20 Things You Never Knew about the Die Hard Franchise

The ‘Die Hard’ franchise is a series of films that are based on ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’, a 1979 novel by Roderick Thorp. The first film ‘Die Hard’ was released in 1988 and ‘Die Hard 2’ followed in 1990. The third film in the series was ‘Die Hard with a Vengeance’ which was released in 1995. The next installment came in 2007 with the release of ‘Live Free or Die Hard’. Finally, ‘’A Good Day to Die Hard’ was released in 2013. The series follows the adventures and situation that John McClane finds himself in and these are often violent and dangerous. McClane is a police detective who works for the New York City and Los Angeles police departments. Throughout the series of films, John McClane is portrayed by Bruce Willis. Here are 20 facts you probably didn’t know about the ‘Die Hard’ franchise.

1. Frank Sinatra Nearly Played the Main Role

It is not uncommon that the person who plays the lead in a film is not the first choice and this was the case with the ‘Die Hard’ franchise. However, the person they originally had in mind to play John McClane may surprise you. It was, in fact, Frank Sinatra who they had lined up for the role despite the fact that he was 73 at the time of the release. While this may seem a strange choice, there is a reason behind this. ‘Die Hard’ is based on the novel ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ by Roderick Thorp. This book is a sequel to ‘The Detective’ which was made into a film starring Frank Sinatra in the lead role in 1968. It made sense to also cast him in the main role in the sequel. Furthermore, Sinatra had a clause in his contract that said he should have first refusal if they made a sequel to the film. However, they then decided to create ‘Die Hard’ as a stand-alone film completely separate to ‘The Detective’. This was just as well considering that ‘Die Hard’ then became a series of films with lots of action and violence. It is unlikely that Frank Sinatra could have kept up with the pace of the movies.

2. There Were Several Television Actors in Contention for the Lead

Once the idea of casting Sinatra had passed, they began to look at television actors. Two of the television actors under consideration were Richard Dean and Don Johnson. Dean was known for playing the role of MacGuyver at that time while Johnson was famous for his role in ‘Miami Vice’, Willis was also a television actor during the time of the casting and is well-known for his role in ‘Moonlighting’. They opted to cast Willis and now John McClane is one of his most famous roles.

3. Bruce Willis Does Not Really Run Barefoot

There are some scenes in the first of the ‘Die Hard’ films where Bruce Willis is running barefoot. This may seem impressive that he can run at such speed over rough surfaces without the protection of footwear. However, he is not actually barefoot at any point in the movie. The costume department made him special shoes that looked like feet so that his feet were protected but it gave audiences the impression that he was running barefoot. If you look closely at his feet during the films, they do have a clown-like appearance.

4. Alan Rickman Makes His Cinematic Debut in a ‘Die Hard’ Film

Alan Rickman has worked as a prolific actor in both film and television but it was in the 1988 film ‘Die Hard’ that he made his cinematic debut when he played the role of Hans Gruber. He also appeared in the third film ‘Die Hard with a Vengeance’ in a flashback scene. Rickman was cast in the role when he was spotted by director John McTiernan while performing on Broadway in ‘Les Liaisons Dangereuses’. Alan Rickman is also well-known for his roles in ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’, ‘Sense and Sensibility’, ‘Truly, Madly, Deeply’, ‘Love Actually’, and the ‘Harry Potter’ series of films.

5. Bonnie Bedelia Plays McClane’s First Wife

Bonnie Bedelia plays the role of McClane’s first wife, Holly. Bedelia started her career on stage and rose to prominence during the 1960s when she had a role in the CBS soap opera ‘Love of Life’. She made her film debut in the 1969 film ‘The Gypsy Moths’. She has also had roles in ‘Speechless’, ‘Sordid Lives’, ‘Anywhere But Here’, ‘Gloria’, ‘The Prince of Pennsylvania’, ‘Heart Like a Wheel’, and ‘Between Friends’. An interesting fact is that Bonnie Bedelia is the aunty of McCauley Culkin who became famous as a child actor for his role in ‘Home Alone’. Her other two nephews are Kieran and Rory Culkin and her brother is Kit Culkin.

6. Alan Rickman Had a Shock Doing a Stunt

The scene where Gruber dies was dramatic in more ways than one and it annoyed actor Alan Rickman who played the villain. Rickman performed his own stunt for the scene which sees Gruber trying, unsuccessfully, to get away with the money before falling to his death. When performing the stunt fall, the crew were supposed to count to three before Rickman fell. However, he was dropped on the count of one. McTiernan had arranged this so that the look of shock on Rickman’s face would be genuine. He knew that Rickman would be angry, so he made sure it was the last shot they needed form him. This was not the only surprise that Rickman had during filming. While filming the scene where he first meets John McClane, he damaged his knee. He was then forced to film the rest of the scene standing on one leg.

