If it weren't for the talent of Michael Mann, a movie version of Miami Vice would almost certainly be as awful as it sounds. And even with the talent of Mann, Universal is fighting negative early buzz about the film. What's clear is that the movie is dark, R-rated, and hardly a nostalgia-fest for fans of the television show.
If Miami Vice doesn't work—artistically, at least—that would be a shame for those who toiled to get it made. If there were an Academy Award for on-set trauma, this movie could be a lock. Mann, a perfectionist, is known as one of the most difficult directors in the business. And on this film, according to a number of those who were present, he lived down to his reputation, berating crew members (and even the talent) and creating a sense of chaos as he went through his "process." The movie wound up going over schedule and dramatically over budget, with the final tally rumored to be more than $150 million. The studio says the number is actually $135 million.
Mann is gifted enough that actors entrust themselves to him. Clearly Jamie Foxx did, returning to work with Mann after making Collateral and getting a supporting-actor nomination out of it. But on Miami Vice things went so wrong that Foxx ended up leaving in the middle of production, after a shooting (and we don't mean the kind with a camera) took place during filming in the Dominican Republic. Foxx refused to return for any more work outside the United States, meaning that Mann had to rewrite the ending, eliminating a version that was to have been shot in Paraguay.
"The whole of making this movie was filled with adversity," Mann says. But he adds that whatever the crew might have endured, it was all in the service of making a great film. "Sometimes folks are going to join this unit and they may have a tough time," he says. "Guess what? They're on the wrong movie."
Sources on the set say things got off to a rough start with Foxx. For one thing, after signing for the film, Foxx won the Oscar for his performance in Ray. He was a bigger star than before, and according to members of the production team, he showed up with an entourage and something of an attitude. Foxx balked at flying commercial to Miami (Universal finally gave him the jet). And there was an early problem because Foxx was getting paid less than Farrell even though he was now an Academy Award winner. Foxx got a big raise while Farrell took a bit of a cut.
Despite that and his hard-partying reputation, Farrell was very well-behaved, according to crew members. "Yes, Colin comes to play around, but he always showed up on time and prepared," one says. "Jamie is more of a diva in the sense that he was afraid of boats, afraid of planes—there were a lot of things where he was afraid for himself. Colin will do anything."
Mann is a macho guy, so perhaps it's not surprising that sparks flew between him and the balky Foxx. Mann won't comment on the situation with Foxx other than to talk about his admiration of the actor's talent. "I'm not going to dish dirt about Jamie," he says. "He has a unique process of acting, and most people don't understand it. He and I are real close. … That allows us to disagree about stuff."
Certainly, clashing with Mann was not for Foxx alone. "Michael dressed down everybody and humiliated everybody," says a crew member. "He's an equal-opportunity guy."
Mann has his defenders. Maria Chavez, a location manager who's worked with Mann all the way back to the days of the Miami Vice television show, says her boss was "very intense" but not unfair. "It's about stretching when you work with him," she says. "His expectations might be high because he's so creative. It's just a standard he sets."
Crew members say the situation was complicated in part because Mann went through dozens of script changes. "It was being written essentially by Michael on the fly," a crew member says. He changed his mind constantly about locations (and, to the bitter end, was toying with multiple edits). "He was almost like a kid in a candy shop," this individual says. "That kind of indecision becomes a systemic thing. It's hard, at the last minute, to make deals with vendors, rent a plane, to close down a freeway."