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10 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘Die Hard’

die hard facts
20th Century Fox

When it comes to action flicks, ‘Die Hard’ ranks among the all-time greats. If you’re anything like us, you’ve probably seen it so many times you can act out entire scenes in your sleep. So, there couldn’t possibly be anything about the movie you didn’t already know, right? Wrong. There are tons of juicy behind-the-scenes tidbits for this undeniable classic and we’ve gathered the best of them here.

Given that hero cop John McClane will return on Feb. 14 in ‘A Good Day to Die Hard,’ the fifth installment in the series, it seems like the perfect time to revisit the 1988 movie that started it all. Take a moment to peruse our roundup of 10 things you didn’t know about ‘Die Hard’ below. It’ll make you yell “Yippie-ki-yay!” for sure.


‘Die Hard’ is Based on a Crime Novel

Roderick Thorp's 'Nothing Lasts Forever'
W. W. Norton & Company

The script for ‘Die Hard’ is based on a novel called ‘Nothing Last Forever’ in the Joe Leland crime series by Roderick Thorp. The first book in the series — ‘The Detective’ — was made into a movie in 1968 starring Frank Sinatra, but when he showed no interest in starring in a sequel, the screenplay slowly began to evolve into a standalone action flick. Probably a good thing, too. Can you imagine Ol’ Blue Eyes in the starring role?


‘Die Hard’ Was Optioned as a Sequel to ‘Commando’

Arnold Schwarzenegger in 'Commando'
20th Century Fox

Writers then tried to sell the script as a sequel to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1985 movie ‘Commando.’ But at the time, Schwarzenegger was focused on reprising his ‘Terminator’ role and passed. So, the writers revised the script again, rewriting the protagonist as fish-out-of-water New York City cop John McClane.


The Lead Role Was Offered to Many Actors Before Bruce Willis

Burt Reynolds
Orion Pictures/Warner Bros.

Sinatra and Schwarzenegger weren’t the only actors to turn the part down. The role was also reportedly offered to Richard Gere, Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson and even Burt Reynolds. Eventually, ‘Moonlighting’ star Bruce Willis landed the part, which helped him transition from TV actor to bona fide movie star.


Hans Gruber’s Surprised Look In His Death Scene Is Real

Hans Gruber Dies
20th Century Fox

Remember Hans Gruber’s look of shock as he falls to his death at the end of the movie? That was completely real.

In order to capture genuine emotion on actor Alan Rickman’s face, director John McTiernan sent Rickman plummeting off a 20-foot model of the Nakatomi building a full second before he expected it. Needless to say, Rickman was angered by the surprise plunge, especially since he had serious misgivings about the safety of the stunt fall in the first place. Hey, nobody does that to Hans Gruber and gets away with it.


The Film’s German Terrorists are Speaking Gibberish

German Terrorists in 'Die Hard' Speak Gibberish
20th Century Fox

The German that Gruber and his band of terrorists speak sure sounds convincing to us, but their grammar, diction and pronunciation are sometimes terribly wrong. As a result of their mangling of the language, the terrorists were simply described as hailing from “Europe” in the German release of the film.


‘Die Hard’ Movie Posters Didn’t Feature Bruce Willis at First

Die Hard Movie Poster
20th Century Fox

Fearing that his likeness might deter moviegoers because he was considered a TV actor at the time, the studio dropped Willis’ face from the official release posters and featured only the Nakatomi building instead. But after the early box office success of the flick, Willis was later added.


The “Bill Clay” Scene Wasn’t Originally in the Script


The scene where Gruber pretends to be a Nakatomi employee named “Bill Clay” wasn’t in the original screenplay. It was added later after it was discovered that Rickman could pull of a passable American accent. The fact that Gruber is at his most sinister here is an added bonus.


Bruce Willis’ Dirty Wife Beater is a National Treasure

Bruce Willis' Wife Beater

In 2007, Willis donated the filthy, blood-smeared undershirt he wore in the movie to the Smithsonian where it went on display next to such iconic movie props as boxing gloves from ‘Rocky’ and Dorothy’s ruby slippers from ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ Not bad company for a lowly wife beater.


Rickman Flinched When Shooting Prop Guns

Hans Gruber
20th Century Fox

Rickman may be a consummate actor, but he couldn’t help flinching each time he fired a prop gun during shooting. McTiernan did his best to avoid capturing this on film, but the actor’s nervous habit is clearly visible in the scene where Gruber shoots Mr. Takagi.


The Phrase ‘Die Hard’ Doesn’t Translate Well

'Die Hard' Translation
20th Century Fox

To say that the film’s title doesn’t translate well into other languages would be a massive understatement. In Spain, the movie was retitled as ‘The Glass Jungle.’ In Serbia, it was known as ‘Die Manly’ and in Hungary it was inexplicably known as ‘Give Your Life Expensive,’ which isn’t much better than the Hungarian titles for the second and third ‘Die Hard’ movies — ‘Your Life is Always Expensive’ and ‘The Life is Always Expensive.’

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