How the filming locations for Heat have changed since 1995

Pitting Al Pacino against Robert De Niro, Michael Mann’s crime epic Heat is one of the great Los Angeles films. How have its locations changed in the last 20 years?

Oliver Lunn
Updated:

Heat (1995)

Heat (1995)

Michael Mann’s mid-1990s masterpiece feels strikingly modern today. Nothing about the slick thriller screams 90s – aside, perhaps, from a young Natalie Portman in a flannel shirt, or a fleeting glimpse of a brick-shaped phone. That said, anyone familiar with LA, where the film is set, will spot the telltale signs that Heat is more than 20 years old.

Mann shot it almost entirely on location, using 95 locations in 107 days. One of those was the restaurant where acting heavyweights Robert De Niro and Al Pacino famously lock horns as a bank robber and detective, two sides of the same coin. The restaurant was Kate Mantilini, which closed its doors in 2014 due to a rent hike. And it’s not the only location to have transformed since 1995.

Here’s a few other iconic spots you might be curious to revisit.

The Mexican restaurant

Heat (1995)

Heat (1995) location shot

Right before the armoured truck robbery, rogue thief Waingro (Kevin Gage) walks by a little Mexican restaurant called El Cielito. It’s by the intersection at South Western Avenue and West Pico Boulevard, just north of the Santa Monica Freeway. As he walks past the restaurant, you can spot a distinctive mural on the side that, with a little investigating, was still there in 2009. Five years later, however, the mural was painted over a peachy orange colour. Then in 2016 the whole place was demolished without a single trace, only to be replaced by… a sparkling white shoe store the size of a warehouse.

The armoured truck robbery

Heat (1995)

Heat (1995) location shot

The first robbery, where De Niro and Val Kilmer’s crew ambush an armoured truck in broad daylight, takes place on Venice Boulevard, west of Downtown. In the above shot, Waingro and accomplice Michael (Tom Sizemore) emerge from under the freeway in a vehicle that smashes into the armoured truck. In the background you can just make out the Los Angeles Convention Center, which, along with the freeway, still stands today and is known as “the preeminent destination for meetings, conventions, and special events”.

Mid-heist on Venice Boulevard

Heat (1995)

Heat (1995) location shot

A few shots later, when one of the robbers, clad in a white hockey mask, gets a little hot-headed, you can see the same centre’s multi-storey car park. Looking around now, the only thing that has changed is the addition of a parking lot under the freeway and the size of the shrubs. This scene is moments before the crew make their getaway in an ambulance, eastbound on Venice Boulevard above.

Bob’s Big Boy diner

Heat (1995)

Heat (1995) location shot

When you first lay eyes on Bob’s Big Boy diner it isn’t clear it’s a restaurant. You see it from behind, a striking slice of modernist architecture with a creamy expanse of blank wall. This is where Donald Breedan (Dennis Haysbert) works flipping burgers and where De Niro persuades him to join his band of robbers. Part of a chain, this Bob’s Big Boy is located in Riverside Drive, Burbank, and it’s been there since 1949. It’s a timeless piece of Americana, meaning both how it looks and what it offers hasn’t changed much. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The metals repository

Heat (1995)

Heat (1995) location shot

The first time Pacino gets close to nailing De Niro is at this metals repository. De Niro and co break into a warehouse but pull out the moment De Niro feels heat (in this case, when he hears a fed stumble in a nearby van). You see a very pissed off Pacino standing on Factory Place, sandwiched between Downtown and the LA river. Note the same telegraph pole and fence, and the since-demolished building to the left. At the time of filming, the area, not far from Skid Row, was pretty rough. Now it’s the heart of a bustling arts community, where walls splattered with Banksy rip-offs are ten a penny.

The bank robbery in Downtown

Heat (1995)

Heat (1995) location shot

The breathless bank robbery was shot inside a real bank called the Far East Bank. However, what you see above is not that bank. The exterior shots were filmed at the 444 Flower Building on West 5th street in the Bunker Hill area of Downtown, where they were allowed to shoot on weekends only. The building itself, which is nearly 50 storeys high, is now known as the Citigroup Center, a monolithic office building. The sculptural installation – Michael Heizer’s North, East, South, West – that you see the robbers march past, is still there. As of 2016, the new owners were planning a $50m renovation of the 80s-era building.

Al Pacino in hot pursuit

Heat (1995)

Heat (1995) location shot

Here’s Pacino in hot pursuit, standing in the middle of a four-lane road with zero concern for oncoming traffic. This extended shootout scene takes place on a stretch of West 5th Street and follows the 444 Flower Building down to the intersection of South Figueroa Street. Behind Pacino is Central Library, and behind that is the Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles. While the hot dog vendor has long gone, you can see the same parking meters, the same pointy trees by the library and the addition of newspaper racks. Fun fact: an arsonist set fire to this library in 1986 and it was closed until 1993, two years before Pacino and De Niro showed up.

Trejo’s house in east LA

Heat (1995)

Heat (1995) location shot

One of the more remarkable locations was Trejo’s pad in east LA, in the City Terrace area south of the San Bernardino Freeway. In the film, it’s the house that looks like it’s supported by toothpicks, where De Niro finds Trejo beaten to a pulp and decides to do something about it. Against the odds this precarious architectural gem, which looks like it’d be swiftly blown away in a storm, still stands (though someone with a strimmer has clearly gone to town on the ‘garden’).

The Hilton Los Angeles Airport

Heat (1995)

Heat (1995) location shot

When De Niro pulls into the back entrance of the Hilton Los Angeles Airport, he tells Eady (Amy Brenneman) to leave the engine running. He’ll be back in no time. He leaves her waiting in a side street off West Century Boulevard. The main thing you notice, looking at the same street today, is the giant car park on the right. Known as The Parking Spot Century (supposedly “the country’s leading near-airport parking company”), the block was built in 2003 and provides a week’s valet parking at $99.95. For some reason they left that red barnyard-style fence there. Notably, this location is a stone’s throw from the climactic showdown on the runways of LAX, as Moby’s ‘God Moving over the Face of the Waters’ beckons the end credits. For obvious reasons, LAX no longer permits film crews on its runways.

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