17 Crazy Behind the Scenes Facts About Die Hard

Die Hard is one of the most wildly popular films of the 20th century. Everyone loves this movie about a guy with no shoes who stops an international crime syndicate from stealing bank bonds while trying to apologize to his wife. But as you’ll come to learn from these Die Hard behind the scenes facts, taking this movie from the page to screen was packed with far more convoluted plot twists than the film itself. For instance, there were multiple drafts of the script before the central character was even named John McClane, arguably one of the most recognizable names in film history, and this is but one of the many weird facts about Die Hard out there in the world.

The development and making of Die Hard goes to show just how many things need to right, wrong, or in totally random directions to make a classic film. There were injuries to the main cast, stunts pulled off in record time, and deafening explosions going off at all times of the day. If you consider yourself a die hard Die Hard fan, check out these Die Hard facts even Roderick Thorp doesn’t know. And if reading about Die Hard gets you all riled up, check out some of the most insane action scenes ever to get your rocks off.  

Photo: 20th Century Fox

  • The Writer Thought Of Hans Gruber As The Hero And John McClane As The Villain

    Is your brain exploding right now? Thought so. According to screenwriter Steven E. de Souza, who wrote drafts of the script independent of fellow writer Jeb Stuart, John McClane is an innocent bystander trapped in a tower teeming with German thugs, and the real hero of the film is Hans Gruber, international man of mystery. Of Gruber, de Souza says

    "Who’s the protagonist of Die Hard? It’s Hans Gruber who plans the robbery. If he had not planned the robbery and put it together, Bruce Willis would have just gone to the party and reconciled or not with his wife. You should sometimes think about looking at your movie through the point of view of the villain who is really driving the narrative.”

    So ultimately this comes down to screenwriter semantics. Yeah, technically, Hans Gruber drives the action, which makes him the protagonist, and John McClane, who prevents the success of his actions, the antagonist. Which means Die Hard ends tragically, because the protagonist does not achieve his goals. 

  • Alan Rickman Hated Firing His Gun, Which Affected the Editing and Style of Action Scenes

    If, during one of your many Christmas Eve viewings of Die Hard, you've noticed every time Hans Gruber fires a weapon the film cuts away, your weird OCD has finally paid off. Turns out Alan Rickman wasn't used to firing a gun so he winced every time he pulled the trigger, and because you can't have your big bad screwing up his face when he's supposed to look cool and dangerous, director John McTiernan made a decision to cut to a different angle every time this happened. This editing technique gives the film an artsy fartsy feel (it's very European), while the mise en scène differs in pace and tempo from that of standard action films. Who knew a guy who was famous for playing bad guys hated doing bad guy stuff?

  • A Refrigerator Box Made the Difference Between Die Hard and the Novel It's Based On

    According to Die Hard's screenwriter Jeb Stuart, were it not for a stray cardboard box, Die Hard wouldn't be the film it is today. Stuart's early drafts of the script were similar to the source material, Nothing Lasts Forever, a novel by Roderick Thorp about retired NYPD detective Joe Leland who gets entangled in a German terrorist plot to uncover an oil company's role in a Chilean junta while visiting his daughter in Los Angeles. 

    While plugging away one day, Stuart got in a fight with his wife and decided to drive off into the sunset. As he was peeling out of his driveway he almost ran right into a an empty refrigerator box. He says the shock of the box was enough to make him revise the script in the following way: "It's not about a 65-year-old man whose 40-year-old daughter gets dropped off a building. It's about a 30-year-old guy who should have said he's sorry to his wife, and then bad stuff happens."

  • Bruce Willis Is Partially Deaf Thanks to Die Hard

    One of the things that makes Die Hard so fun to watch is the gun fire, which is bigger, brighter, and louder than in most other films of the era. The reason? At the behest of director John McTiernan, weapons specialist, Mike Papac, hand fabricated a set of blanks so powerful (i.e. unbelievably f*cking loud) standard film firearm modifications weren't workable. Special modifications were made to accommodate the blanks, which affected the look and feel of the guns on screen.

    The result of these special blanks was a highly realistic visual that made Bruce Willis lose some of his hearing, due to an unspecified accident at extremely high volume. In an interview with the Guardian Willis (sort of) explained, "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?'."

  • Nakatomi Plaza (Fox Headquarters) Was Under Construction When Die Hard Was Shot

    As crazy as it may seem, Nakatomi Plaza is a real place you can visit if you're in Los Angeles, although you can't take pictures or go inside without someone who works in the building. The high rise is the headquarters of 20th Century Fox, and was still under construction when the film was shot. The scenes of McClane moving through spaces with building equipment were real construction sites, not staged. Also of note: Fox charged itself rent for use of the space during filming. That's some pretty smart financial wizardry. 

  • Deleted Scenes Would Prove John McClane Isn't Psychic

    How does John McClane know Hans Gruber is Hans Gruber, not Bill Clay, in the scene when Gruber bums a cigarette from McClane and pretends to be an office employee who escaped the terrorists? In March 2017, 29 years after the movie was released, screenwriter Steven E. De Souza cleared the air on this issue.

    It all comes down to deleted scenes and some last minute decisions. As De Souza explains:

    "Originally, they get off the truck, the camera craned up, you saw them in a circle and Alan Rickman says, 'Synchronize your watches.' They all put their arms out in a circle with the camera moving down and they all had the same Tag Heuer watch. If you notice, the first guy Bruce kills almost by accident going down the steps, he searches the body, looks at the IDs...

    As he kills each guy, he notices they all had the same watch. When he talks to Dwayne Robinson, he says, 'I think these guys are professionals. Their IDs are too good. There's no labels on their clothes and they all have the same watch.'"