Tag Archives: John McClane

Die Hard Movie Retrospective

Throughout the year I’ve been celebrating 30 years since the original Die Hard was released. I’ve covered a non-existent plot-hole, taken a look at some Die Hard trivia, compared the film to the novel it was based on, looked at every Die Hard game released as well as some Die Hard rip-off movies and I have even offered my opinion on the age old query as to whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie or not. Plus I have had a few nods and references to Die Hard in numerous other articles I’ve written through 2018. Yet as this year draws to a close, there is one thing I have not yet done. I’ve not done a retrospective on the films themselves.

Well with 2018 in it’s last few days and 2019 just around the corner. I can’t really end this year long celebration of 30 years since the first film was released without taking in all the films can I? I took part in my annual tradition of watching Die Hard on Christmas Eve with a glass (or three) of Jack Daniels and I’ve watched the rest of the films between then and now to make my way through the entire franchise. So here it is, my Die Hard movie retrospective. So, come read my blog, we’ll get together, have a few laughs…

Die Hard

Die Hard

Released in mid July of 1988, directed by John McTiernan and written by Steven E. de Souza & Jeb Stuart. The film that catapulted the then relatively unknown Bruce Willis into super stardom and cemented him as one of the most recognisable action stars ever.

Die Hard tells the story of John McClane (Bruce Willis) who is an everyday cop from New York. McClane is in L.A. to meet up with his estranged wife Holly Gennero (Bonnie Bedelia) at a Christmas party held at her place of work, Nakatomi Plaza. McClane is very much a fish out of water and doesn’t mix too well with the suits of Holly’s workplace. After asking for a place to clean up, terrorists seize control of Nakatomi Plaza taking all party goers hostage along the way, all except McClane who manages to sneak away unnoticed.

The terrorists are lead by the charismatic Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) who makes the police and FBI run through the rule book – only his intentions are not exactly what the police are anticipating. As Gruber and his men unleash their plan, McClane finds himself fighting against the odds to save to hostages, his wife and even himself as all hell breaks loose.

Die Hard is an all time classic. It is a Christmas film? Yes, for me it is… but it’s also just a great picture regardless – Christmas or not. Bruce Willis is brilliant in the role and really shut a lot of naysayers up who doubted his ability to hold a film like this back in 1988 as a leading action star. John McClane became a genuine action icon after this film and went on to appear in all the sequels too. Bonnie Bedelia playing Holly is also a joy to watch, she’s a ballsy character who takes no shit from anyone, including the leader of the terrorists himself, Hans Gruber.

Hans Gruber

Speaking of which, Gruber is quite possibly one of the greatest on screen villains ever… if not THE greatest. Alan Rickman’s performance is nothing short of pure fried gold. Gruber is charming, smart and charismatic… but then he’s also ruthless and will let nothing get in the way of his plan. He’d be just as conformable talking to you about designer suits and articles from Forbes magazine as much as he would putting a bullet between your eyes. You’re not supposed to like bad guys in films, they are called bad guys for a reason. Yet, with Gruber, you can’t help but fall in love with him a bit. This was Rickman’s first movie roll after moving to America from England and I personally do not think he ever bettered it. This is Alan Rickman at his finest on screen.

Back in 88, Die Hard blew people away. You have to bear in mind that the 80s was a decade when action films were very cookie cutter, each one being hard to distinguish from the other. You had the big, muscle bound action hero who would take on an army of bad guys with a gun that never needed reloading while the hero would emerge from the battle with nothing more than a smudge of dirt on their face. McClane was nothing like that, he was just a guy and one who had to use his brain as much as his gun – a gun that would run out of bullets. The plot of Die Hard is easy to explain and yet it’s not exactly straight forward either. There are twists and turns as McClane learns why the terrorists have crashed the Christmas party. Even when you know what is going on, there are still little bumps and surprises along the way that make you try to second guess both McClane and Gruber’s next move in this dangerous game of cat & mouse.

Die Hard – Best Scene

Die Hard is a movie chock-full of action set pieces, to pick one great action scene from several great action scenes is not easy… so my favourite scene isn’t an action one at all. Mine is one much more grounded.

Die Hard Bathroom

It’s after McClane and Gruber meet face to face for the first time, after Rickman does his best American accent to pass himself off as a Nakatomi Plaza employee, after the whole “shoot the glass” bit that leaves the barefoot McClane running over broken glass in an attempt to escape. When McClane is sitting there in the bathroom pulling shards of glass from his bloody feet. He gets on the walkie-talkie to Sgt. Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson) who has been supporting McClane since the shit hit the fan. McClane comes to a realisation, that there’s a good chance he’s not going to make it out of this alive. So he asks Powell to find his wife (“don’t ask me how by then you’ll know how.”) and he tells Powell, to relay a message to Holly… “Tell her that, um, she’s the best thing that ever happened to a bum like me. She’s heard me say “I love you” a thousand times. She never heard me say “I’m sorry.” I want you to tell her that, Al. Tell her that John said that he was sorry.”.

That scene is heartbreaking and for an action film, you just don’t see the hero break down like that. The hero in an 80s action film never doubted he would survive, he never asks someone to find his wife to tell her he said he’s sorry in the midst of the action. This is one of the major elements I love about the film – these human moments that show McClane as an everyday guy. The acting from Willis is top-notch too. Brilliant scene.

“I wanted this to be professional, efficient, adult, cooperative. Not a lot to ask. Alas, your Mr. Takagi did not see it that way… so he won’t be joining us for the rest of his life.”

– Hans Gruber

Die Hard 2: Die Harder

Die Hard 2

The massive success of the first film meant a sequel was a given. And 1990 saw the release of Die Hard 2: Die Harder. Reuniting several of the cast but with new director at the helm with Renny Harlin.

John McClane is back and on Christmas Eve, two years to the day after the Nakatomi Plaza incident, history repeats itself. McClane arrives at Washington Dulles International Airport to pick up Holly who is flying in from L.A. At the very start, McClane’s car gets impounded by the airport police and this is just the start of his troubles. While sitting at bar, he sees two people acting very suspiciously and decides to investigate. After getting involved in a shootout in the baggage area, McClane learns that one of the men he killed is an American soldier who was apparently already killed in action years earlier. Things just do not add up.

McClane soon discovers that ex-U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel William Stuart has taken over control of the airport along with his cohorts. Stuart wants to see the release of General Ramon Esperanza, a well known drug lord and dictator into his care. As Stuart and his henchmen do their best to disrupt the airport, McClane gets to work doing what he does best, taking out the terrorists while trying to save Holly who is still in a plane circling the airport and fast running out of fuel.

Die Hard 2 Meet

Die Hard 2: Die Harder is a very solid sequel. It’s familiar and yet fresh, it keeps very much to the staples that made the first film so damn good while also mixing thing up a bit along the way. The plot twists as it progresses and things are not as black & white as they first seem. It lacks the originality the first film has… but of course it does, its a sequel – but overall, it’s a damn good watch and for me, the best sequel in the franchise.

The cast, once more are great. Of course Bruce Willis as McClane is a joy to watch as is Bonnie Bedelia as Holly who is just as ballsy as she was in the first film. Then there is William Sadler as the main villain, Colonel Stuart. He’s no Alan Rickman, no Hans Gruber but a very enjoyable performance none the less.

The film kind of lacks that claustrophobic/enclosed setting of the original with McClane having the run of an entire airport – yet things are still restrictive. I mean, it’s not as if McClane could just walk out the front door leaning his wife stranded in the air waiting for the inevitable plane crash.

