MOTW: Five Tidbits About the "Die Hard" Series

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
February 12th, 2013

MOTW: Five Tidbits About the Die Hard Series

With "A Good Day to Die Hard" set to come out in February 2013, film audiences are in for another two hours of everyman hero John McClane (Bruce Willis) taking on terrorists. Since the premiere of the original "Die Hard" in 1988, the series has managed to merge rousing action with a sense of humor that has made it a favorite with film lovers. Of course, the "Die Hard" series could have turned out very differently, with Frank Sinatra in the lead role or with a revenge-minded John McClane taking out enemies by playing Russian roulette. While these five tidbits ended up not happening, it still makes for an interesting look at what the "Die Hard" series could have been.

Die Hard: Starring Frank Sinatra

The original "Die Hard" is based on a novel by Roderick Thorp titled "Nothing Lasts Forever." A sequel to "The Detective," the book is about a man named Joe Leland battling terrorists in a building owned by the Klaxon Oil Corporation. While the name and location ended up being different, the script was very similar to what audiences ended up seeing with one simple catch: "The Detective" had already been filmed as a 1968 thriller starring Frank Sinatra. Twentieth Century Fox offered the script to Sinatra, who luckily turned it down. Director John McTiernan, fresh off the success of "Predator" then offered the role to Arnold Schwarzenegger. By the time the script reached Bruce Willis, it had been retooled into the timeless action film that audiences still love today.

Bruce Willis Almost Said No

During the preproduction stages of "Die Hard," Bruce Willis had begun making a name for himself as David Addison, Jr. on "Moonlighting." His contract made it difficult to film "Die Hard" at the same time, so he would ultimately have to turn down the role of McClane. But, costar Cybil Shepherd became pregnant with twins, putting the show on an unexpected hiatus. Willis now had his opportunity, and he ran with it. Years later, Willis, who was rumored to have a testy relationship with Shepherd, mockingly thanked her for the hiatus that led him becoming one of the biggest box office stars of his time.

Die Hard With a Vengeance Had a Completely Different Ending

The third film in the series, "Die Hard with a Vengeance," broke the formula of the series by having McClane take on a villain in a large city, instead of being confined to a single building. The ending even had the character going to Canada to take the terrorist, Simon Gruber (Jeremy Irons), out. If this conclusion feels a bit out of place, it's because it was added on after the studio found the original too cruel. Director John McTiernan had shot an ending where a disgraced McClane, having taken the blame for Gruber's attack on New York City, challenges his nemesis to a game of Russian roulette using rockets. McClane would obviously win the day, but the ending was believed to be too revenge-driven and not consistent with the character.

Live Free or Die Hard Was Based on a True-Life Scenario

The plot of "Live Free or Die Hard," the fourth film of the series, sees cyber terrorists hacking into the FBI, major American power grids, and the New York Stock Exchange. While the scenario led to an entertaining action film, it has some reallife basis. The 1997 Wired article titled "A Farewell to Arms" detailed what is called a "fire sale," a three-tiered attack on America's grid that could leave the nation powerless. The frightening scenario was then turned into a screenplay by "Enemy of the State" writer David Marconi titled "" However, the project was shelved after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. When talk of reviving the "Die Hard" series began, the "" script was retooled to include John McClane and his daughter Lucy.

A Good Day to Die Hard Was Rumored to Be a Crossover with 24

When production began on "A Good Day to Die Hard" there were several rumors about the plot, including the return of the Gruber family as a menace and a cameo appearance by McClane's estranged wife Holly. One of the more interesting rumors stated that the film would be a crossover with "24." The working title of the film, "Die Hard 24/7" lent credence to the rumors, with fans salivating for a team up between McClane and "24's" own Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland). Alas, the rumor turned out to be false when the synopsis revealed that the secret agent in question would be McClane's own son, Jack. That said, "A Good Day to Die Hard" is the only film in the series to have been originally written as a McClane adventure. It's also the first movie in the "Die Hard" series to see the action taking place mostly overseas.