7. Henchman Karl was a Ballet Dancer in Real Life

Aryan henchman Karl is one of the toughest characters in ‘Die Hard’. The actor who played him was Alexander Godunov who was less tough in real life. In fact, he was once a legendary ballet dancer in the USSR. He joined the Bolshoi ballet in 1971 and became their Premier danseur. He was so famous that when he decided to move to the United States in 1979, his defection caused an international incident. He had sought political asylum, but the KGB put his wife on a plane to Moscow. The flight was stopped before it took off. President Jimmy Carter and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev met over the incident but were satisfied that Godunov’s wife wanted to return to the USSR of her own free will as she felt too Russian to become a citizen of the United States. This ultimately led to the couple’s divorce in 1982. This story was dramatized in the movie ‘Flight 222’ which was released in 1986.

8. Black & Decker Sued 20th Century Fox

Famous power tools company Black & Decker paid 20th Century Fox a handsome sum of money to have one of their products placed in a scene from ‘Die Hard 2’. The idea of doing this was to promote their brand. However, during post-production, the scene that showed the power tool was edited from the final cut. As a result, Black & Decker had wasted their money. This did not mean that they accepted their loss, though, as they decided to sue 20th Century Fox. It was the first lawsuit of its kind and it was settled out of court.

9. Richard Thornburg Holds a Phone Upside Down

In one scene of ‘Die Hard 2’, Richard Thornburg, played by William Atherton, is on an airplane reporting live about a crisis. An on-screen television audience is listening to his live broadcast. Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that this audience heard the whole report as observant viewers may notice that Thornburgh is holding the telephone upside down. It is unusual that this mistake was not picked up during post-production editing or perhaps they simply thought that the audience would not notice the mistake. It is also unusual for an actor as talented and experienced as William Atherton to make such an error. He has had roles in ‘The Crow: Salvation’. ‘Ghostbusters’, Independence’, ‘Oscar’, and ‘The Citizen’.

10. ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’ is the Only Film Written Originally as a Screenplay

Only one of the five films have a script that was originally written as a screenplay rather than being an adaptation of a book and this is ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’. While ‘Die Hard’ is an adaptation of the Roderick Thorp novel ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’, ‘Die Hard 2’ is adapted from the 1987 novel ’58 Minutes’ by Walter Wager. ‘Die Hard with a Vengeance’ is based on a script called Simon Says’ that was written by Jonathan Hensleigh. John McTiernan liked this script because it was about a man who was targeted for revenge by a man whose life had been destroyed. ‘Live Free or Die Hard’ is based on a article called ‘A Farewell to Arms’ that was written for a 1997 edition of Wired magazine by John Carlin. Another influence for the script for this film was a script called ‘WW3.com’ that was owned by 20th Century Fox.

11. David Thewlis Was Almost Cast in the Role of Simon Gruber

The villain Simon Gruber is played by Jeremy Irons but the original actor considered was David Thewlis. Jeremy Irons is famous for his roles in the DC Extended Universe films, ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’, ‘The Mission’, ‘Moonlighting’, ‘Lolita’, and ‘Kingdom of Heaven’. David Thewlis is known for his roles in ‘James and the Giant Peach’, ‘Naked’, ‘The Theory of Everything’, ‘Wonder Woman’, ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’, and ‘Dragonheart’. Villain Simon Peter Gruber appears in the 1995 movie ‘Die Hard with a Vengeance’.

12. The Basis of ‘Die Hard with a Vengeance’ Was Almost the Script for ‘Lethal Weapon 4’

The script on which ‘Die Hard with a Vengeance’ was based was almost considered for another film. As the script did not specifically relate to the ‘Die Hard’ series of films and needed considerable adaptation from its original format to tie-in with the characters and previous storyline, it was open to the potential of being made in to a stand-alone film or adaptation to another film. One film it was considered for was ‘Lethal Weapon 4’.

13. Two Famous Pop Singers Were Considered for the Role of John McClane’s Daughter

In the first film of the series, John McClane’s daughter, Lucy Gennero-McClane, is played by Taylor Fry. His daughter is not in the second or third films in the series. When the production team were casting for the role of his daughter for the third and fourth films in the series, Taylor Fry was replaced. Instead, the role was played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead. She was not the only person considered for the role as two pop singers were also under consideration. Both Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson auditioned for the role but lost out to experienced actress Winstead. She already had vast experience in the movie industry including roles in ‘Final Destination 3’, ‘Black Christmas’, ‘Death Proof’, and ‘Bobby’. She has since gone on to have roles in many more films, including ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’, ‘The Thing’, and ‘Kill the Messenger’.

14. The Russian Baddies Aren’t Really Russian

In ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’, McClane is battling against the Russian baddies. Interestingly, not a single actor who plays a Russian baddie in this movie is actually Russian. Instead, many of the actors were from Slovakia, Serbia, or other Eastern European countries. It is not clear why they chose to do this instead of simply hiring Russian actors. Sebastian Koch who plays Yuri Komarov in the movie is actually from Germany. The one person who does originally come from Russia in this movie is Yuliya Snigir who plays Irina Komarov. She has also had roles in ‘Raspoutine’, ‘The Inhabited Island’, ‘Freezer’, ‘The Land of Oz’, and ‘About Love’.