Die Hard 2: Die Harder – Best Scene

Kind of similar to the first film, my favourite scene is not one of the many action set-pieces. I’ve gone for one of the more human scenes that show McClane as just a guy. It’s after the Windsor flight 144 plane crash caused by Colonel Stuart. After McClane does all he can to try to prevent it, after he walks through the wreckage and sees a child’s stuffed toy. At that moment, he doesn’t know who’s plane it is, could’ve been his wife’s.

Die Hard 2 Windsor

It then cuts to McClane sitting there in the control room of the airport a silent, broken man. Just as with the first film, he feels useless. He did all he could and yet an entire plane full of people, including children are dead. There’s no awesome and well written line of dialogue. In fact, it’s quite the opposite and very quiet with hardly a word spoken. It’s just a man realising he is just a man and no matter what he does, it may not be enough.

“Just once, I’d like a regular, normal Christmas. Eggnog, a fuckin’ Christmas tree, a little turkey. But, no. I gotta crawl around in this motherfuckin’ tin can.”

– John McClane

Die Hard with a Vengeance

Die Hard with a Vengeance

There was a five year gap between sequels this time and 1995 saw the release of the third film in the franchise. Not only did Bruce Willis come back, but director of the original flick, John McTiernan also returned. So did the reunion create a film worthy of the original?

By now McClane and Holly are separated, she’s doing well in L.A. while he is still working as a cop in New York. When we first meet McClane in the film, he’s recovering from a hangover and on suspension from the force.  This is a John McClane on the edge with nothing no lose. Enter the mysterious Simon (Jeremy Irons) who blows up a department store in New York and specifically asks for McClane to try to stop him. Simon has McClane jumping through hoops and if he does not comply, Simon will blow up another location. While following Simon’s strict instructions, McClane crosses paths with Zeus Carver (Samuel L. Jackson) an the two are dragged into the mad bomber’s dangerous game.

It’s latter revealed that Simon is the brother of Hans Gruber from the first film and it seems he is out for revenge over the death of his sibling who want’s McClane dead… or does he? As McClane and Carver are forced to run around New York stopping/defusing bombs, Gruber’s grand plan is revealed and it seems the apple does not fall far from the tree when it comes to the Grubers.

Die Hard with a Vengeance Simon

Okay, so I have a serious love/hate relationship with Die Hard with a Vengeance. Is it a good picture? Yes, it’s bloody entertaining. The flick literally opens up with an explosion and the action does not let up after that until the credits roll. The story is great and has twists and turns along the way. Is it a good Die Hard film though? Well that’s a more difficult question to answer. It’s got John McClane in it, it connects to the first film with the whole Gruber brother thing… but that’s about it really. They could have released this as a Bruce Willis flick with him playing a generic action hero and it would’ve worked either way.

The film just lacks something and I’m not really sure what that something is. There’s brilliant chemistry between Willis and Jackson, they honestly come across as a great coupling trough the film. The plot does a good job of not being too obvious and has some great twists. Irons is a fantastic bad guy and does feel like Hans Gruber’s brother.

But I think my main problem with the film is just how “convenient” everything is. In the first two flicks, you see and feel McClane having to work things out, you see the cogs in his head grind away. In this, things just happen and he just so happens to be in the right place at the right time. Gruber just so happens to plant the bomb in the same school Caver’s nephews attend (despite the fact Carver was never part of Gruber’s initial plan), McClane just so happens to find the most knowledgeable truck driver in the whole of New York who helps him solve a clue, The bit where McClane is shot out of the aqueduct via water pressure from an exploding bomb he couldn’t predict – and just so happens to be randomly shot out at the exact time and the exact place Carver just so happens to be driving past. Or what about the fact McClane’s buddy just so happened to use his badge number as lottery number picks and how one of the bad guys kills said buddy and takes his police badge to wear… then McClane just so happens to notice said police badge while in a tricky situation that clued him into the fact the guys he is with are the bad guys?

They could’ve called this one Die Hard with a Lot of Plot Convenience. There are other moments too where things just happen because the script says so and McClane has things work out very nicely for him along the way. Things like McClane having to be told who Simon really is, when I feel that is something he should have worked out for himself. Plus I feel this film marks the dumbing down, the decline of the franchise – something the next two sequel revel in.

Die Hard with a Vengeance – Best Scene

There is no genuine human moment in this film that shows McClane as the every day guy is. But perhaps my favourite scene is one where McClane is just being McClane.

Die Hard with a Vengeance Train.jpg

It’s just after the subway train crash via one of Gruber’s bombs. After Carver has the altercation with the rookie cop (“I have to answer this phone.”). All hell breaks loose as the bomb explodes, the subway train derails and swings out casing untold damage, people run for their lives as the subway car tips over onto it’s side and crashes to a halt and it looks like no one would’ve survived that. Then McClane just pulls himself out of the wreckage laughing to himself in disbelief over he fact he’s still alive. That laugh, that McClane laugh is just perfect and adds a nice light-hearted moment to an otherwise intense scene.

“Yeah, Zeus! As in, father of Apollo? Mt. Olympus? Don’t fuck with me or I’ll shove a lightning bolt up your ass? Zeus! You got a problem with that?”

– Zeus Carver

Live Free or Die Hard

Live Free or Die Hard

I was happy with just the three flicks, the previous one was okay and has it’s problems but still served as a satisfying end to the trilogy. But they just couldn’t leave it alone and McClane was brought back in 2007. This time directed by Len Wiseman.

McClane finds himself in Washington, D.C. with expert computer hacker Matt Farrell (Justin Long) in the midst of a major cyber attack headed up by Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant) and his team of cyber terrorists. Gabriel aims to hack into government and commercial computers all over the U.S. and disable the nation’s infrastructure. Of course McClane and his new sidekick stop the bad guys.

This film has it’s fans… I’m not one of them. It’s just not Die Hard. It’s a very generic action film with none of the heart or charm of the previous ones. The plot is bland, the main villain is forgettable and McClane is just not McClane. He’s no longer the everyday cop fighting against the odds, he’s become an indestructible super hero. I mean going back to my favourite scene of the first film with McClane asking Powell to find his wife and apologise – it’s a fantastic scene that shows just how “human” he is. This film has McClane going up against a F-35B Lightning II fighter jet as a freeway crumbles around him… and winning. It’s just stupid, it’s a stupid film.

Live Free or Die Hard Jet

I said about Die Hard with a Vengeance that it marked the dumbing down and the decline of the franchise – but this film takes that to a whole new level.

Live Free or Die Hard – Best Scene

The ends credits, I could not wait for this film to end. Lets move on.

A Good Day to Die Hard

A Good Day to Die Hard

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse… it does. So he’s back once more, this time directed by John Moore and released in 2013. Oh dear…

So now McClane is in Russia where he meets up with his estranged son Jack (Jai Courtney). the father and son team up to and find themselves entangled in a global terrorist plot… and I’m bored already.

The previous film was bad but it’s watchable – just barely. This is fucking atrocious. You can always tell when I really don’t like something as the paragraphs get shorter as I really don’t want to give the film any more attention.

A Good Day to Die Hard – Best Scene

There’s this really amazing scene near the end with McClane driving a truck out of the back of a helicopter. It’s a beautiful designed and shot scene that explores the depth and the McClane character… nah, utter bollocks. The film is shit with no best scene. Even the end credits aren’t worth it.

