31 years ago, on Christmas Eve, a bunch of German Terrorists stormed the Nakatomi Building in downtown Los Angeles. Their original intent was merely pretend to be terrorists while actually stealing a lot of bearer bonds. Nobody had accounted for a New York cop on vacation visiting his estranged wife getting caught up in the mix.
No one in the real world accounted for the impact that Die Hard was going to have on audiences either in 1988, or now. Even with all kinds of crazy effects and battle scenes in movies like Avengers: Endgame get all kinds of love, it always comes back Die Hard as the universally accepted greatest action movie of all time. Here are 10 Little Known Details About Die Hard.
10 The First Movie Is A Sequel
Despite being the first movie in a franchise that made Bruce Willis a megastar, the original Die Hard is actually a sequel. The original film was based on the novel of the same name, The Detective. Detective Joe Leland, played by Frank Sinatra, was one of the first movies of the late sixties and early seventies that featured a more realistic approach to police work. Leland is called to investigate a murder who has been beaten to death and mutilated. Because of his contract from this film, Sinatra was actually offered the chance to star in Die Hard. Thankfully, at 73 years old, he knew well enough to decline.
9 Based On A Book
Author Roderick Thorp had written The Detective in 1966, introducing Joe Leland. Over a decade later, Leland returned in the sequel, Nothing Lasts Forever. The 1979 novel was the basis for Die Hard. Here, Leland heads to the office headquarters of the Klaxon Oil Corporation where his daughter, Stephanie works.
The book’s plot is virtually the same as the movie. It was out of print for years until the movie’s popularity brought it back into circulation.
8 Rickman’s First Film Role
The beloved and incomparable Alan Rickman’s career spanned for years and was filled with all kinds of memorable roles like The Metatron in Dogma, or Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series. It all started with Hans Gruber. Rickman had been an accomplished TV and theater star but had never been a part of a film before. He nearly said no to the role. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Rickman had said “I’m not doing an action movie.” Agents convinced Rickman, who wasn’t in Hollywood for even a week and the rest is history.
7 Commando 2
Back in 1988, Bruce Willis wasn’t known for being a big action star. He was barely on the radar when casting began for Die Hard. All of the big action movie stars of the time were considered – Eastwood, Stallone, and of course Schwarzenegger. The film itself was being developed as a possible sequel to Arnold’s Commando. When everyone either said no or proved to be too expensive, Willis was considered and auditioned.
6 Thanks To Cybill Shepherd
Besides being only a TV star at the time and barely being considered for the role of John McClane, Willis had one more hurdle to overcome. He was one half of the starring duo on Moonlighting. The film shoot would have coincided with the filming schedule of the show that Willis was contracted to. But series costar, Cybil Shepherd had gotten pregnant around the same time. Filming of the show had to be shut down for 11 weeks, which was perfect for Willis to run around the Nakatomi Plaza.
5 Willis’ Stuntman Took A Tumble
The claustrophobic nature of the first film is just one of the many reasons that Die Hard became such a classic. Watching John McLane shimmy in and out of the air ducts and elevator shafts are some of the best scenes in the film.
The scene where McClane misses the mark and falls down the elevator shaft was actually a big mistake that made into the movie. Bruce Willis’ stuntman missed the mark and was eventually able to land a different mark.
4 Gruber Really Falls
As John shoots Gruber, sending him off the side of the building, he held on for dear life, and was clinging onto Holly as he tried to save himself. Thankfully, both Holly and John acted fast and removed her watch to send Hans to his death. In real life, to get the desired reaction, director John McTernan had the guys holding Alan Rickman let go early to give a genuine surprised look as the actor was sent hurtling into a crashpad.
3 Willis Ad-Libbed The Iconic Line
It’s astonishing to think how many of Hollywood’s iconic lines weren’t in the shooting script. Harrison Ford ad-libbed Han Solo’s “I know” to Carrie Fisher’s “I love you” in The Empire Strikes Back. After Dustin Hoffman was nearly run over by an unscripted real taxi in Midnight Cowboy, he screamed at the guy “I’m walking here!” Die Hard’s iconic line of “Yippee Ki-Yay” was also ad-libbed. Willis did it to make everyone laugh, but McTiernan kept it in, leaving all other Die Hard script writers no choice but to work the line into their films.
2 The Bill Clay Scene Was Improvised
Another scene that was improvised was when McClane meets Hans for the first time. Rickman does his best American accent here to try and fool our hero. The filmmakers had been trying to figure out a way for McCLane and Hans to meet face to face before the film’s climatic scenes. Once they realized that Rickman could do passable American accent, they were off to the races.
The scene led Hans to realize that McCLane’s barefoot, and they should “shoot the glass.” That scene is what led Terry Gilliam casting Willis in 12 Monkeys. A lot led to the realization that the British Rickman could sound like a red-blooded American.
1 Rickman Flinches
Whether it was because he didn’t like guns or because he spent years in stage, Alan Rickman would always flinch whenever Hans was firing guns. Take a look at the movie again (which won’t be a hard task for fans). The camera always cuts away from the scene whenever Gruber is about to shoot, which actually adds to some of the film’s violence, since you have to imagine it instead of see it.