15. Justin Timberlake was Nearly Cast as McClane’s Son

In the first film of the series of ‘Die Hard’ films, McClane’s son is played by Noah Taylor. This character doesn’t appear again until the 2013 movie ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’. They needed to find a new actor to take on this role. When casting for the role of McClane’s son, John ‘Jack’ McClane, Jr., several actors were considered for the role. One of these was Justin Timberlake who began his career as a child actor on ‘The All-New Mickey Mouse Club’ and ‘Star Search’. He rose to prominence when he was a member of the group ‘NSYNC’ and also established a successful career as a solo artist. He has appeared in films including ‘Friends with Benefits’, ‘Bad Teacher’, ‘The Love Guru’, and ‘The Social Network’. Eventually, they opted to cast Jai Courtney in the role. He had starred in the 2012 movie ‘Jack Reacher’ before landing this role. He is also famous for his performance in ‘I, Frankenstein’ and for playing Captain Boomerang in the 2016 film ‘Suicide Squad’. Jai Courtney also provides the voice for this character in the 2013 ‘Die Hard’ video game.

16. There Are Ten Die Hard Video Games

In addition to the films, there are also ten video games that are part of the ‘Die Hard’ franchise. There are three separate video games entitled ‘Die Hard’ for different consoles; Nintendo Entertainment System, MS-DOS, and PC Engine. The latter was for release in Japan only. The ‘Die Hard 2’ video game was created for the Commodore Amiga. ‘Die Hard Arcade’ was a video game created for the Sega Saturn and for arcade use. When ‘Die Hard Trilogy’ was released, it was compatible with PCs, PlayStations, and Saturns. This was followed by the ‘Die Hard Trilogy 2: Viva Las Vegas’ video game for PlayStation and PC. ‘Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza’ was for PC only while the updated version of ‘Die Hard’ was available for Android and iOS. ‘Die Hard: Vendetta’ is suitable for PlayStation 2, Xbox, and Nintendo GameCube. These video games range from beat ‘em ups to first-person shooters. Some of the games are based directly on the movies while others have additional features including events before or after the adventures of John McClane as they are in the movies.

17. The Fourth Film in the Series Was the Biggest Commercial Success

Of all the ‘Die Hard’ films, the one that was the most commercially successful was ‘Live Free or Die Hard’. The first film in the series, ‘Die Hard’, had a budget of $28 million and grossed $140,767,956 at the box office. Following on from the success of this film, ‘Die Hard 2’ grossed $240,031,094 from a budget of $70 million. ‘Die Hard with a Vengeance’ was made on a budget of $90 million and grossed $366,101,666. The most successful film, ‘Live Free or Die Hard’, grossed $383,531,464 at the worldwide box office from a budget of $110 million. While it was the most successful, it also had the largest budget. The final film, ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’, was made on a budget of $92 million and grossed $304,654,182 at the worldwide box office.

18. Two Composers Scored the Music for the Films

Unlike many series of films where a different composer writes the score for each movie, there are just two film composers attached to the ‘Die Hard’ series of films. The musical scores for the first three films in the series were composed by Michael Kamen. He also composed the scores for ‘Highlander’, ‘Mona Lisa’, ‘Edfgeof Darkness’, ‘Licence to Kill’, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’, and the ‘Lethal Weapon’ series of films. Marco Beltrami was the composer of the musical scores for the last two films in the series. He is best-known for composing the music for films in the horror genre, such as ‘Resident Evil’, ‘The Faculty’, ‘Mimic’, and ‘Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark’.

19. Bonnie Bedelia is in Four of the Films- Almost!

Many of the characters, other than John McClane, appear in only one film. Bonnie Bedelia, on the other hand, appears in four of the movies as McClane’s first wife Holly Gennaro in different ways. She has a full role in the first two films in the franchise. In the third film ‘Die Hard with a Vengeance’, audiences simply hear her voice. In ‘Live Free or Die Hard’, the fourth film, the camera simply pans over a photograph of her. It is like the producers wanted to gradually phase her out of the franchise.

20. John McTiernan was the Only Director to Direct Two of the Movies

Often, the same director will see a series of films through to the end. This is not the case with the ‘Die Hard’ franchise as there is only John McTiernan who has directed two of the movies. He directed ‘Die Hard’ and ‘Die Hard with a Vengeance’, the first and third movies in the series. Renny Harlin was the director of ‘Die Hard 2’ while ‘Live Free or Die Hard’ was directed by Len Wiseman. The final film in the series ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’ was directed by John Moore. John McTiernan is also famous for directing ‘Predator’, ‘Last Action Hero’, ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’, ‘Basic’, and ‘Flight of the Intruder’. Renny Harlin has directed ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master’, Cliffhanger’, ‘Deep Blue Sea’, and ‘Long Kiss Goodnight’. Some of the work of Len Wiseman includes ‘Men in Black’, ‘Total Recall’, ‘The Gifted’, and the ‘Underworld’ series of films. Other movies directed by John Moore include ‘Behind Enemy Lines’, ‘Flight of the Phoenix’, ‘Max Payne’, ‘The Omen’, and ‘I.T.’.


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