It’s one of the greatest action movie series of all-time. Here are some fascinating things about John McClane’s five cinematic appearances so far.
1. Frank Sinatra was offered the lead role, despite being 73. Yes, we’re serious. This is because the film is based on a book called ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’, itself a sequel to ‘The Detective’ by Roderick Thorp. ‘The Detective’ was adapted into a movie in 1968 with Ol’ Blue Eyes and there was a clause in his contract which said he had first refusal on playing the character in a follow-up.
2. Bruce Willis was best-known as a TV actor at the time (in ‘Moonlighting’), but he wasn’t the only telly star in line for the role. Don Johnson of ‘Miami Vice’ and Richard Dean Anderson – aka MacGuyver – were also considered as McClane.
3. Bonnie Bedelia, who plays McClane’s wife Holly, is Macaulay Culkin’s aunt.
4. The film is Alan Rickman’s cinematic debut. He got the role after director John McTiernan saw him on Broadway in Les Liaisons Dangereuses.
5. Rickman damaged his knee filming the moment where he first meets McClane and had to do the rest of scene standing on one leg thanks to doctor’s orders.
6. A fan of Willis’ bare feet? Not so fast. For the scenes where the actor appears to be running without shoes, he’s actually wearing specially-designed shoes to look like feet. Which is why if you pause the DVD, they occasionally look like they belong to a clown.
7. The scene where Gruber dies annoyed Rickman, but not because he didn’t manage to make off with the money. The thesp did his own stunt fall (using some back projection effects of course), but rather than wait until the count of three as discussed, he was dropped on one to elicit genuine shock. Rickman has since explained that McTiernan made sure it was the last shot they needed from him, knowing that it would anger him.
8. If you watch the film in Germany, you’ll see that the baddies are supposed to be Irish. Honestly. Hans becomes Jack Gruber. Come on, not O’Gruber? That would make it really authentic.
9. John McClane is called Joe Leland in the original novel. Clearly Leland isn’t as heroic-sounding.
10. Alexander Godunov, who played Aryan henchman Karl, started his career as a legendary ballet dancer in the USSR. When he defected to the States in 1979, it caused an international incident.
‘Die Hard 2’
11. The general (Franco Nero) comes from the fictional country of Val Verde. That’s the same country the baddies are from in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ‘Commando’.
12. Black & Decker paid for their cordless drill to appear in a piece of product placement, but the scene was cut from the finished movie. The company sued 20th Century Fox and the claim was settled out of court. It was the first lawsuit of its kind.
13. The movie is based on the novel ‘58 Minutes’ by Walter Wager. In fact, only ‘A Good Day To Die Hard’ was written specifically as an original screenplay intended for the saga.
14. Of course it’s crucial to the plot – but in the real world, there is no airport runway in the world with a manhole cover in the middle of it.
15. Richard Thornburg (William Atherton) causes a ruckus by reporting on the crisis live from the aeroplane. Unfortunately, it’s likely that the on-screen TV audience didn’t hear some of his broadcast because some shots show him holding the flight phone upside down.
‘Die Hard: With A Vengeance’
16. David Thewlis was originally the front runner to play villain Simon Gruber, but lost out to Jeremy Irons.
17. Gruber’s silent female colleague is played by Sam Phillips, who’s actually better known as a musician. She began her life playing Christian music, but has since transitioned to be a composer for shows like ‘The Gilmore Girls’.
18. The development of the film was long and tortured. It was eventually adapted from a script by Jonathan Hensleigh called Simon Says, which was never originally intended to be a ‘Die Hard’ story, but was actually considered as a basis for ‘Lethal Weapon 3’. Previous ideas included terrorists taking over a ship (used in ‘Under Siege’), while one possible plot saw baddies take over the LA subway system.
19. In the original script, Zeus (eventually played by Samuel L. Jackson) was written as a woman.
‘Live Free Or Die Hard’
20. When he was younger, director Len Wiseman shot an amateur riff on ‘Die Hard’ in his backyard. One of the shots from that home movie made it into this sequel.
21. Kate Beckinsale appears in the film, but only for a split second. The actress is married to Wiseman, who spliced a single frame of her into the opening credits.
22. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays McClane’s daughter in the film, but it could have been very different (and there might have been a different end credits tune). Both Jessica Simpson and Britney Spears both went for the role. You can even see Simpson coming out of the audition on an episode of her MTV reality show.
‘A Good Day To Die Hard’
23. Bruce Willis wasn’t a fan of the title of the fifth film. In an interview, he admitted finding it confusing.
24. While the Russian gang of baddies is suitably frightening, none of the actors in it were actually Russian. Instead they were Slovakian, Serbian and others. But this is Hollywood – all those countries are basically just outside Moscow, right?
25. Justin Timberlake was on the shortlist to play McClane’s son Jack. So was Paul Walker.
Photos: 20th Century Fox/Everett/Snap Stills/Moviestore/Rex