McClane

Old McClane

Well there’s yet more as the sixth film in the franchise is in production as I write this simply called McClane. To be directed by Len Wiseman who also directed Live Free or Die Hard. The plot isn’t fully known right now but it has been said this will be both a sequel and prequel in one film.

There will be present day scenes starring Bruce Willis playing an ageing John McClane, possibly retired? But the film will also flashback to New Year’s Eve 1979 and tell the story of young John McClane as a rookie cop in New York. Details are thin on the ground right now, there are no specific story details or even a release date yet.

To be honest, I’m not at all interested in this one. For me, the franchise died a long time ago. I have little interest in seeing an 60 year old John McClane and I have even less interest in seeing a 20-something version too. I’ll just stick to the first two films and depending on my mood, the third one. If I want to watch a young McClane, I’ll just re-watch Die Hard.


 

That’s me done for 2018 folks. Just want to say a big thanks to everyone who has been reading my scrawlings over the last 12 months. I do enjoy doing these articles and I hope you enjoy reading them.

New Year

Have a great New Years, whatever you get up to.

See you in 2019…maybe…

Advertisements

Not Your Usual, “Is Die Hard A Christmas Movie?” Article

Yup its that time of year again. The annual celebration we like to call Christmas is back and I bet that if you typed “is Die Hard a Christmas movie” into Google (or your choice of interwebs search engine), you’ll find dozens of articles all asking that particular question and all with differing answers. Most sites keep regurgitating the exact same article from the previous years too just with a few wording tweaks and many offer “a new poll” which, as I’ve noticed seems to switch results every year. Last year a poll said yes Die Hard is a Christmas film but this year it’s a no. It’ll be a yes again next year.

I have been writing this blog for a few years now and never bothered to offer my own insight and answer to this age old query, until now. Except I don’t want to do what everyone else does with a simple yes or no – I want to not only answer but also explain my answer.

This summer saw the 30th anniversary since Die Hard was released and I’ve been doing Die Hard based articles all year in celebration. So it only seem fitting to tackle this sticky subject as part of and to end my 30th anniversary celebrations. But before I get to my opinion and answer to the query, lets see what some people connected to the movie say…

Are They Right?

Die Hard screenwriter Steven E. de Souza already put his view across a while back and he says it is. However Bruce Willis has said its not when he was quoted during his comedy roast by saying:

“Die Hard is not a Christmas movie. It’s a god damn Bruce Willis movie!”

– Bruce Willis

Bearing in mind, that was (as mentioned) during a comedy roast. So I’m guessing Bruce was trying to be funny. Plus there is the fact he’s getting old and senile too – I mean back in 2007 he said that Live Free or Die Hard is better (at times) than the original.

“It’s at least as good if not better at times that the first film.”

– Bruce Willis

As I said, senile. So what Bruce says about the original being a Christmas movie or not is moot… seriously it’s as good as if not better than the original? Bruce needs to be put down – it would be kinder.

Now I Have A Machinegun

I suppose that is really the crux of my point, it’s opinion. When it comes to this question everyone falls into one of three categories.

  1. You have the naysayers, the ones that refuse to see Die Hard as a Christmas flick.
  2. You have the opposite, the ones who will say it is a Christmas movie every year until they die.
  3. Then you have the third group, the ones that just don’t give a fuck.

People say it’s not a Christmas film because it has nothing to do with Christmas… and they’re right from a plot point of view. Then there are those that say it is a Christmas movie because it takes place over Christmas Eve – but is that enough? For me, no. But I will come off as very hypocritical next as it’s now time for me to answer that yearly question – is Die Hard a Christmas movie? Well…

Die Hard Jumpers

Those are my Christmas jumpers for this year, what do you think my opinion is? Still, I said earlier how I don’t just want to answer but also explain my answer. And this is where the hypocrisy will come in. No, I don’t think that Die Hard being set at Christmas is enough to qualify it as a Christmas flick. I feel the same way about that other controversial choice too, Lethal Weapon. I love me some Riggs & Murtaugh and I think Lethal Weapon is a damn fine picture… but it’s not a festive flick to me despite it being set at Christmas just like Die Hard.

What Is A “Christmas Movie?”

Yet something like Batman Returns or Gremlins? Yup, I see those as Christmas films despite the fact they have little to do with the festive season other than the setting. I did pre-warn you about the hypocrisy. Die Hard gets shot down as a festive film just because it’s set at Christmas but the plot has nothing to do with the holiday… yet Home Alone is always lauded as a “Christmas classic” when it is only set at Christmas but plot-wise? What does a really annoying kid fending off two really fucking stupid burglars have to do with the Yuletide season? So what is Die Hard ignored as a Christmas flick because it has nothing to do with the season and only set in it – but others in the same boat get a free pass? You don’t see “Is Home Alone a Christmas movie?” articles year after year do you?

This line of reasoning can be applied to films that no one would argue against being a Christmas film. Take my all time favourite festive flick – It’s a Wonderful Life. Usually at near the top if not at the top of a lot of Christmas film lists…. but why? The opening of the film and the end are set in and around Xmas sure, but the majority of the story has absolutely nothing to do with the silly season at all. George Bailey thinking life would be better of he was dead is a story that could’ve been told any time of the year, not specifically Christmas. Yes it being (hardly) set at Christmas gives it a little lift, a bit more gravitas. But the core of the plot and meaning behind it – that could’ve been told in the Spring and still got the same message across right?

Its A Wonderful Life

What about the all time, undisputed classic A Christmas Carol? I love this story. No matter how many times it is told and re-told, I never get bored of it. Form the Alastair Sim starring 1951 Scrooge, the Bill Murray take from 1988 with Scrooged to the greatest version of the tale yet – The Muppet Christmas Carol from 1992. It’s a story that has been done dozens up on dozens and dozens of times from 1901 onward. Yet it’s another one that is considered a “Christmas classic” when it really has little to do with Christmas outside of it’s setting. Yeah I know what you are thinking – how dare I? But just look at the plot for a second. it’s about a miserly old man learning to be more generous and friendly. Let me put it this way, keep the same plot, same characters, ghosts everything –  only change the setting from Christmas Eve to October 31st and you have an effective Halloween film about a mean old bastard scared into being nice by ghosts of his past and even Death itself.

Seriously, What Is A Christmas Movie?

Of course there are films that are not only set at Christmas but also have a plot that is cemented in the festive season. Miracle on 34th Street as an example. It’s a film about a man trying to prove his is the real Santa Claus. It’s kind of hard to get a more Christmasy film than that. You can change the setting, but the plot is still about someone proving they are the real Santa. But what about something that features the real Santa but is hardly set at Christmas at all? I present the short film Father Christmas from 1991 based on the books by Raymond Briggs, the man behind another all time Christmas classic, The Snowman. Have you ever seen Father Christmas? (the short film not the real dude). It basically tells the story of what Santa does the rest of the year when it’s not Christmas. For those not in the know, he goes on holiday and says “bloomin'” a lot. It’s a film about Father Christmas that has little to do with Christmas itself… yet it’s a definite “Christmas classic”.

Father Christmas

And that really is my point, it’s hard to pin-down what makes a Christmas movie a Christmas movie. You can have Christmas films that have plots and characters centric to the season. There are ones that are only set at Christmas but from a plot point of view have nothing to do with the holiday. Then there are some that feature Christmas characters at the centre, but story/plot wise have little to do with Noël. So where does Die Hard fit into all of this? I said earlier how I don’t consider Die Hard a Christmas movie just because it’s set at Christmas. Yet I do see it as a Christmas flick none the less… and so this is where the explanation comes in.

