Michael Mann (director)

Michael Mann (director)
Michael Mann

Michael Mann in July 2009 at the French Society of Cinematographers.
Born Michael Kenneth Mann
February 5, 1943 (1943-02-05) (age 68)
Chicago, Illinois
Years active 1971 - present
Spouse Summer Mann (1974-)
Awards BAFTA 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

Michael Kenneth Mann (born February 5, 1943) is an American film director, screenwriter, and producer. For his work, he has received nominations from international organizations and juries, including those at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Cannes and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He has produced the Academy Awards ceremony twice, first in 1999 with the 72nd annual Academy Awards and second in 2004 with the 77th annual ceremony.

Total Film ranked Mann #28 on their 100 The Greatest Directors Ever[1] and Sight and Sound ranked him #5 on their list of the 10 Best Directors of the Last 25 Years,[2] Entertainment Weekly ranked Mann #8 on their 25 Greatest Active Film Directors list.[3]


Early life

Mann was born in Chicago of Jewish heritage,[4] the son of grocers Esther and Jack Mann.[5][6] His father was a Ukrainian[citation needed] immigrant and World War II combat veteran[clarification needed] and his mother came from a family native to Chicago.[citation needed] Mann was close to his father and his paternal grandfather.[citation needed] He grew up in the Humboldt Park neighborhood and immersed himself in the burgeoning Chicago blues-music scene as a teenager.[citation needed]

He received a B.A. in English at the University of Wisconsin–Madison[7] where he developed interests in history, philosophy and architecture. It was at this time that he first saw Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove and fell in love with movies. In a recent L.A. Weekly interview, he describes 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 main stream 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."


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. 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 the first four episodes of Starsky and Hutch 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 best MOW 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 is not the creator of these shows but the executive producer and the showrunner. They were produced by his production company. However, his cinematic influence is felt throughout each show in terms of casting and style.

Mann is now known primarily as a feature film director and he is considered to be one of America's top filmmakers. He has a very distinctive style that is reflected in his works: his trademarks include 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. His next film The Keep (1983) was, in retrospect, an uncharacteristic choice, being that it is a supernatural thriller set in Nazi-occupied Romania. Though it was a commercial flop, the film has since attained cult status amongst fans.[citation needed]

In 1986, Mann was the first to bring Thomas Harris's character of Hannibal Lecter to the screen with Manhunter, his adaptation of novel Red Dragon, which starred Brian Cox as a more down-to-earth Hannibal. The story was remade less than 20 years after it came out by Brett Ratner presumably because Anthony Hopkins reprisal of the role in Ridley Scott's Hannibal had made the character a highly lucrative property. 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 Mann to complete a film; Petersen believes that this is why Mann doesn't make films very often.[8]

He gained widespread recognition in 1992 for his film adaptation of James Fenimore Cooper's book 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 along with Robert De Niro in Heat 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 starring Will Smith in 2001, he started experimenting with digital cameras. The film helped catapult Will Smith to greater fame, and he was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance.

On Collateral, he 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. However, Mann demurred doing a second biopic after Ali, directed Collateral starring Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx and offered the The Aviator director's chair to now-frequent DiCaprio collaborator Martin Scorsese. 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 Jamie Foxx filling Philip Michael Thomas' shoes.

Mann served as a producer and 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 current NFL players Shawn Merriman and Steven Jackson.[9]

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.[10] 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 is an hour-long HBO production, and Mann is in talks to direct the series’ pilot.[11]

Awards and honors

Mann received an Emmy in 1979 for Outstanding Writing in a Limited Series or a Special for The Jericho Mile. The following year he was honored by the Directors Guild of America for Outstanding Directorial Achievement for The Jericho Mile. In 1990, he won another Emmy for Outstanding Miniseries for Drug Wars: The Camarena Story. Mann was the recipient of the Humanitas Prize in 2000 for The Insider. In 2005, he received the BAFTA Film Award for co-producing The Aviator.

To date he has received four Academy Award nominations: in 2000, the Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director and Best Motion Picture of the Year all for The Insider, in 2005 Mann received nomination for production of Scorsese's The Aviator.

Total Film ranked Mann #28 on their 100 The Greatest Directors Ever[1] and Sight and Sound ranked him #5 on their list of the 10 Best Directors of the Last 25 Years,[2] Entertainment Weekly ranked Mann #8 on their 25 Greatest Active Film Directors list.[3]


Feature Films




Mann has created the television series Vega$ and executive produced Crime Story, Miami Vice, and Robbery Homicide Division.


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.



  1. ^ a b "The Greatest Directors Ever". Total Film. August 20, 2007. http://www.totalfilm.com/features/the_greatest_directors_ever_-_part_2. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  2. ^ a b http://www.bfi.org.uk/sightandsound/feature/63/
  3. ^ a b "25 Greatest Active Film Directors". Entertainment Weekly. http://www.ew.com/ew/gallery/0,,20259843_18,00.html. Retrieved 2009-02-19. 
  4. ^ Brooks, Xan (February 13, 2002). "Ali likes the film a lot. He's seen it six times". The Guardian (London). http://film.guardian.co.uk/interview/interviewpages/0,,649435,00.html. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  5. ^ Michael Mann Biography (1943-)
  6. ^ Michael Mann Biography | TVGuide.com
  7. ^ Wildermuth, p. 2
  8. ^ Inside Manhunter: Interviews with stars William Petersen, Joan Allen, Brian Cox, and Tom Noonan
  9. ^ Atkinson, Claire (October 27, 2007). "Sure, He can Direct Movies, but Can He Do Commercials?". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/22/business/media/22adco.html?_r=1&oref=slogin. Retrieved 2008-09-09. 
  10. ^ Garrett, Diane (December 5, 2007). "Johnny Depp goes Public". Variety. http://www.variety.com/VR1117977137.html. Retrieved 2007-12-04. 
  11. ^ Fleming, Michael (January 5, 2010). "Mann, Milch in Luck with HBO". Variety. http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118013352.html?categoryid=14&cs=1. Retrieved 2010-05-26. 


  • Wildermuth, Mark E. (2005). Blood in the Moonlight: Michael Mann and Information Age Cinema (Paperback Ed.). Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland Company and Inc. ISBN 9780786420599.


External links

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