14 Things You May Not Have Realised About Die Hard

Die Hard is one of the most important action films ever made, almost creating an entire genre of films that feature one hero fighting against overwhelming odds.

We suspect that (like us) many of you have seen the film multiple times, but how much do you actually know about it? Here are some facts about Die Hard which you might not have known.

14. Frank Sinatra could have been John McClane

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Die Hard is based on a 1979 book called Nothing Lasts Forever, which was a sequel to a 1966 book called The Detective. Frank Sinatra had starred in the film adaptation of The Detective back in 1968.

Because of this, the filmmakers were contractually obliged to offer Sinatra the film, but happily Sinatra (who by 1988 was in his 70s) decided to pass.


13. A lot of big name actors turned the film down, including Clint Eastwood and Harrison Ford

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It’s hard now to imagine anyone but Bruce Willis playing John McClane, but Willis was fairly unknown at the time, and the filmmakers initially considered a slew of better-known actors.

Clint Eastwood, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robert De Niro, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Richard Gere, Nick Nolte Don Johnson, Richard Dean Anderson and Burt Reynolds were all offered the part, but said no.

12. Sam Neill was offered the role of Hans Gruber before Alan Rickman

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New Zealand actor Sam Neill, a one-time contender for James Bond who went on to star in Jurassic Park, was the first actor offered the role of Die Hard villain Hans Gruber, but he declined. This paved the way for Alan Rickman to be cast in the role instead.

Remarkably, Alan Rickman had never made a film before being cast as Gruber. However, he had worked extensively in theatre, and he landed the role after Die Hard’s casting director saw him on stage in Dangerous Liaisons.

11. Bruce Willis almost didn’t appear on the poster

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Like Rickman, Bruce Willis wasn’t a movie star at the time, and the studio 20th Century Fox initially had concerns that his image might not help Die Hard achieve box office success. Because of this, early posters simply focused on the Nakatomi Tower building.

Once audiences responded well to Willis, new posters were issued adding the actor’s face.

10. Alan Rickman was genuinely scared performing the fall

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The film’s director John McTiernan pulled a trick on Alan Rickman to achieve a genuine look of terror on Hans Gruber’s face as he fell. Rickman was expecting a ‘one, two, three’ before being dropped, but he was let go on one.

That take was the one used in the final film. Rickman fell 40 feet onto a giant blue air cushion, and the drop from the building was super-imposed afterwards.

9. The film’s most famous line was an ad-lib

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As written in the script, John McClane was supposed to say “Yippee-Ki-Yay, a**hole” over the radio to Hans Gruber – but after shooting several takes of this, Willis changed it to “motherf***er.”

Willis ad-libbed this simply in the hopes of making the crew laugh, and never expected it to make the final film. However, everyone quickly realised it was a much better, more iconic line.

8. Bruce Willis was shooting TV series Moonlighting at the same time

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Willis had risen to fame with TV show Moonlighting, and he was still working on this at the same time as Die Hard. Often he would work on Moonlighting during the day whilst also filming Die Hard at night.

Not long after Die Hard was a box office smash, Moonlighting was cancelled, in part because of how in-demand Willis had become as a film actor.

7. The shot of McClane falling down the elevator shaft was an accident

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McClane’s fall down the lift shaft was actually a mistake, as the stuntman was actually supposed to grab the first vent but slipped and continued to fall.

The filmmakers decided to keep this in the movie, realising it made the moment more dramatic.

6. Nakatomi Tower was really the headquarters of 20th Century Fox

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Sometimes film crews have to travel far from home to reach their location, but not on Die Hard. After looking at many possible buildings, the filmmakers decided to use Fox Plaza, the headquarters of studio 20th Century Fox, for Nakatomi Tower.

Many offices were in use as normal whilst the filmmakers were shooting, so the noise was sometimes an issue for those working there.

5. Bruce Willis wore rubber feet when running through glass

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One of the most wince-inducing moments in Die Hard sees our bare-footed hero John McClane forced to run across a pathway covered in broken glass.

In order to perform this scene safely, Willis was given a pair of specially made rubber feet.

4. Playing John McClane permanently damaged Bruce Willis’ hearing

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The loud bang of his gun’s blanks (from the scene where McLane shoots a bad guy from under a table) left Bruce Willis with permanent damage to his hearing.

Willis has confirmed this since, saying “Due to an accident on the first Die Hard, I suffer two-thirds partial hearing loss in my left ear and have a tendency to say, ‘Whaaa?'”

3. McClane and Gruber’s first meeting was not rehearsed

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The scene where McClane and Gruber finally meet was unrehearsed, as the film’s director John McTiernan wanted to create a feeling of genuine spontaneity. It was also written quite late in the day, while the film was in production.

Writer Steven De Souza got the idea after he heard Alan Rickman trying to speak in a California accent, and realised that Hans pretending to be an American hostage would be a good way for him to meet John McClane.

2. Alan Rickman was uncomfortable firing guns

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Alan Rickman had barely any experience firing prop guns, meaning that he he involuntarily winced every time.

This forced the film’s editors to cut very carefully in Rickman’s gunfire scenes, to avoid any glimpse of his reaction.

1. John McClane’s teddy bear also appears in The Hunt for Red October

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The giant teddy bear John McClane gets for his children as a Christmas gift really belonged to director John McTiernan.

Later, McTiernan featured this bear on camera a second time in his 1990 film The Hunt for Red October.

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