This Is What A Christmas Movie is…

Back to the Future, The Wizard of Oz, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Rocky III. So what do all those films have in common? Well they’re all Christmas flicks. Maybe I should clarify, they are all Christmas films to me specifically. See here in England in the 80s when I grew up, we only had four T.V. channels at the time and these channels would always battle year after year to get the big films shown over Christmas, sometimes it would be a T.V. premier too. It was a wondrous time of year for the young film-fan me as I got to watch plenty of flicks. I’d probably watch more films over the 2 week Christmas holiday from school than I would the rest of the year. A lot of first time views of these films for me comes from Christmas and so they go on to be forever associated with Christmas to me personally, despite their settings, plots or characters. Then there is the other thing I connect Christmas to – family. I still remember and miss those family gatherings every year. Let me take one film from those above as an example with Rocky III and continue my explanation.

The film itself has nothing to do with Christmas I know. Yet the first time I saw Rocky III was on T.V. in the 80s over Christmas (I think 86?). I still remember the day vividly. Nan and Granddad came over on Christmas Eve and stayed with us. We opened our presents in the morning and I got an X-Wing, toy not a real one. We’d had a huge traditional dinner around 1 PM before The Queen’s Christmas Message came on the telly at 3 as Nan would never miss that. Me and my brothers got to play with our new gifts for a while before we had to tidy up. And then later that evening, Granddad snored away in his favourite armchair, sleeping off that huge dinner as the big film, Rocky III came on T.V. I sat on the sofa next to Nan and she put her arm around a 10 year old me and we both sat there watching Sylvester Stallone punch the crap out of Mr. T.

Rocky III

Whenever I watch Rocky III even now it reminds me of that Christmas Day and so is, for me, a Christmas film. it has nothing to do with Christmas, no Christmas characters, story or plot and not even a hint of a Christmas setting. Yet it will always be a Christmas movie because of that memory.

Same goes for Die Hard (finally), I don’t consider Die Hard a Christmas film because it’s set at Christmas, it helps I admit – but it’s not the reason it’s a Christmas flick to me. The reason is because I first saw it over Christmas. I was way too young in 1988 to go to the cinema to watch Die Hard. But when it was released on VHS, I remember my older brother Rob coming home one day with a copy and we watched it together a few days before Christmas. From that day in 1989 to this, I always watch Die Hard on Christmas Eve as a tradition. Now I’m an adult, I pour myself a large glass of Jack Daniels, plonk myself into a nice & comfy leather armchair, then sit back and relax as Bruce Willis shoots terrorists (who said they were terrorists?) in a skyscraper. I’m not satisfied until Hans Gruber falls from Nakatomi Plaza. And I’ll be doing the same this Christmas Eve too 29 years after that very first time.

Hans Gruber falling

 

That is what a Christmas film is. It doesn’t have to have a Christmas theme or plot or characters, nor does it need to be set at Christmas either. A Christmas flick is one you watch over Christmas because it gets you in the mood, it sparks off a festive memory, a film you watch because it’s Christmas not because it’s a Christmas film.

Is Die Hard a Christmas movie? For me, yes and it’s up there with the likes of Back to the Future, The Wizard of Oz, Raiders of the Lost Ark and of course Rocky III.

John McClane Christmas

Have a good Christmas folks. Oh and yippee-ki-yay mother fuckers.

Good And Bad Die Hard Rip-Offs

When it was released in 1988 (happy 30th), Die Hard was a revelation in action films. It took a lot of the clichés most other action films were guilty of overusing and turned them on their head. Die Hard blew film-goers away and can still hold it’s own against other actions films released now. It became as massive success and went in to spawn a huge franchise in it’s own right, not just with movies – the sixth of which (called McClane) is in production as I write this. But there were Die Hard games, comic books and all sorts of memorabilia. And I’ve been celebrating three decades of Die Hard all this year with numerous articles covering the film. 

Die Hard Art

Credit to Chris Weston over at Xombiedirge.com for this amazing fan-art.

The staggering success of Die Hard gave birth to an often used motif in action cinema, the Die Hard rip-off. For years and still even today, whenever an action film is released that features a usually lone hero going up against bad guys and normally in a confined setting, it gets lumbered with the “Die Hard on/in/at a…” label. So in no particular order or preference, here are some good and bad Die Hard rip-offs. 

Skyscraper – (A.K.A Die Hard In A Skyscraper)

Skyscraper

No, not the recent Dwayne Johnson flick of the same name, this is the 1996 Skyscraper  that took the idea of Die Hard and set it in a skyscraper… like Die Hard. Implementing the now often overused idea of the gender swap and making the hero and heroine. Starring cough “actress” Anna Nicole Smith and swapping the human and everyday main with a heart characteristics of John McClane with big tits.

Anna Nicole Smith plays Carrie Wink, a helicopter pilot who finds herself caught up in a plot involving terrorists and something to do with electronic devices… I’m not 100% sure what the plot is about to be honest or of there really is one. I’m pretty sure this film only exists to show-off Ms Smith’s breasts, at least they are the only two things I remember about the film anyway.

This is bad, this is really, really bad. But I guess Anna Nicole Smith was nice to look at.

Sudden Death – (A.K.A Die Hard At A Sports Stadium)

Sudden Death

This Jean-Claude Van Damme starring flick came out in 1995 and has “The Muscles From Brussels” taking on bad guys till Sudden Death. Released when Van Damme as at the top of his game and making a name for himself as a bankable action hero.

Set in a hockey arena, Van Damme plays fire marshal Darren McCord (its almost McClane) who attends a big hockey game with his son and daughter. While at the game, a group of terrorists arrive and hold various V.I.Ps  hostage in a luxury suite. McCord steps up to save the day and the lives of his children as the terrorists plan on blowing up the stadium when the hockey game ends unless their demands are met. 

To be honest, this one is half decent. I do love some JCVD and while this is far from his best, it’s also far from his worst. Plus you get to see JCVD kick a penguin.

Passenger 57 – (A.K.A Die Hard On A Plane)

Passenger 57

From 1992 comes this high octane and cliché ridden (such as using phrases like “high octane” to describe and action film set on a plane) picture with Wesley Snipes. At the time Snipes wasn’t really known for action flicks but soon became an action star after this one… a bit like Bruce Willis with Die Hard really. 

John McClane… sorry, John Cutter played by Snipes is a retired United States Secret Service agent who now teaches self defence to flight attendants. While struggling to come to terms with the death of his wife during a botched robbery, Cutter is offered a new job as the vice president of a new anti-terrorism unit. Cutter is the 57th passenger on a flight to Los Angeles (where was Die Hard set again?) to attend a meeting regarding his new job. Oh and on the same flight is psychopathic terrorist Charles Rane being escorted by two FBI agents. Shortly after take off, things go wrong when Rane and his cohorts take control of the plane leaving Cutter to save the day.

Snipes is a good action star and this was his first proper stab at the genre. The plot is very predicable but it’s a good film overall. Always bet on the one that isn’t red.

Air Force One – (A.K.A Die Hard On A Plane)

Air Force One

Yes even the Die Hard rip-off begin to rip-off the rip-offs eventually. This one is from 1997 and stars the legend that is Harrison Ford. An impressive all star cast join Ford in this high octane (sorry) action flick set in on the most famous plane in the world.

