Yippee-ki-yay! We can’t believe the first Die Hard came out in 1984. Since then, the Bruce Willis action vehicle has evolved beyond Nakatomi Plaza with four sequels, countless tie-in properties, comics, video games, and more than a billion dollars in combined worldwide box office. Put simply, Die Hard refuses to die. Gear up for 43 thrilling facts about the Die Hard franchise. (By the way, it's definitely a Christmas movie, I don't care what anybody says!)
Die Hard Franchise Facts
43. An Abundance of Johns
What do Frank Sinatra, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford, Don Johnson, Sylvester Stallone, Richard Gere, Clint Eastwood, and Burt Reynolds all have in common? They turned down the role of John McClane before it went to Bruce Willis. Willis was considered more of a comedic actor at the time and he was a last-resort casting for the action flick.
42. Literary Origins
The first Die Hard was adapted from Roderick Thorp’s 1979 thriller novel, Nothing Lasts Forever. In this literary universe, the hero wasn’t the steely “John McClane,” but rather the plain-named “John Leland.” Likewise, the action does not center around the hard nosed cop's visit to his wife’s workplace, but that of his daughter.
41. He Did It His Way
20th Century Fox actually commissioned Die Hard as a sequel to another movie, The Detective, which came out in 1968. The Detective had starred Frank Sinatra, and the studio was contractually obligated to offer him the role first. Perhaps fortunately, Sinatra, who was then in his early 70s, turned it down. From then on, Die Hard and its subsequent films would have no connection to The Detective. Picture John McClane being played by a 70-year-old Sinatra though.
40. Literary Roots Die Harder
Die Hard 2 drew its plot from Walter Wagner’s 1987 thriller novel, 58 Minutes. This novel is entirely separate from Roderick Thorp’s Nothing Lasts, the book upon which the first Die Hard was based. Go figure.
39. From Glossy Page to Silver Screen
Live Free or Die Hard was based on a magazine article of all things. Specifically, the film was inspired by John Carlin’s 1997 article “A Farewell to Arms” for Wired magazine. Carlin’s article contends with the cybernetic nature of military work in the post-Cold War world.
38. The One and Only
A Good Day to Die Hard is the first Die Hard film to be based on its own original screenplay and not derived from a pre-existing work. And who said Hollywood was out of ideas?
37. Die a Hero, or Live to Write Yourself a Villain
To piece together the elaborate robbery of the first film, Steven E. De Souza has said he first wrote Die Hard as if Hans Gruber was the protagonist. After all, it was Gruber’s plans that put McClane in action, ending up with him not just saving the day but also reconciling with his wife. And McClane never even said thanks!
36. Bard Hard
Die Hard director John McTiernan took notes from Shakespeare. Inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream, McTiernan chose to set all the movie’s action over a single night, instead of three days as originally intended.
35. Call Me the Common Denominator
To date, Bruce Willis is the only cast or crew member to be involved in all five Die Hard movies. At least they didn't make one without him, I don't think I could handle that.
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34. Legends Only
In 2017, the Library of Congress selected the first Die Hard film for preservation in the US National Film Registry. The movie joined the elite collection of “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” films. About time!
33. Extreme Effects
The last scene of Die Hard 2 was a landmark of post-production effects. This was the first time a film had digitally composited live action footage together with a hand-made matte painting which had been photographed and then scanned into a computer.
32. Musical Chairs, But with Scripts
Imagine John McClane fighting terrorists on a Caribbean cruise line. Well, originally, a script called Troubleshooter about just that scenario was going to be used as the basis for Die Hard with a Vengeance. The idea was ultimately rejected for being too much like the film Under Siege (which, by the way, was pitched as Die Hard on a cruise ship). In the end, Troubleshooter was repurposed for the Speed sequel, Speed 2: Cruise Control. To bring everything full circle, the original Speed was pitched as... you guessed it: Die Hard on a bus.
