It’s based on the sequel to a 1966 novel
Die Hard as a book? Can’t picture it. It is, however, true. It didn’t come out of some action-loving screenwriter in Hollywood, but from a little known novel. In 1966, Roderick Thorp wrote a book called ‘The Detective.’ Thirteen years later, he published a sequel called ‘Nothing Lasts Forever.’ Since then, it’s been out of print, but was recently republished to coincide with the 25th anniversary of Die Hard in 2013. But much like most literary inspirations, only the bones of the story are the same.
It was inspired by the film ‘The Towering Inferno.’
The idea for Thorpe’s sequel novel was inspired by the 1974 John Guillermin disaster film, ‘The Towering Inferno.’ After seeing the film, Thorpe had a dream about a man being chased through a skyscraper by a group with guns. He turned that little nugget of an idea into his novel.
Frank Sinatra was the first choice to play John McClane
Kind of. He had first dibs, as he starred in the film adaptation of ‘The Detective’ in 1968, at the age of 53. When the sequel was optioned and became Die Hard, they had to offer him first right of refusal. At 73, he smartly had to turn it down.
I love ol’ blue eyes as an actor, but I’m glad he did.
Bruce Willis’ screen debut was actually with Frank Sinatra
In 1980, Willis had an uncredited film debut in a crime thriller called ‘The First Deadly Sin.’ He had no name, speaking lines and he literally is in a blink and you’ll miss it spot, when Frank is exiting a diner, Willis walks in.
Sort of a symbolic passing of the torch, maybe?
Clint Eastwood wanted to play John McClane at one point
Sort of. Eastwood purchased the movie rights to ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ with the intention of starring in it in the mid-80’s between his Dirty Harry films. It never quite worked out to go into production, though.
It was never meant to be a sequel to ‘Commando’
This is one of the more popular stories on the internet about Die Hard. According to Stephen de Souza, the screenwriter of both Die Hard and Commando, there was a story that was broken for a Commando sequel and there was a plan to make it, separately from Die Hard. Both films had their protagonist stuck in a building. According to de Souza, 2013’s ‘Escape Plan’ is about the closest we’ll get to what the ‘Commando’ sequel was going to be about. ‘Die Hard’ was always going to be ‘Die Hard.’
Bruce Willis wasn’t even the studio’s third choice for the lead
After Sinatra wisely said no, they needed someone else to make sure the film was going to be a success – a bona fide action star. They offered it to a crazy list of A-list actors at the time. Rumours have Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford, Robert De Niro, Charles Bronson, Nick Nolte, Mel Gibson, Richard Gere, Don Johnson, Burt Reynolds and even MacGyver himself, Richard Dean Anderson for the role of John McClane.
They all said no.
Bruce Willis was only known for being funny
Due to his role on ‘Moonlighting,’ Willis was only known for his comedy chops. The producers didn’t have anything against him as an actor, they just didn’t know that he could be a badass. But, ironically enough, this was the film that changed everything for him. Since then, the action genre is where Willis lives, even though he’s got two Emmy’s for his comedy work, and so far, no Oscars.
Bruce Willis is barely even seen on the film’s posters
Because the studio marketing departments were unconvinced that audiences would come see the film if they knew Willis was the lead, thinking it was a comedy, they left him off the posters. The original posters just had Nakatomi Plaza on it. As the film gained steam and positive buzz, new posters and materials were commissioned that showed Willis more prominently.
Willis was paid $5 Million to make the movie
Even with all the uncertainty around whether or not he could carry the film, he was still paid $5 Million, which was a huge amount at the time – something only Hollywood A-Listers were getting.
Willis suggested Bonnie Bedelia play his wife
When they were looking for someone to cast as his estranged wife, Willis suggested Bedelia play the part.
We have Cybil Shephard to thank for the role
The first couple of times that Bruce Willis was asked to star in a movie, he had to decline due to his commitments to ‘Moonlighting.’ Then co-star Cybil Shephard got pregnant, and since that wouldn’t work within the show as part of the story, or do some clever trickery, they gave everyone 11 weeks off, which allowed Willis to say yes to Die Hard.
Never thought I’d appreciate a uterus so much.
Sam Neil was considered for the role of Hans Gruber
Thankfully he turned them down. I’ve got nothing against Sam Neil; fine actor, but no one is as iconic as Alan Rickman. The producers saw Rickman playing the evil Valmont in a stage production of ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ and saw their Hans within him.
Die Hard was Alan Rickman’s feature film debut
Though he totally aced the role and made him such a delicious villain, this was actually his first role in a Hollywood film, ever.