So Ford plays U.S. President James Marshall (J.M, John McClane?) who after attending a diplomatic dinner in Moscow, boards Air Force One to return to America. Only for Russian terrorists posing as the press to seize control of the plane and take hostages. Marshall is rushed to an escape pod for his own safety… only he never leaves and stays on-board to save the lives of his wife and child along with the other hostages.

So you’ve got Harrison Ford, a legendary action hero – going up against Gary Oldman, a legendary bad guy. Ford mumbles his way through the film as Oldman chews the scenery like he’s not eaten in a month… and it’s glorious.

Con Air – (A.K.A Die Hard On A Plane)

Con Air

Okay so now the rip-offs are ripping off the rip-offs that are ripping off the rip-offs… I think. Also from 1997 comes this other high octane (last one I promise) plane based action film. With Nicolas Cage in the main role.

Cage is Cameron Poe, an Army Ranger who’s honourably discharged after killing a man who tired to attack his pregnant wife. Poe serves ten years in prison but is paroled two years early. He has to take his final trip home to reunite with his wife and see his daughter for the first time, as a prisoner aboard The Jailbird – a flying prison transport along with several other prisoners being transported to other jails. Of of course the bad guys take control of the plane leaving Poe to clean up the mess.

Of all the Die Hard on a plane rip-offs (there’s a lot of them), this is my favourite. Cage is brilliant as the hero with a heart plus you have John Malkovich playing the main villain. 

Under Siege – (A.K.A Die Hard On A Boat)

Under Siege

“I’m just a cook”, Steven Seagal liked to tell people back in 1992 as he continually punched people in the face on board a Navy battleship in Under Siege. At least it made a change from a plane right?

So Seagal plays Casey Ryback, he’s just a cook (honest) on board the USS Missouri. A musical band land on the battleship to entertain the troops… only they turn out to be a band of mercenaries who take control of the ship. As it turns out, Ryback is a little more than just the cook (he lied) as he’s a highly trained and experienced Navy SEAL who specialises in anti-terrorism tactics. So of course he kills the bad guys, gets the girl and saves the day. Not bad for a cook.

Perhaps one of the most famous rip-offs when people knew who Steven Seagal was. Again an enjoyable romp, nowt too special but fun… just avoid the terrible sequel.

No Contest – (A.K.A Die Hard At A Beauty Pageant)

No Contest

Yeah you read that right. Just think of all the locales already mentioned and where one could set a Die Hard rip-off… would you think a beauty contest would work? This one is from 1995 and stars very soft porn actress Shannon Tweed… she’s married to Gene Simmons you know?

Yeah this is as bad as it sounds. Tweed plays kick-boxer/actress Sharon Bell who while at A Miss Galaxy beauty pageant, fends off a gang who take hostages. The gang demand diamonds as a ransom or they’ll… zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz… Sorry dozed off for a while there. Oh errrrr, Robert (“Agent Johnson, no the other one”) Davi from Die Hard is in it.

This is fucking atrocious, I mean – this is Die Hard 4 & 5 levels of bad. Even worse, they made a sequel… don’t look it up.

Icebreaker – (A.K.A Die Hard At A Ski Resort)

Icebreaker.png

It’s time to hit the piste as Sean Astin plays Matt Foster – the cough “hero”. Released in 2000 a year before people would finally recognise Sean Austin as a Hobbit.

So everything is going great at the Killington ski resort. Foster, one of the resort’s Ski Patrol is seen as a bum by his soon to be father-in-law. Enter terrorist Carl Greig who takes control of the ski resort/. The plot has something to do with radio active material stolen from Russia or something. I really lost interest in this one, can’t really remember the plot if I’m honest. But whatever happened in the plot, Foster gets the chance to impress his fiancé’s father when he saves the day.

Dull film with a bland plot. Still, Bruce Campbell plays the main bad guy and that’s the only good thing about the film.

Speed – (A.K.A Die Hard On A Bus)

Speed

Very few of these Die Hard rip-offs are any good. Some of them are terrible, most of them are okay and a handful of them are fantastic. Speed is definitely one of the greats. Released in 1994 when the Die Hard rip-off still felt fresh and starring John Wick, sorry Keanu Reeves.

Reeves plays Jack Traven a young SWAT officer who finds himself trapped on a bus armed with a bomb after he thwarted a previous attempt to extort money via the use of a bomb by madman Howard Payne. When the bus hits 50 MPH, the bomb is armed and if it drops below 50, it blows up killing all on board. Pop quiz, hotshot. What do you do? Traven teams up with plucky bus driver, Annie to save the hostages on board the bus as well as themselves.

The chemistry between Keanu Reeves’ Jack Traven and Sandra Bullock as Annie is wonderful. The action is exiting and well directed. Plus you have legendary Dennis Hopper playing the mad bomber. When it comes to Die Hard rip-off, they don’t get better than this… the sequel though?

Command Performance – (A.K.A Die Hard At A Live Gig)

Command Performace

From 2009 comes this written by, directed by and starring Dolph Lundgren flick. The film is said to be (very loosely) based on a true story where Madonna performed a special live gig for Vladimir Putin… only with a large sprinkling of fantasy.

So the Russian President asks pop sensation Venus (Madonna/Venus, get it?) to perform an exclusive gig as his daughters are big fans. Lundgren plays Joe, an ex-biker, turned drummer who has to save the day when terrorists turn up at the concert and take the President, along with others as hostages. Joe teams up with young Russian agent Mikhail Kapista to kill the bad guys and save the hostages.

Dolph Lundgren is a drummer in real life and I’m pretty sure the only reason this film exists is so Lundgren can show people he can really drum… and do it well too. Just a shame the film isn’t as good as his drumming. This is one of those very mundane Die Hard rip-offs. It’s not terrible, its far from great – it just kind of is.


 

Well there you have it, a few good, and more than a few bad Die Hard rip-offs. Trust me, there’s a lot more out there – I’ve only just touched on a handful of the more famous ones as well as highlight some of the not so famous ones… Die Hard at a beauty pageant, seriously?

Die Hard Art Feet

More stunning fan-art from Chris Weston at Xombiedirge.com

Next up in my celebration of 30 years of Die Hard, I’m tackling the big one, a subject I’ve avoided for a long time. It’s December so it just seems right that I offer my own opinion on that yearly debate and eternal question that is, is Die Hard a Christmas movie?

From Page To Screen: Die Hard

Today is the 15th of July, my birthday. But despite marking me getting older, this day is important for another reason too. Thirty years ago today and Die Hard was given its official cinematic release. Admittedly, it had its premier on the 12th but it was given a public release on the 15th of July 1988. So yippee ki-yay mother fuckers – Die Hard is thirty years old today.

Die Hard 30th

I have been doing a few Die Hard related articles through the year to celebrate three decades of arguably the greatest action/thriller movie ever from quick nods and references to dedicated articles for the film itself (with more to come later). Today I’m going to try my hand at something different and an idea I have wanted to do for a while now – take a look at the novel that inspired the film and bring up some of the differences. This isn’t to compare the two mediums at all or try to work out which one is “better”, I love both the book and movie for different reasons. No, I just aim to go through the two and bring up the changes (big and small) made from page to film. I have a fair few of these I’d like to do in the future but I think to celebrate 30 years of one of the greatest action/thrillers ever, that Die Hard is a fantastic place to begin this (hopefully) new feature.

So I guess I’d better crack on. But before I do, I will offer my usual SPOILERS warning for both the movie and book from this point on. If you have never read the book, then I strongly suggest you do as it is awesome and offers quite a few surprises even if you know the film inside out.