31. Re-Weaponized Ideas
For the third Die Hard movie, 20th Century Fox ended up adapting a script entitled Simon Says. Warner Bros. had originally purchased the screenplay to be rewritten as a Lethal Weapon sequel, but Fox repurchased it for the Die Hard franchise. And who says action movies are interchangeable?
30. Thanks, Baby
Cybill Shepherd’s pregnancy allowed Bruce Willis to shoot Die Hard in the first place. His Moonlighting co-star went on maternity leave, giving everyone on the show’s production 11 weeks off, which Willis used to shoot the movie.
29. Die Hard (of Hearing)
Bruce Willis didn’t just give his acting chops to the Die Hard franchise, he also gave up his hearing—at least partly. To achieve extreme realism for the extreme film, director John McTernan modified the blank-shooting guns to be extra loud. So, when McClane had to shoot a terrorist through a table, the actor found himself very up close and personal with the gun’s resonance, resulting in permanent hearing loss. According to the actor, he now has “two-thirds partial hearing loss in [his] left ear” and “a tendency to say, ‘Whaaa?’”
Live Free or Die Hard had a problem with on-set injuries. Bruce Willis’ stunt double, Larry Rippenkroeger, was knocked unconscious after falling 25 feet from the fire escape and onto the pavement. His extensive injuries shut production temporarily down, and Willis personally paid the hotel bills for the stunt man’s family to visit him in the hospital.
27. Improvised “Improvements”
Kevin Smith made uncredited rewrites to his scenes in Live Free or Die Hard.
26. For Kids!
The first three Die Hard films were rated R in the United States, but Live Free or Die Hard was the first to be edited to obtain a PG-13.
25. Third Time is the Cash Charm
To date, the most financially successful movie in the series is the fourth one, Live Free or Die Hard.
24. Action, Illustrated
In 2017, Insight Editions released a Christmas storybook for adults based on the first Die Hard. The description makes clear that this adorable book is not for kids with the festive warning “Contains adult material including violence and strong language. Reader discretion is advised. Ho-ho-ho.”
23. Work Hard, Play Hard
Die Hard inspired a line of video games that range in genres from beat em ‘ups to first-person shooters. There’s also the A Good Day to Die Hard game for the iOS and Android, so you can finally carry John McClane in your pocket.
22. Little John
In 2009, BOOM! Studios released series of Die Hard prequel comics. Set in 1976, the story follows John McClane as a rookie cop with the NYPD.
21. Surprise, Bubby
Hart Bochner improvised the line “Hans…Bubby!”, so Alan Rickman’s confused reaction is real.
20. Death, Taxes, and Rent
The iconic Nakatomi tower was actually the headquarters of 20th Century Fox. The film production was charged rent—by their own company—for the use of the building, which had not yet completed construction.
19. Exposure and Anger
Die Hard 2 holds the dubious honor as the first film to be sued over product placement. Black & Drecker paid to have their cordless drill featured in a scene with Bruce Willis. When the scene was cut, the company sued the film company. A $150,000 claim was settled out of court.
18. Getting the Short Straw
According to John Leguizamo’s autobiography, the Die Hard 2 actor was meant to have a much larger role… until the filmmakers realized how short he was. His part was cut down to one line, which was eventually dubbed by someone else. Ouch.
17. Gained in Translation
In Russia, the Die Hard franchise is known as "A Hard Nut to Crack." The Polish title is “The Glass Trap,” a reference to the first film taking place inside of a skyscraper.
16. At Least He Got Free Food?
Because of his appearance in the first two Die Hard films, friends and fans of Reginald VelJohnson would sometimes pelt the actor with twinkies, since his character was fond off the treat. VelJohnson would be sitting in his car when people would toss the twinkies at him and say, “Oh, we knew you wanted some of those.” Real funny stuff.
