrieved May 20, 2008.
  3. Archived March 12, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  4. "25 Greatest Active Film Directors". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved February 19, 2009.
  5. Brooks, Xan (February 13, 2002). "Ali likes the film a lot. He's seen it six times". The Guardian. London. Retrieved May 12, 2010.
  6. "Michael Mann Biography (1943-)".
  7. Michael Mann Biography | TVGuide.com
  8. Wildermuth, p. 2
  9. "Michael Mann bio". NNDB.
  10. Inside Manhunter: Interviews with stars William Petersen, Joan Allen, Brian Cox, and Tom Noonan
  11. Atkinson, Claire (October 27, 2007). "Sure, He can Direct Movies, but Can He Do Commercials?". New York Times. Retrieved September 9, 2008.
  12. Garrett, Diane (December 5, 2007). "Johnny Depp goes Public". Variety. Retrieved December 4, 2007.
  13. Fleming, Michael (January 5, 2010). "Mann, Milch in Luck with HBO". Variety. Retrieved May 26, 2010.
  14. Kroll, Justin (February 14, 2013). "Mann, Hemsworth team for Legendary thriller". Variety. Retrieved February 14, 2013.
  15. "Cyber (2015) – Filming Locations". IMDB.com. June 5, 2014. Retrieved June 5, 2014.
  16. Richard Brody, "The Odd Shadow Over Michael Mann's New Movie," The New Yorker, January 16, 2015.
  17. Dietz, Jason (December 6, 2015). "Best of 2015: Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved February 12, 2016.
  18. Tad Friend, "Amygdala Report," The New Yorker, January 26, 2015.
  19. Child, Ben (January 18, 2016). "Christian Bale abandons Enzo Ferrari biopic over weight gain fears". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved March 18, 2016.
  20. Jaafar, Ali. "Christian Bale Exits Michael Mann's 'Enzo Ferrari,' Balks At Weight Gain". Deadline. Retrieved March 18, 2016.
  21. "Paramount swoops on 'Enzo Ferrari'". www.screendaily.com. Retrieved March 18, 2016.
  22. "The Study of Mann - Michael Mann". www.dga.org. Retrieved August 9, 2019.
  23. "Retrospective: The Films Of Michael Mann". IndieWire. January 14, 2014. Retrieved August 9, 2019.
  24. Jr, Mike Fleming; Jr, Mike Fleming (October 22, 2019). "Michael Mann To Direct Ansel Elgort & Ken Watanabe In Pilot Episode Of HBO Max Series 'Tokyo Vice'". Deadline. Retrieved October 23, 2019.
  25. "'Miami Vice' Auteur Michael Mann Will Direct 'Tokyo Vice' for HBO Max". /Film. October 22, 2019. Retrieved October 23, 2019.
  26. Michael Mann on Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 1, 2018.
  27. Michael Mann on Metacritic. Retrieved September 1, 2018.


  • Wildermuth, Mark E. (2005). Blood in the Moonlight: Michael Mann and Information Age Cinema (Paperback Ed.). Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland Company and Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-2059-9.
  • F. X. Feeney, Paul Duncan (2006). Michael Mann (Hardcover Ed.) Taschen. ISBN 978-3-8228-3141-0.
  • Cadieux, Axel (2015). L'Horizon de Michael Mann, Playlist Society.


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