Thief (1981) Poster



In the hospital scene, James Caan decided to stare coldly at J. Jay Saunders who played the doctor. This really frightened Saunders and his reaction in the scene is genuine.
Jump to: Director Trademark (1) | Spoilers (5)
After The Godfather (1972), this is James Caan's favourite film of his own. He has stated that his monologue in the diner is the scene he is most proud of in his career.
James Caan made sure to speak slowly and clearly and tried to avoid using contractions in his words. He decided that Frank would do this so he would save time by never having to repeat himself.
A late starter, Robert Prosky was already 50-years-old when he appeared in this, his film debut.
The burglary tools used throughout the film (such as the hydraulic drill used in the opening sequence) were not props, but actual tools which the actors were trained to use. The tools were supplied by actual thieves who served as technical consultants on the film, principally John Santucci, who also portrays Sgt. Urizzi on screen.
The screenplay for this film was adapted from the novel "The Home Invaders", written by Frank Hohimer, himself a professional thief. Hohimer was serving time in prison at the time this film was in production.
When Frank tries to light his cigarette in the diner scene, the lighter does not work. This was not scripted. The prison story that Frank tells in his monologue is based on a letter Michael Mann received from a real inmate.
In the scene in Leo's house, James Caan improvised mispronouncing "elected" as "elected-ed" to show that Frank was an uneducated man who tried project an air of sophistication.
The vault which Frank breaks into in the opening scene was a real vault, purchased at a cost of $10,000, specifically so that James Caan could break into it, using the tools and techniques supplied by John Santucci.
Jim Belushi's brother, John Belushi visited the set often. The cast and crew would often hang out at Belushi's speakeasy, The Blues Brothers Bar, after work.
Contains similar elements, lingo, and themes with Michael Mann's Heat (1995). It's worth mentioning, that on the commentary with James Caan and Mann, Caan reveals that Mann is currently working on a film with Al Pacino and Robert De Niro which is Heat (1995).
Jeff Bridges was Michael Mann's choice to play Frank in thief but was rejected due to the fact he was very young and wasn't experienced to play a hardened criminal.
According to James Caan on the DVD commentary, Frank is based on John Santucci. But Caan avoided doing an impersonation of Santucci's exuberant personality because he felt that it would seem too comedic.
The house that was "severely damage" in the explosion was demolished and three smaller homes were built on the property. Apparently the explosive charge was too large for the job as it caused a fire and cracked the home's foundation.
A 60,000 gallon water truck was used to keep the streets constantly wet.
While James Caan liked the movie, he found the part challenging to play. "I like to be emotionally available but this guy is available to nothing."
Al Pacino turned down the role of Frank due to scheduling conflicts.
Dennis Farina was a Chicago policeman at the time of filming. He plays a henchman. Conversley, John Santucci, who plays a corrupt cop, was a recently paroled thief and acted as a technical adviser. They were both cast in Michael Mann's TV series Crime Story (1986), Farina as a Chicago police lieutenant and Santucci as a jewel thief. William Petersen, who later would star (along with Farina) in Mann's Manhunter (1986), appears briefly as a bouncer at a club.
$410,000 in 1981 equals $1,123,699.30 in 2016.
6 of 6 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
Frank evades Urizzi by relocating the transponder onto a bus. McCauley also does this in Heat (1995).
According to Jim Belushi, on the documentary series Directors, Michael Mann drove the costumer crazy trying to get Belushi a Hula shirt for the scene where they are casing the last vault.
The film's original title was Violent Streets.
5 of 5 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
The only film shot by Michael Mann to be presented in a 1.85:1 standard widescreen ratio. After this film, he has shot all of his movies in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen ratio.
Producer Jerry Bruckheimer went on to executive produce newcomer William Petersen in the long-running TV series, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2000), almost 20 years on.
The Green Mill Lounge that Frank owns as one of his cover businesses is a real lounge/bar called the Green Mill, still in operation and located in Chicago, where the film takes place.
6 of 7 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
Frank favors a Colt's 1911A1 "longslide" in .45 ACP customized by pistolsmith Jim Hoag. Carl is using a High Standard Model 10B "Bullpup-style" 12 gauge Police Shotgun, no longer in production.
The still of Frank holding a gun on Attaglia as he attempts to recover his money in an early scene was used for one of the movie's posters.
3 of 3 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink
The character of Sam Grossman was based on Nathan Grossman, the grandfather of a friend of Michael Mann's. The actor playing him, Nathan Davis, is the father of Andrew Davis, another friend of Mann's.
5 of 8 found this interesting Interesting? | Share this
Share this: Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Permalink

Director Trademark 

Michael Mann: [Cops & Robbers] Many real-life Chicago criminals and police officers served as advisors to director Michael Mann, and Mann cast many of them on screen, often in contradictory roles (i.e. former Chicago police officers Dennis Farina and Nick Nickeas appear as criminal henchmen, while former professional thief John Santucci appears as a police officer).


The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

The long "sparkler" used to melt into the big jewel safe is a real tool, known as an oxy-lance.
The scene where Frank blows up his car lot was filmed at 4 AM in below-freezing temperature. Still over 2,000 spectators showed up to watch the explosions.
James Caan badly injured his hand during the Los Angeles heist scene when Frank is breaking through the roof with a crowbar.
The big jewel robbery in this film is based on an actual robbery masterminded by John Santucci, who serves as a technical consultant. John's wife, Nancy Santucci, plays the diner waitress.
The house that was blown up was actually a fake structure in front of the real house; nevertheless, when it blew up it heavily damaged the real house behind it. The residents and neighbors were moved to a hotel during filming.

See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

Contribute to This Page