John McTernan turned down the film as well
On several occasions, to be specific. At first, he found the material to be too dark and cynical for him. The original screenplay was a grim and violent terrorist movie. Once he got his hands on it, within 2 weeks of working on it, he decided he wanted to make it a fun, date movie. So instead of the motive being terrorism, the true motive was a robbery, and robbers can bet fun.
McTernan saw it as a Shakespearean tale
In the original script, the action was supposed to take place over three days. Inspired by Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ he decided that it should all take place over the span of one night.
Nakatomi Plaza is actually Fox Plaza
The corporate headquarters for 20th Century Fox, the very studio making the film, stood in for the besieged building. As it was still under construction at the time, there wasn’t a lot that needed to be done to the space to make it movie ready.
The room where the hostages are being held is literally supposed to be Frank Lloyd Wright’s house – Falling Water
Back in the late 80’s, it felt like Japanese corporations were buying up everything in America, so the production designers figured that the fictional Nakatomi Corporation would actually buy the house, disassemble it, and reassemble it in the atrium for their employees. Also, it’s like they’re displaying it as a trophy.
The panoramic view of the city is completely fake
Looking out those windows, it’s actually a 380-foot long background painting, that’s giving you the illusion of an amazing city view. It was pretty sophisticated at the time, with animated lights, moving traffic and the ability to change from night to day. The studio still uses that painting in other productions.
This film spawned a genuine multi-media franchise
In addition to four sequels, ‘Die Hard’ has also gotten video game adaptations and comic books.
John McClane’s fall down the elevator shaft was an accident
Ok, maybe more of an error on set that seemed to work out better for the film. In the scene where McClane jumps into an elevator shaft, the stunt man was supposed to grab onto the first vent, but he didn’t quite grab it. Ok, not even didn’t quite, he missed it by a mile. But it made the footage that much more exciting to watch, so the editors kept it in the final cut.
Han’s Gruber’s death scene was terrifying for Alan Rickman
Talking about unintentional reactions, Rickman’s death scene was genuinely scary for the actor. In order to make it look like he was falling off a building, he was supposed to drop 20 feet down onto an airbag. In order to get a genuine fear reaction from him, instead of dropping him on the count of 3, the stunt man let go on 2, scaring the crap out of him.
Willis suffered permanent hearing loss from starring in this film
In order to make the film more hyper-real and authentic, the blanks that were used in the guns, were modified to be extra loud. In scene where McClane shoots a terrorist through a table, it put the star in close proximity to the gun, and caused severe damage. He lost 2/3rds of his hearing in his left ear.
Alan Rickman wasn’t a fan of the noise either
Whenever Hans Gruber had to shoot his gun, Rickman would flinch. He couldn’t help it, and it caused McTiernan to get creative with his shots, cutting away from him so his reactions weren’t caught on film. Because Gruber was supposed to be a stone-cold killer.
Gruber’s American accent was one hell of a hard thing to manage
In that scene where Gruber has to drop his German accent and speak as an American to pretend to be a hostage who got away, posed some serious problems. As an Englishman, doing a German accent isn’t that hard, but to then try to get an American accent out of that was tough for Rickman. McTiernan was never happy with how Rickman spoke, shooting the scene several times, trying to get him to sound less hokey and more like an American. Which was strange; for such a talented actor, to not be able to get an American accent right, was baffling.
Hans Gruber’s German is pretty much gibberish
The German that Gruber was speaking to the rest of his gang, wasn’t really German nor proper sentences. As well, none of them were German either. Ironically enough, Bruce Willis, on the other hand, was actually born in West German to an American father and German mom.
Bruce Willis needed four feet to survive the film
As McClane spends most of the film in his bare feet, running through glass, Willis needed a pair of rubber feet to wear as a safety precaution. But if you pay attention, you can actually see those fake looking feet in certain scenes.
You can actually see that sweaty McClane tank top in a museum
Back in 2007, when ‘Live Free or Die Hard’ was about to premiere, he donated the blood soaked tank top from ‘Die Hard’ to the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian.
Hopeful it’s well ventilated, behind glass.
“Yippiee-Ki-Yay” has become a trademark of the franchise, but it was meant to be a joke
When they were filming the scene where Gruber was talking about cowboys, Willis just threw in the “Yippie-ki-yay, Motherf*cker” as a joke to crack up the crew, but instead, it worked so well that it was kept in the film. Now it’s been used (probably best in Die Hard 2), in every film of the franchise.
Though I’ll take the sanitized, Saturday afternoon movie version of “Yippie-Ki-Yay, Mister Falcon” any day.