Mann Is in the Details

By McGuigan, Cathleen | Newsweek, November 8, 1999 | Go to article overview

Mann Is in the Details


McGuigan, Cathleen, Newsweek


Over a piece of broiled fish and a cup of coffee, Michael Mann is talking about a smudge on Jeffrey Wigand's eyeglasses. The smudge, visible in a key scene in "The Insider" between Wigand and the wife he is losing, is of course deliberate--there are rarely accidents in the movies of this brilliant perfectionist. "The smudge helps me feel the awkwardness of the man. My heart goes out to him," explains Mann, 56, in a voice that's never shed the accent of his Chicago boyhood. "I was reacting against the airbrushed perfection of characters we see all the time in the media. Jeffrey and Lowell [Bergman] are so complex and edgy." More than the saga of the tobacco wars, it was the characters of the whistle-blower Wigand and the TV journalist Bergman that drew Mann to the project. "I felt a strong identity with them, they were so human and flawed."

Mann does exhaustive research at the beginning of a project (he can still detail the sociology of Iroquois families, which he explored for the 1992 "The Last of the Mohicans"), and he meticulously helps prepare his actors. …

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