William Fichtner knew what he was getting into when he signed up for the movie that first put Robert De Niro and Al Pacino together.
The Oscar-winning acting icons had been in different portions of “The Godfather Part II” — which Fichtner cites as one of his favorite films — but they shared space and dialogue in “Heat,” writer-director Michael Mann‘s widely praised 1995 crime drama.
Fichtner was just starting a screen career that would come to include “The Perfect Storm,” “Armageddon” and this summer’s “The Lone Ranger” and “Elysium” … but he has strong memories of being in “Heat” as a traitor tracked down by a vengeful career crook (De Niro).
“I had done a handful of movies, if that,” he tells Zap2it, “and it wasn’t lost on me that this was Pacino and De Niro’s first time on screen together. What I remember about reading the script was that my agent at the time said to me, ‘It’s just five scenes.’
“I’d had a previous experience doing a film that I was going to be in a lot, and they cut all of me out of it! So when my agent said to me that it was only five scenes, I said, ‘But it’s five scenes you can’t take out of the movie.’ They were all big story points. It was quite an experience for an actor just starting to work in films.”
Also a veteran of “Prison Break” and “Entourage,” Fichtner returns to series television as an ex-cop chasing international criminals through Europe when NBC’s “Crossing Lines” premieres Sunday, June 23. His “Heat” work can be seen before that, since the nearly three-hour movie is running on the Cinemax channels this month, including Wednesday (June 5) on the parent Cinemax.
Frequently shown on FX, the 1998 sci-fi adventure “Armageddon” is another film Fichtner often finds himself recognized for, and mainly for one key moment.
Toward the movie’s conclusion, his often combative space-mission-commander character softens toward the equally hard-headed oil driller played by Bruce Willis, showing deep appreciation for an act of self-sacrifice with three words quietly and tearfully delivered: “Thank you, Harry.”
“At some point when we were shooting that,” Fichtner recalls, “I looked at (director) Michael Bay and said to him, ‘Look at this. No one can do that line. There’s just so much in it.’ But that movie sure has legs.”