In 1988, director and AFI Conservatory alum John McTiernan (AFI Class of 1975) gave movie lovers a thrilling holiday gift with the high-octane, enduring Christmas classic, DIE HARD, starring Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman.
AFI Movie Club: DIE HARD
Watch director John McTiernan discuss making DIE HARD in this exclusive conversation with AFI.
DID YOU KNOW? Hans Gruber was named by AFI as one the greatest villains in cinematic history – played with unforgettable charm and malice by Alan Rickman, in his first credited feature film role.
DID YOU KNOW? DIE HARD was shot at the newly built Fox Plaza in Los Angeles, which was still under construction at the time – allowing director John McTiernan to stage some of the action on the unfinished floors. However, there were several floors still occupied, so production also had to film at night.
DID YOU KNOW? DIE HARD is based on Roderick Thorp’s 1979 crime novel “Nothing Lasts Forever,” the sequel to his 1966 novel, “The Detective.” The film version of THE DETECTIVE starred Frank Sinatra and – due to contractual obligations – Sinatra was to be offered the lead in the sequel. At the age of 73, Sinatra turned down the role of John McClane, which would eventually be played by Bruce Willis.
DID YOU KNOW? Due to Bruce Willis’ commitment to the hit TV series MOONLIGHTING, he initially had to pass on playing John McClane. His schedule opened up when filming of MOONLIGHTING was shut down for 11 weeks due to co-star Cybill Shepherd’s maternity leave.
DID YOU KNOW? While filming the scene where John McClane slips down the elevator shaft in an attempt to escape, the stuntman missed the vent he was supposed to grab, finally catching himself on a lower vent after falling much farther than was choregraphed. Because it made for such an exciting moment – even more than originally planned – the shot was used in the final film.
DID YOU KNOW? When filming the final scene of Hans Gruber falling from Nakatomi Plaza, filmmakers lied to Alan Rickman – who was to perform the 40-foot “high fall” stunt himself. He was told that he would be given a 3-2-1 countdown before receiving a push from the crew. To more authentically capture the character’s shock, Rickman was instead pushed early, on “3.”
DID YOU KNOW? DIE HARD received four Academy Award® nominations for Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Effects Editing and Best Visual Effects.
Learn more at the AFI Catalog.
The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Discussion Questions
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- Do you consider DIE HARD a Christmas movie? Why or why not?
- After more than 22 years since its release, why does the film still continue to resonate with audiences?
- What distinguishes DIE HARD from other action movies? In what ways is it unique and in what ways is it archetypal of the genre?
- Besides Hans Gruber and his crew, what other characters in DIE HARD are greedy? How does their greed hinder them throughout the film?
- Why does Chief Robinson not want John McClane’s help? How does the film turn bureaucracy into another adversary for John McClane? Why do John McClane and Al Powell connect, when so many other ostensible allies only get in McClane’s way?
- What is the significance of Sergeant Powell shooting one the henchman at the end of DIE HARD?
- How would you rate DIE HARD?
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