UNIVERSAL CITY, California — From 1984 to '89, the television crime drama "Miami Vice" defined cool. Stubble-faced cops James "Sonny" Crockett (Don Johnson) and Ricardo "Rico" Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas) worked the corrupt, humid streets of the gateway to Latin America, bringing drug dealers to justice and white suit jackets to the rest of us.
Two decades later, a new Crockett and Tubbs are moving to the big screen, and they've still got style — but now, they've also got socks.
"I didn't really think much about good ol' Don Johnson," Colin Farrell grinned recently, discussing his assumption of the original Sonny's pastel wardrobe for the new "Miami Vice" movie. "If I was to think about the early Crockett, I would have been in trouble, because I would have been arguing with him over the suits that I wanted to wear, and no socks with my slip-ons.
"Jamie said that he met Don in a restaurant in Los Angeles," the Irish heartthrob added, looking at co-star Jamie Foxx. "What did he say?"
" 'You tell Colin Farrell that when he's through with my jockstrap, be sure to give it back,' " laughed the "Ray" Oscar winner, who steps into the shoes of Sonny's smooth sidekick.
"I'm still waiting, but it never arrived — the jockstrap," Farrell lamented, before getting serious. " 'Miami Vice,' the TV show, was the original genesis for this piece, but we approached it from a very contemporary standpoint, and it is its own entity."
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"This is 2006, it's a new day," grinned Michael Mann, the series' executive producer who — unlike those who first made hits out of shows like "The Dukes of Hazzard," "Starsky & Hutch" or "S.W.A.T." — was allowed to take on a modern-day re-creation of his show. "This is 'Miami Vice' for real, right now."
It helps, of course, that Mann has not only maintained his relevance over the last several decades, but is responsible for masterpieces like "Heat" and "The Insider," acclaimed films that solidified his reputation. Mann claims he had always wanted to make a "Miami Vice" movie, and when Foxx brought the idea up to him a few years ago, he realized that he finally had the clout.
"In 1984, I was dying to make this thing as a movie, but I couldn't because it was locked in as a television series," recalled the writer/director, who has long been praised for his gritty portrayals of the seedy criminal underbelly. "So we went ahead and made [the show] like little movies — I brought in all the people I made movies with, starting with the pilot. Particularly the first and second year's worth of episodes, we approached like making little movies.
"But it was the small screen," he grimaced, "so you couldn't use the richness of real language, and you couldn't have people that were lovers really being in love; they couldn't make love. And, if people were doing really dangerous undercover work in really bad places where bad things do happen, you had to hold back on all that. There was a constant feeling of being restricted."
Now fully unleashed in the R-rated flick, today's Crockett and Tubbs are free to swear like Quentin Tarantino characters, splatter bad guys' brains all over the wall and have so much shower sex with women that you'll wonder how they keep their skin from getting wrinkly.
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"I was really nervous about doing the love scenes, because I hadn't done one before, actually, and simulating sex in front of 50 people is always really intimidating," said Naomie Harris, the sexy "Dead Man's Chest" star who plays Tubbs' girlfriend, Trudy, in the flick. "Jamie was fantastic, because he really tried to make me feel comfortable and kept me laughing as much as possible."
As you can imagine, the presence of Farrell and Foxx on the set resulted in plenty of rowdy behavior and big laughs. The two also share a quality that Mann knew he had to capture on film: their innate sense of simply being cool.
"They are very cool," Harris gushed. "Jamie is cool is a very slick way. He has great jewelry, great clothes and is really into name brands and things like that. Whereas Colin is much more of an earthy cool — kind of scruffy, he just wakes up and pulls things together. But it works for him; he is very hot."
"If you self-consciously go out there with the ambition to be cool, you will not be — it's one of those absolute laws of physics," laughed Mann, who may soon redefine the word for a second generation. "We didn't design it to be cool."
Whatever the three were trying to do — or not do — worked, according to Harris. "That's the word I used actually when I saw it," she grinned. "I saw the movie two days ago and I saw Michael after I came out of the screening room and I said, 'This movie is cool!' "
"I remember Philip Michael Thomas sitting in the Cadillac, and these guys go up to his window, and he pulls a shotgun," Foxx said of the original show's coolness. "Philip Michael Thomas with those curly curls, you know, back in the day when it was really in."
Farrell remembers another crucially cool facet of the original show: "The pink flamingos," he laughed.
So, what's the biggest difference between the two stars playing the new Crockett and Tubbs? According to Foxx and Farrell, the partners are more similar than they might appear. "I'm African-American, and he's Irish," Foxx grinned, looking over at his co-star. "But I got Irish in me too."
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