Die Hard Book.jpg

Yup that is me holding my very own copy of Die Hard the novel…except it wasn’t originally called Die Hard. What I have is a reprint released after the success of the film. Which brings us to the first notable difference. The title. The novel was originally released in 1979 by author Roderick Thorp and was called Nothing Lasts Forever (sounds like a James Bond flick to me) and NLF was even a sequel to Thorp’s own novel, The Detective from 1966.

In DH, the main character played by Bruce Willis is called John McClane. In the book though he is called Joseph Leland. There are other differences to the characters than just their names too. John is a young-ish but experienced New York cop with a witty almost sarcastic attitude (“No fucking shit lady, do I sound like I’m ordering a pizza!”) and problems with authority figures. Joseph however is an older, more grizzled and weary character and now retired from the police force. His attitude seemingly comes from his many years as a cop, some of which are from the previous book along with his time serving as a fighter pilot during World War II. This man has seen his fair share of death already and is vastly different to the upbeat and wisecracking John McClane from the flick.

John McClane

When we first meet John in the film, he is on a plane from New York and just landed in L.A. on his way to meet his estranged wife, Holly at a Christmas party held at her work place of Nakatomi Plaza. Joseph’s introduction is a little different – though the scenario is similar. We meet him in the book as he rides in a taxi on his way to the airport to catch a plane to L.A. There’s some issues with traffic and Joseph brandishes his gun – showing his short temper and bitter anger very early on. He is flying to L.A. to meet up with Stephanie Gennaro, his only child who works for the Klaxon Oil company to celebrate the closing of a huge multi-million dollar deal on Christmas Eve. The relationship between father and daughter has been strained since the death of Joseph’s wife (Stephanie’s mother) eight years previously.

At the building in DH, John quickly scopes the place out before meeting Harry Ellis, the sleazy executive with a penchant for cocaine, who has eyes for Holly – John doesn’t much like him. This is similar in the book too as Joseph does pretty much the same, checking out the Klaxon building on his arrival. He also gets to meet Harry Ellis who is also a sleazy executive with a penchant for cocaine. However, in NLF Harry is actually sleeping with Stephanie which Joseph instantly takes a disliking to. DH also features Joseph Takagi, Holly’s boss and head executive of Nakatomi. A character John seems to like during their brief introduction. NLF also has a boss character called Mr. Rivers as the president of Klaxon Oil. Its made pretty clear in the book that Joseph really doesn’t like Rivers at all and sees him as trouble and a bad influence for his daughter and thinks she is becoming just like these coke snorting assholes she is working with. There is the very expensive watch in both too. In DH, its a gift to Holly from her boss for helping to close a big deal. In NLF, the watch was bought buy Stephanie herself and this tiny detail is important, later…

Ellis

The film and book pretty much follow the exact same plot form this point onward. In DH, John is separated from the party as he cleans himself up after his flight. He’s making fists with his toes as the terrorists strike and John hears gunfire. As all hell breaks loose, John manages to slip away from the main action avoiding being rounded up with the other hostages, barefoot and with only his service pistol for backup. Joseph in NLF pretty much does the exact same thing. Its here in the flick when we get to meet one of the greatest cinematic villains ever. Hans Gruber, played flawlessly by the great Alan Rickman. Hans is slick, charismatic, well educated and highly intelligent. In NLF, the main villain is Anton “Little Tony The Red” Gruber. They are pretty similar in their personalities but I guess the main difference between Hans and Anton is their goal. In DH, Hans uses a facade of a terrorist attack to steal $640 million in bearer bonds from the vaults of Nakatomi Plaza. But in NLF, there is no facade. Anton and his cohorts are real terrorists and are there to take on Klaxon Oil over the very deal Stephanie and her colleagues are celebrating. You see, Klaxon Oil have been dealing with Chile’s junta and Anton plans to steal documents that he will use to publicly expose Klaxon Oil for all their corruption.

Nakatomi Plaza.jpg

Once the action kicks into gear, there aren’t too many notable differences. In fact some of the iconic action sequences from DH are lifted verbatim from NLF.  The killing of the first terrorist is the same including the broken neck along with the undignified trip in an elevator while wearing the “Now I have a machine gun” sweatshirt. Only in the book the message reads “Now we have a machine gun”. Its a subtle change for sure, but its also one worth mentioning as it shows Joseph’s line of thinking and how he is playing mind games with the terrorists by tricking them into thinking there is more than one of him running around the building. The elevator shaft escape while being hunted down, getting trapped in the air ducts, etc. All in both the movie and the book. As are the throwing a dead terrorist out of the building to get the attention of the police, strapping C-4 to a chair and using it to stop the terrorists from killing the police all from the book. Think of a major action sequence in the film and you’ll find it on the page.

There is even a Sergeant Al Powell who John/Joseph communicates with throughout the story. But where Al in the movie is a older, experienced cop – in the book he’s in his early 20s and with much less experience under his belt. Yet they both serve the same purpose in both the film and book and this it to keep John/Joseph as clam and sane as they can through the whole ordeal. There’s also a Deputy Chief Dwayne Robinson in both the picture and the novel and yes, they are both complete assholes too who think of John/Joseph as doing more harm than good. I guess its also worth noting that earlier in the book as he was flying to L.A., Joseph made friends with a stewardess named Kathi who he manages to talk to several times through the book.

Powell

More of the same with John/Joseph listening in and feeling helpless as Hans/Anton kills Harry Ellis over the matter of getting his detonators back. Only the book makes it much more clear that Joseph feels responsible for the death although there was nothing he could’ve done. Yes even the fire-hose/exploding roof jump escape is in both the movie and book. So is the psychical damage done to John/Joseph as they both get beaten and bloody throughout – though in my opinion, I feel the book does a far better job of detailing and getting across just how much physical abuse Joseph goes through in the novel over John in the film. Some of the descriptions in the novel vastly outweigh anything John suffers in the film.

A big difference between film and the book is that the novel is told pretty much always from the point of view of Joseph Leland. In the film we get to see several scenes that follow and detail what Hans and the boys are up to, what the police are doing while John runs around Nakatomi Plaza. The book doesn’t really do any of that and we only learn what the terrorists are doing if and when Joseph sees or hears it. There are also times when Joseph thinks back to his World War II days and some of the horrors he witnessed that shaped him to be the troubled and and bitter but tough retired cop he now is. Overall, Joseph is given a much more detailed backstory in the book over John in the film.

Now for the ending and once more, I will issue another SPOILER warning here as the books ending is similar but also very different to the movie. Its well worth experiencing as a first time reader rather than have it ruined for you here. Read on at your own peril.

Hans Fall

DH has one of the most iconic and satisfying endings in action cinema. The way John’s quick thinking with some seasonal sellotape and only two rounds of ammo is a joy to watch. The image of Hans falling backward out of the window while still holding the watch enveloped wrist of Holly, slowly pulling her to her possible death – only for John to save his wife at the last second by unfastening the watch. The ending of NLF is similar as Joseph finds himself is much the same situation. Yes he has his gun taped to his back to as he faces Anton “Little Tony The Red” Gruber who is using Joseph’s daughter, Stephanie as human shield.