15. Face Off
Bruce Willis’s reputation as “that funny guy from Moonlighting” got him excluded from the first film’s marketing. The executives wanted a tense, action-packed look for the film, and that did not fit Willis’ image at the time. The first batch of movies posters centred on the intimidating Nakatomi Plaza instead of Willis’s star mug.
14. Oh Mein Gott!
As with the first Die Hard, most of the German spoken in Die Hard with a Vengeance is grammatically incorrect. A few of the lines are so wrong, they’re basically gibberish. In the German release, however, all the lines were dubbed over to be correct, and some of the terrorists were reoutfitted with East German accents.
13. Together at Last
Die Hard with a Vengeance marks the first time that Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson shared the screen. The two actors had both appeared in Loaded Weapon 1 (1993) and Pulp Fiction (1994), just not together.
12. For Justice & the Environment
In a feat of very specific record-breaking, Die Hard with a Vengeance marks the second film in which Samuel L. Jackson steals a child’s bike for “police business.” The first film was National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1, which, coincidentally, features Bruce Willis in a cameo as John McClane. That's some serious film trivia right there!
11. Countdown to A Good Day
A Good Day to Die Hard’s working title was “Die Hard 24/7.” As a result, there was speculation that the film would be a crossover between Die Hard and the television series 24, with Keifer Sutherland appearing alongside alongside John McClane, reprising his role of Jack Bauer. This was never confirmed by the studio. Oh man, why oh why couldn't this have been made reality!
10. Quit It After Six
Bruce Willis has said that he's willing to play McClane once more before retiring the character. You know what they say: six times is enough. At least, I think people say that.
9. Searching for Baby McClane
When casting the role of John McClane’s adult son in A Good Day to Die Hard, the studio considered Liam Hemsworth, James Badge Dale, and even Justin Timberlake. They settled on Australian actor Jai Courtney. What, JT wasn't good enough?
8. No Girls Allowed
Although Mary Elizabeth Winstead reprised her role as McClane’s daughter Lucy for the fifth Die Hard movie, her scenes were completely cut from the film’s extended release.
7. Presidential Project
It took four months to assemble Gabriel’s televised warning in Live Free or Die Hard. It was comprised of archive footage of past American presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush.
6. Sweat, But Make It Fashion
You can look, but don’t touch: Bruce Willis donated the sweat & blood-soaked tank top that he wore in the first Die Hard to the Smithsonian Institution Natural Museum of American History. Maaaybe you wouldn't want to touch.
5. Late Bloomer
Die Hard was the late, great Alan Rickman's first feature role. He was 41 years old. That's right, if you like Snape, you've gotta thank Gruber.
4. From Screenwriter to Suspect
The script for Die Hard With A Vengeance got its screenwriter, Jonathan Hensleigh, detained by the FBI. According to the government, Hensleigh’s script demonstrated an extensive knowledge about the Federal Gold Reserve in downtown Manhattan. Suspiciously extensive. Henseligh claimed he simply got his information from an article in The New York Times.
3. John McClane or Jigsaw?
There’s an alternate ending to Die Hard with a Vengeance where McClane loses everything and puts Simon (played by Jeremy Irons) through his own twisted game of “Simon Says.” In the DVD commentary, screenwriter Jonathan Hensleigh claims this was dropped because studios didn’t like McClane being too menacing and cruel.
2. Falling into Comedy Gold
John McClane’s tumble down the elevator shaft in the first Die Hard was pure accident. The stunt double was supposed to grab onto the first vent, but he missed. By a good margin. Editor Frank J. Urioste found the goof so gripping that he saved it from the cutting room floor. Thanks Frank!
1. These Boots Were Made for Slicing
While filming Live Free or Die Hard, Bruce Willis was injured after a stunt double for Maggie Q kicked him in the eye with her stilettos. Willis tried to brush it off as “no big deal,” but director Len Wiseman claims that he saw bone through the actor's face! Willis had to get stitches, and you can see them accidentally exposed in the scene where McClane first delivers Farrell to Bowman.