Die Hard's John McClane role had to be offered to 70-year-old Frank Sinatra

Ian Sandwell
·3-min read
Photo credit: Getty Images/Digital Spy - 20th Century Fox
Photo credit: Getty Images/Digital Spy - 20th Century Fox

From Digital Spy

Die Hard made a movie star of Bruce Willis and introduced the world to John McClane, who, despite some dodgy later sequels, remains an iconic action hero.

However, as you settle into your festive rewatch of Die Hard (it is a Christmas movie, don't @ us), you might not be aware that the producers originally had to offer the role to Frank Sinatra, who was then 70 years old.

Sinatra turned down the role of John McClane of course, and in reality he was never going to star in Die Hard, but the producers were contractually obliged to offer Ol' Blue Eyes the role after he had starred in Die Hard's 'prequel', The Detective.

Photo credit: Getty Images/Digital Spy - 20th Century Fox
Photo credit: Getty Images/Digital Spy - 20th Century Fox

Watch Die Hard on NOW TV

Let's rewind a bit. In case you weren't already aware, Die Hard is based on Roderick Thorp's novel Nothing Lasts Forever, which sees retired detective Joe Leland take on some terrorists in the headquarters of the Klaxon Oil Corporation on Christmas Eve.

The movie version obviously made some changes (including removing the bleak ending where Leland's daughter falls to her death), but the structure remains the same and there are nods to the original novel, such as Holly's maiden name Gennaro.

Nothing Lasts Forever was the sequel to Thorp's 1966 novel The Detective which was also adapted as a movie of the same name. The movie saw Sinatra play Joe Leland as the detective investigating a supposed suicide.

The Detective was one of the biggest box-office hits of Sinatra's movie career and became one of the highest-grossing movies of 1968.

While Die Hard wasn't a direct sequel to The Detective and the character name differed, the role of John McClane had to be offered to Sinatra anyway because it was a (loose) adaptation of The Detective's sequel novel.

Sinatra declined the role, but it's not like the producers then went straight to Bruce Willis. At the time, he was largely known for his role on TV comedy Moonlighting and not as a movie star.

The role of John McClane was offered to a variety of names, including Arnold Schwarzenegger (who turned it down because he wanted to get into comedy), Sylvester Stallone, Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson, James Caan, Richard Gere and more.

Photo credit: 20th Century Fox
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

When it did get offered to Willis, even he turned it down first time around because of his obligation to Moonlighting. However, his co-star Cybill Shepherd became pregnant and the show took a break from filming, freeing up Willis for the Die Hard role.

And the rest, as they say, is history. Ho ho ho.

Die Hard is available to watch now on Sky Cinema and NOW TV.

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