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.
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.
If, during one of your many Christmas Eve viewings of Die Hard, you've noticed every time Hans Gruber fires a weapon the shot cuts, 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?
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."
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?'."