'Die Hard' director John McTiernan says action classic is a Christmas movie

Bruce Willis in a scene from the film 'Die Hard', 1988. (Photo by 20th Century-Fox/Getty Images)
Bruce Willis in a scene from the film 'Die Hard', 1988. (Photo by 20th Century-Fox/Getty Images)

It rears its ugly head every year, but the debate about whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie just keeps raging on — and now director John McTiernan has weighed in.

In a video interview for the American Film Institute, the 69-year-old filmmaker explained the way he wanted his “terrorist movie” to embrace the “working class hero” spirit of James Stewart in festive classic It’s a Wonderful Life.

He praised the likes of producer Joel Silver and screenwriter Steven E. de Souza for understanding what he was attempting to pull off.

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"There was a joy in it because we all were scratchers on the side of the king's tomb and we had changed the content,” said McTiernan.

"We hadn’t intended it to be a Christmas movie, but the joy that came from it is what turned it into a Christmas movie."

Die Hard is set on Christmas Eve at a festive party held at the Nakatomi Plaza, where Bruce Willis’s NYPD cop John McClane arrives in an attempt to win back his estranged wife.

Terrorists led by Alan Rickman’s iconic Hans Gruber take control of the building and soon McClane is on a one-man crusade to stop them.

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The movie was a box office hit and earned four Oscar nominations, but none of that prevents debate sparking every time it appears on a list of the greatest Christmas films.

Watch: Die Hard cinematographer says it’s not a Christmas film

On the one hand, it’s set at Christmas and features a smattering of festive songs and Santa hats but, on the other, it’s very much the type of film audiences can watch at any time of the year.

Bruce Willis’s stance on the debate is fairly clear, with the star stating in 2018 that “it’s a goddamn Bruce Willis movie”.

'Die Hard'. (Credit: 20th Century Studios)
'Die Hard'. (Credit: 20th Century Studios)

The public is split, though. A 2017 YouGov poll revealed that 52% of British adults believe Die Hard not to be a Christmas film, whereas the figure for Americans was an even higher 62% in 2018.

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McTiernan added that Die Hard has real relevance this Christmas, given the presence of “genuinely evil people out there” in the world of politics.

He said: “My hope at Christmas this year is that you will all remember that authoritarians are low-status, angry men who have gone to rich people and said: ‘If you give us power, we will make sure nobody takes your stuff.’”

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