Things don’t exactly go the same way though for Joseph in the book as they did for John in the movie. Anton manages to shoot Stephanie in the gut just as Joseph empties his gun into Anton. As he falls out of the window, Anton manages to grab Stephanie’s watch…you know the one she bought for herself to celebrate the big deal Klaxon Oil signed off on and the very reason Anton and his cohorts turned up at the Christmas party to begin with. Anton begins to fall to his inevitable death dragging Joseph’s only child, Stephanie with him and they both fall from the Klaxon Oil building before Joseph can react. Yes, they kill off the girl and its pretty shocking too knowing the ending to DH. Joseph snaps and hunts down the rest of the terrorists, he finds an unarmed female member of Anton’s group who is trying to surrender and kills her in cold blood by shooting her in the head out of anger. Its pretty brutal stuff.

Joseph then discovers some corporate documents that detail everything Klaxon Oil had been doing including arms deals with the Chilean junta. Illegal deals that Stephanie was fully compliant with. This is why the little detail of who bought the watch is very important. In DH, the watch is a gift to Holly from her boss to celebrate her helping to close a big deal. In NLF though is was Stephanie who bought the watch for herself to celebrate closing a shady deal between Klaxon and the Chilean junta, shady and illegal deals she was directly involved in and the very reason Anton launched the terrorist attack to begin with. Its this point in the book when it hits you that the terrorists were the good guys and Stephanie’s death via her own greed of the watch is pretty damn justified. If she hand’t gotten involved in all the illegal activity at Klaxon Oil, if she hadn’t bought that watch – then she would’ve lived.

Of course there is still the little stinger at the very end that needs looking at. In DH, John and Holly get out of the building and our hero sees Al Powell for the first time after spending a big chunk of the movie talking to him via a walkie-talkie. They share that look of respect and admiration without a word spoken now all the terrorists are dead. But then Karl, a previously believed dead terrorist appears, bloody and beaten. He aims a gun squarely at the unarmed John. Al opens fire killing Karl where he stands. John and Holly drive off into the sunrise as the credits roll while Vaughn Monroe belts out “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” Classic.

Karl

That stinger is in the book too, only it plays out a little differently. Joseph emerges from the Klaxon building, he’s tired, bloody and now his only child is dead – he’s a completely broken man lost in his own madness and anger. Karl appears just as he does in the film, only he sprays the gathered crowd outside the building with automatic gunfire killing plenty of people, mainly reporters who have surrounded Joseph trying to get an interview. People die…lots of people as Karl tries to shoot Joseph. He does manage to shoot our hero in the leg and would have finished the job too but for a rather shocking moment where Al Powell grabs hold of Deputy Chief Dwayne Robinson and forces him in the line of fire and Dwayne is mortally shot…Al kills Dwayne, yeah he was an asshole but still, fucking hell! Al then kills Karl by shooting him in the head. Joseph is taken away in an ambulance as he lies an the gurney a broken man who has lost everything. The end.


Die Hard Vent.jpg

So there you have it some (not all) of the differences between Die Hard and the novel it is based on, Nothing Lasts Forever. As I said at the start, I haven’t written this to decide which is best –  I love them both but for very different reasons. Like most, I saw the flick before I read the book and while they are both very similar in the basic plot, there are still many changes between the two that I feel make both investing some time in.

I enjoy Die Hard for its everyday guy against the odds story. The character of John McClane is an utterly charming and engrossing one. The ending is rousing and uplifting. Then there is Nothing Lasts Forever. Which I see as the darker, negative mirror image of Die Hard. Joseph Leland is a cantankerous, rougher and older character. Killing off his daughter is a ballsy move but one that pays off when you realise she is really one of the bad guys through the illegal deals of the Klaxon Oil company she works for. The realisation that the terrorists are really the good guys is a brilliant twist and when you think about it, if Joseph had done nothing and was taken away with the rest of the hostages…then no one would’ve died including his daughter and the dodgy, illegal deals that Klaxon were involved in would have been revealed. Really, Joseph fucked everything up…he’s the bad guy.

I really enjoyed looking at these differences between book and movie and will do more in the future. Now where did I put my The Crow graphic novel?

Die Hard Trivia You May Not Know

This year marks the 30th anniversary since the release of the one of the greatest action films ever, Die Hard. So all through 2018, I’m doing a few articles on the flick to celebrate, this is the second one following me covering a supposed ‘plot hole’ that never existed. This time I’m going to take a look at some behind the scenes tit-bits, slices of trivia that even die hard, Die Hard fans may not have known about.

Recently there was a special screening of Die Hard held as part of Laemmle’s Anniversary Classics series for the movie to mark its 30th anniversary (even though that’s not actually until July 15th). The film has been given a 4K clean up making the picture look stunning. A few of the stars from the movie along with some of the crew also attended the screening and they held a Q&A session where some interesting bits of info was let out of the bag, some of which I’m going to take a look at right here. But before I get to that stuff, there is one (in)famous piece of trivia I want to clear up.

Arnold Schwarzenegger Almost Played John McClane

Arnie Poster

Ask any Die Hard fan to mention a piece of trivia about the movie and most of the time you’ll be met with the comment that “Die Hard was originally planned to be a sequel to Commando starring Arnold Schwarzenegger”. It actually sounds pretty plausible for various reasons too. Arnie was a big name in action films in the mid-late 80s and Commando was a big hit for him in 85 – so a sequel seems like a reasonable thing to happen. Plus there is the fact that Commando was written by Steven E. de Souza who would go on to pen Die Hard a few years later. Then to finish of, de Souza was actually writing a sequel to Commando…and I think that this is where the rumor started with crossed wires. Yes de Souza was writing a sequel to Commando and yes he also wrote the screenplay for Die Hard but they were two different projects. The Commando sequel was never made for various reasons so people tend to assume that the sequel became Die Hard instead…it didn’t.

If you want further proof, how about hearing from the man himself? Steven E. de Souza held an interview a while back where he set the record straight when asked about Commando 2 becoming Die Hard.

“No, no, no and no. I don’t know how this story started on the Internet – it’s completely wrong. Die Hard is based on a novel called Nothing Lasts Forever by the author Roderick Thorpe, which is a sequel to his early book The Detective.”

While I’m here, I’ll also cover what de Souza said about he unmade Commando 2 story.

So for Commando 2, we figured that Arnold, after blowing up half of Los Angeles, achieves some notoriety, retires from the army and, by the time the sequel occurs, is running a security firm.

The plot would have seen him hired by a big corporation to oversee their security to protect their executives from being kidnapped, to stop people breaking into their building and to make sure their computers are secure.

So he sets it up and hires the most dangerous people to be guards in the building and then lo and behold – he discovers the people he’s working for are in the illegal arms business and the big corporation is simply a front.

So there you have it from the man who wrote both Commando (and its unmade sequel) as well as Die HardCommando 2 was a separate project and never was turned into Die Hard at all. So with that out of the way, onto the more interesting stuff.

Frank Sinatra Almost Played John McClane

Frank McClane

Now this one holds a lot more water than the previous slice of trivia and it very nearly happened too. See, as Steven E. de Souza covered previously, Die Hard is based on the novel Nothing Lasts Forever by the writer Roderick Thorpe and that book was itself a sequel to his earlier book The Detective. Now The Detective was turned into a movie in 1968 starring…yes, Frank Sinatra. So when the sequel was in early development, Sinatra was offered the chance to reprise his role. 20th Century Fox who owned the movie rights to both The Detective and Nothing Lasts Forever were even contractually obliged to offer Sinatra the lead role in the sequel. But as the film was being made twenty years after the first film, Sinatra turned it down as he felt he was too old and so the script was tweaked to change it from a sequel into a separate movie altogether and the role was offered to then little known actor Bruce Willis instead.

