Before the filming and release of Die Hard, 20th Century Fox desperately needed an established actor for a leading role. Against all odds, they cast Bruce Willis as detective John McClane, and the rest is history. Today, the Die Hard action film is considered one of the best in the category; it shaped how Hollywood shot its action movies. The film’s success wasn’t entirely on Bruce Willis alone, though. Here are some enlightening Die Hard film facts to make your day.

1. Detective John McClane’s Role Was Turned Down By Other Popular Actors

Before Bruce Willis eventually took the detective John McClane role, some of the decade’s most popular actors, including Sylvester Stallone, Al Pacino, Harrison Ford, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, had turned it down. Reports show Bruce Willis was paid $5 million, which placed him on the list of Hollywood’s highest-paid actors at the time.

2. Bruce Willis Is Partially Deaf From Filming Die Hard

To date, Bruce Willis is partially deaf in his left ear as a result of the explosions and gunfire he heard while filming Die Hard. According to an interview featuring the legendary actor, an accident happened while filming that caused his hearing loss. He now has a tendency to say “whaa?”

3. Bruce Willis Donated Officer John McClane’s Undershirt to a Museum

In 2007, Bruce Willis visited the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, where he donated detective John McClane’s undershirt. The legendary actor also gave away the 1988 movie poster, a script, and a prop police badge used in the film.

4. The Film’s Expectations Were Low

The move to assign Bruce Willis the detective John McClane role and pay him $5 million was criticized and seen as a poor investment by Die Hard’s producers. That, coupled with the film being shot on location in and around Fox Plaza in Los Angeles, saw its expectations plummet. On the contrary, Die Hard grossed about $140 million, ranking it in the top 10 list of the highest-grossing films that year.

5. John McClane’s Barefoot Scenes Weren’t Really Barefoot

In the Die Hard movie, John McClane does some scenes barefoot. For instance, there is one where he runs through the glass shards after Hans Gruber’s men shuttered the glass partitions in the computer room. However, McClane wasn’t really barefoot; he wore special rubber shoes resembling his feet. If you look closely, you will notice that his feet were larger than normal in those scenes.

6. Bruce Willis Barely Made It to Die Hard’s Initial Posters

Die Hard’s marketing team was convinced no one wanted to see an action movie starring “the funny guy from Moonlighting.” So, the original posters focused on pictures of Nakatomi Plaza, and Bruce Willis barely featured. It was only after the film gained traction that the marketing team had to return to the drawing board and consciously include Willis in the promos.

7. Part of Detective John McClane’s Story Was Inspired By True Events

Screenwriter Jeb Stuart wrote the script for Die Hard. In his account, he narrates how some real-life events shaped the character of detective John McClane. For instance, Stuart talked about how he drove away after an argument with his wife rather than reconcile.

While on the road, he noticed a box in his lane, which he tried to avoid but couldn’t. He drove over it, but fortunately, it was empty. Stuart returned home and reconciled with his wife before writing 35 pages that night. This incident and his peers’ marital problems shaped John McClane’s character.

8. Most of the Actors Who Played German Terrorists Weren’t Germans

One of the outstanding performances in Die Hard was produced by the German terrorists, or were they? Apparently, only two of the actors were German; the others spoke gibberish. With 9 of the 12 terrorists being more than six feet tall, the movie’s producer prioritized appearances rather than nationality. In the German adaptation of the film, there is no allusion to the actors being from the country.

9. John McClane Was Initially John Ford

When writing, Jeb Stuart had named John McClane as John Ford. However, 20th Century Fox felt the name didn’t bring a good perception of the deceased director, John Martin Feeney, who was professionally known as John Ford. The name McClane was chosen because it was “strongly Scottish.”

10. 20th Century Fox Studio Was Contractually Obliged to Cast Frank Sinatra

Because Die Hard was based on the novel sequel to The Detective movie, the 20th Century Fox Studio was contractually obliged to cast Frank Sinatra (who played Joe Leland in The Detective). However, the legendary actor turned down the offer; he was 70 at the time.

11. 20th Century Fox Studios Charged Itself for Using Its Buildings

Did you know the fictional Nakatomi Plaza seen in the movie Die Hard was actually the real 20th Century Studios headquarters? It was! More interestingly, the company charged and paid itself for using the then-unfinished building. On the upside, the cast and crew didn’t have to hold back on action scenes and stunts when filming. In fact, Jeb Stuart (the film’s writer) took a tour of the building before writing the script; he incorporated its main features.

12. Alan Rickman Nearly Passed Up His Hans Gruber Role

Alan Rickman is famous for playing Hans Gruber in the Die Hard film. However, he did not outright accept the role as he did not like the idea of playing a villain. Rickman was still too new in Hollywood (he had just arrived two days earlier), so he wanted to start acting on “the right foot.” Rickman eventually accepted the role that he played so well that he struggled with being typecast as a villain throughout his career.

13. Moonlighting Commitment Almost Denied Bruce Willis the John McClane Role

While it’s true Bruce Willis was neither the first, second, nor third choice to play detective John McClane, he almost missed out on the opportunity because he was still committed to filming Moonlighting, a comedy show he was known for. Fortunately, Cybill Shepard, one of the Die Hard stars, became pregnant, and everyone was given 11 weeks off. This was enough time for Bruce Willis to be ready.

14. It Is Often Debated Whether Die Hard Is a Christmas Film

For the longest time, fans and critics have debated whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie. Those who argue that it is cite aspects such as the movie’s setting being a holiday and having a Christmas song soundtrack. On the other hand, Die Hard was first released in the middle of July 1988, with 20th Century Fox intending it to be a summer blockbuster.

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Last Update: January 11, 2024