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Thief (1981) Poster

(1981)

Trivia

Jump to: Spoilers (5)
After The Godfather (1972), this is James Caan's favorite film of his own. He has stated that his monologue in the diner is the scene, of which he is most proud, in his career.
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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.
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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.
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A late starter, Robert Prosky was already fifty-years-old when he appeared in this, his film debut.
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The burglary tools used throughout the film (such as the hydraulic drill used in the opening sequence) were not props, but real tools which the actors were trained to use. The tools were supplied by real-life thieves who served as technical consultants on the film, principally John Santucci, who also portrayed Sergeant Urizzi on-screen.
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The screenplay for this film was adapted from the novel "The Home Invaders", written by Frank Hohimer, a professional thief. Hohimer was serving time in prison at the time this film was in production.
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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.
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The vault, into which which Frank breaks, in the opening scene, was a real vault, purchased at a cost of ten thousand dollars, specifically so that James Caan could break into it, using the tools and techniques supplied by John Santucci.
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Jeff Bridges was Michael Mann's choice to play Frank, but was rejected, due to the fact he was young, and wasn't experienced enough to play a hardened criminal.
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The house that was "severely damaged" in the explosion was demolished, and three smaller houses were built on the property. Apparently, the explosive charge was too large for the job, as it caused a fire, and cracked the house's foundation.
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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.
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A sixty thousand gallon water truck was used to keep the streets constantly wet.
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Jim Belushi's brother, John visited the set often. The cast and crew would often hang out at Belushi's speakeasy, The Blues Brothers Bar, after work.
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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 (former Chicago police officers Dennis Farina and Nick Nickeas appear as criminal henchmen, while former professional thief John Santucci appears as a police officer).
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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."
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Contains similar elements, lingo, and themes with Michael Mann's Heat (1995).
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Al Pacino turned down the role of Frank, due to scheduling conflicts.
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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.
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Dennis Farina was a Chicago policeman at the time of filming. He played a henchman. Conversley, John Santucci, who played a corrupt cop, was a recently paroled thief, and was a Technical Advisor. They were cast in Michael Mann's television series Crime Story (1986), Farina as Chicago police Lieutenant Colonel Joshua Tree, and Santucci as a jewel thief. William Petersen, who appeared (along with Farina) in Mann's Manhunter (1986), appears briefly as a bouncer at a club.
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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.
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Frank evades Urizzi by relocating the transponder onto a bus. McCauley also does this in Heat (1995).
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The Green Mill Lounge that Frank owns as one of his cover businesses is a real lounge and bar called "The Green Mill, still in operation and located in Chicago, where the film takes place.
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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.
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Four hundred ten thousand dollars in 1981 equals 1,123,699 dollars in 2016.
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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.
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Producer Jerry Bruckheimer Executively Produced William Petersen in the long-running series, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2000).
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The film's original title was Violent Streets.
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James Caan went to Gunsite (then known as the American Pistol Institute) in Paulden, AZ to learn proper gun handling. It's owner, retired Marine Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper did not hold the belief that a professional thief would take the time and discipline to learn to use firearms, clear rooms and properly handle weapons. He had his chief instructor, Chuck Taylor teach him as much as he could in 3 days. The training stuck and Caan has shown similar gun handling in Alien Nation and The Way Of The Gun.
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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.
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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.
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The Green Mill is a Jazz club and cocktail lounge in uptown Chicago at Lawrence and Broadway. It was a favorite hangout for Al Capone and his henchmen. There are several historic items on the walls and a particular booth that Capone preferred because it allows a clear view of the front AND rear doors, thus making it difficult for anyone to sneak up on him and his associates while they were doing business. Truly a classic Chicago icon, the Green Mill is worth a visit!
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Spoilers 

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.
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The scene where Frank blows up his car lot was filmed at 4 a.m. in below-freezing temperature. Still over two thousand spectators showed up to watch the explosions.
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James Caan badly injured his hand during the Los Angeles heist scene when Frank is breaking through the roof with a crowbar.
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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.
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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.
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