Gene Hackman Could’ve Been In The Movie

Gene Hackman

When you think about Die Hard now, you remember it for its main star Bruce Willis. Yet before the movie, he was relativity unknown. He made a name for himself in TV with the show Moonlighting and featured in the comedy flick Blind Date previously – but he was hardly leading man material and many people laughed at the idea of Willis being an action star at the time too. So there was some uncertainty with the cast pretty much being filled with no-names, the idea came about to have at least one big name actor to get on the movie posters and that name was Gene Hackman. He was originally lined up to play the part of Sgt. Al Powell, a role that ultimately went to Reginald VelJohnson instead. And it seems like Hackman wasn’t the only actor up for the part either as VelJohnson remembers.

“I was living in New York at the time and I went in to audition. There was a lot of well known actors that were there. Even before the casting call, an A-lister was supposed to play the role. His casting would have made Powell more of a gruff veteran than a haunted patrolman. The person they had before, they told me it was Gene Hackman. I heard he had the role but couldn’t do it.”

So there you go, Gene Hackman very nearly played Sgt. Al Powell. According to VelJohnson, Wesley Snipes was up for the part too.

Why Is Die Hard Is Set At Christmas?

Christmas Gruber

The film was released in the summer of 1988, yet its widely considered a Christmas movie due to the fact its set on Christmas Eve. But there was a very good reason behind this idea and why it was released when it was. First, releasing it during the summer blockbuster season when people tend to go to the cinema more equates to higher ticket sales. It worked too as by the end of its theatrical run, Die Hard had brought in $83 million in North America alone. But why the Christmas setting, I mean, lets be honest – you could set Die Hard at any other time of the year and it would still work right? Again, there was a reason for this as producer Joel Silver was a big fan of Christmas movies and he felt that the film would stand a longer shelf-life if it was set at Christmas as people would be inclined to watch it over the festive period year after year…and he was right.

Though I feel I need to throw a little shade over this. See, Nothing Lasts Forever the novel that Die Hard was based on also takes place at Christmas, so it seems to me that the reason the flick takes place at Christmas is simply because the novel did too. But I can even counteract that shade too. Take a look at some other Joel Silver produced films over the years; Lethal WeaponDie Hard 2 (of course), The Last Boy ScoutKiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys to name a few…all set at Christmas. So yeah, it seems like Silver really does like his Christmas movies.

Hans Gruber Was Not Exactly Original

Hans Gruber

Lets be honest here. Hans Gruber is one of the finest bad guys ever caught on film – brilliantly portrayed by the late, great and very much missed Alan Rickman. He is charismatic as well as utterly ruthless, as cold in his executions (literally) as he is warm in is personality. Yet he was not the first bad Hans Gruber on film, the name is not from the novel either as he was called Anton “Little Tony The Red” Gruber in that. So where exactly did the name Hans Gruber come from? Well it came from a James Bond parody. Does anyone else remember the Flint films? They were a couple of spy comedy pictures from the 60s starring James Coburn as super secret agent Derek Flint (except for one TV movie). The films were called Our Man Flint (1966) and its sequel, In Like Flint (1967). As a quick aside, I recommend them, they’re cracking good fun.

Anyway, back to the point. The first film, Our Man Flint featured a German bad guy and his name was Hans Gruber played by Michael St. Clair. So hey, if you feel like annoying your friends with some movie trivia – ask them who first played the German bad guy Hans Gruber and correct them when they get it wrong. Die Hard screenwriter Steven E. de Souza has even since admitted that is where the name came from.

John And Holly’s Marital Argument Was Improvised

Holly

You know the scene right? John is just getting cleaned up after his long flight. He brings up how his wife is using her maiden name of Gennaro instead of her married name McClane. They then get into a petty and childish argument as they talk over each others points in a long uninterrupted debate. Well there was a very specific reason why that scene exists when it wasn’t even scripted. It was a bit of a reference to Willis’ trademark arguments he would get into with Cybill Shepherd on Moonlighting which director John McTiernan was a fan of. McTiernan knew he wanted something similar in the film but couldn’t find anywhere to put it, so he just left it up to his actors. He gave them no direction and just told them to argue. None of it was scripted and he just let his actors do their thing as de Souza recalls.

“Bonnie and Bruce improvised the argument they have in her suite. Somehow they managed to bring an argument from who knows where, and I was the stenographer there incorporating all their improv into that scene.”

Seeing as they had no script, it just goes to show what amazing chemistry Bruce Willis and Bonnie Bedelia had during filming. The whole argument is one of my favorite parts of the whole flick.


So there you have it, a few little bits of Die Hard trivia that I hope you may not have previously known about. Just goes to show that even with its 30th anniversary coming up in a few months, there’s still a few secrets hidden in this gem of a picture.

Happy trails…

Die Hard

Poster

Little Bit of History: Directed by John McTiernan and starring Bruce Willis launching his movie career and cementing him as a genuine Hollywood star. Distributed by 20th Century Fox and originally released on July 15 (my birthday), 1988. Die Hard was an action/thriller like no other before it and changed Hollywood action cinema forever. Based on the novel: Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp, which itself was a sequel to his: The Detective novel that was also turned into a film starring Frank Sinatra in 1968.

Little Bit of Plot/Story: Bruce Willis plays everyday New York cop, John McClane. On a visit to Los Angeles to see his estranged wife, Holly and their children. John McClane goes to meet his wife at her work in the Nakatomi Plaza building during a Christmas party. The party is prematurely cut short by the arrival of Hans Gruber and his heavily armed group of henchmen, where they seize the building and secure all inside as hostages, except for John McClane who manages to slip away undetected and fights back to free the hostages and take down Hans and his men.

Little Bit of Character: With Bruce Willis playing the now iconic action hero, John Mcclane. There was the brilliantly charismatic bad guy, Hans Gruber played by Alan Rickman. Holly McClane the no nonsense estranged wife played by Bonnie Bedelia. Hans henchmen such as Karl, Franco, Tony, Theo, Alexander, Marco, Kristoff, Eddie, Uli, Heinrich, Fritz, and James.

Little Bit of Influence: For years after the release of Die Hard, most action movies were labeled as “Die Hard on/in a…” with films such as Speed (Die Hard on a bus), Under Siege (Die Hard on a ship), Passenger 57 (Die Hard on a plane) and even the cringeworthy, Anna Nicole Smith starring Skyscraper (Die Hard in a…well building). Die Hard influenced action cinema for decades with many production companies churning out similar films with similar plots and themes. But Die Hard went on to be a very successful franchise in itself spawning four cinematic sequels (with another one rumored), various video games and even a comic book series called Die Hard: Year One which served as a prequel to the original movie.

Little Bit of Memories: I remember my older brother coming home with a copy of this film when I was younger and we sat down to watch it, which was the first time I ever saw this film. I also recall the amazing, twisting plot where nothing was what it seems. Even to the point where the writing makes you think the hero could die.

Little Bit of Watchability: Still one of the very best films made in any genre and while it shows some ageing and is very 80’s in many respects. It also manages to avoid many of the action cliches of the time and brings something refreshing to the table. I most definitely recommend this to anyone that wants a good slice of action/thriller cinema which does pretty much everything perfectly. The film has become one of my alternative Christmas classics and gets watched every Christmas without fail.

DH 1

John McClane: Was always kinda partial to Roy Rogers actually. I really like those sequined shirts.

btn_donate_LG