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Die Hard: A Christmas Movie?

Entertainment | December 17, 2021

"Die Hard" one of the greatest movie titles ever. IMDB

Obviously, the internet inspires debate so naturally, one of its most hotly contested arguments remains: Is Die Hard a Christmas movie? On the one hand, it’s set around Christmas, featuring lines like "Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho," and “'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except... the four assholes coming in the rear in standard two-by-two cover formation.”

On the flip side, the movie debuted on July 15, 1988, and does not function like any Christmas movie before or since. So in honor of the internet’s fierce deliberation, here’s all things Die Hard. Yippee-ki-yay, motherf#%@$r.

It took many turns of fate for Willis to land "Die Hard." EW

A Bruce Willis Holiday Miracle

Today, it would be impossible to imagine any other actor as the iconic John McClane. However, when casting began, he stood as much of a chance as you. Here’s a list of actors who said no before they finally settled on Willis: Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro, Burt Reynolds, Harrison Ford, Charles Bronson, Mel Gibson, Richard Gere, Nick Nolte, Don Johnson, and Richard Dean Anderson! Even Frank Sinatra had to say no thanks due to a quirk in the rights issues. Probably a good move since the Chairman of the Board was 73 at the time.

Willis brought some comedy chops that helped the movie's popularity. howtogeek

“Funny Man” Wilis Created McClane

In the late ‘80s, Willis was known as the funny guy from “Moonlighting.” The casting director couldn't envision him as a tank top wearing badass, taking apart a terrorist group. Nevertheless, his comedic timing helped cement McClane as one of the all-time characters.

The most unforgettable line in the movie, “Yippee-ki-yay, motherf#%@$r,” was an ad-lib by Willis. “It was a throwaway,” said Willis. “I was just trying to crack up the crew and I never thought it was going to be allowed to stay in the film." Not only did it stay in the film but it became the character’s catchphrase, used in all subsequent sequels.

Smart movie making helped create this incredible shot. CBR

Endless What Ifs?

Most Hollywood movies own at least a few “what if'' decisions. “Die Hard” was founded upon them. For one, if Cybill Shepard hadn’t gotten pregnant, Willis would not have been able to play McClane due to scheduling conflicts. Masterful action director John McTiernan, shepherd of classics like “Predator,” “The Hunt for Red October,” and “The Last Action Hero,” passed on Die Hard multiple times.

As McTiernan put it, “The original screenplay was a grim terrorist movie. On my second week working on it, I said, 'Guys, there's no part of terrorism that's fun. Robbers are fun bad guys. Let's make this a date movie.’ And they had the courage to do it.” He even convinced them to set the film within a single action-packed evening rather than a three-day saga.

Finally, Sam Neil was originally supposed to play Hans Gruber but turned it down. In a twist of fate, the casting director saw Alan Rickman play Valmont for a stage production of “Dangerous Liaisons” and knew his Gruber when he saw him. Amazingly, they cast Rickman in a blockbuster movie for his feature film debut at 41!

Perhaps the most iconic tank top in history. getty

Aiming For Realism

Another aspect that made “Die Hard” a classic was the production’s commitment to realism. They used extremely loud blanks to create the cacophonous gunfire. The blanks were so loud that Willis suffers from hearing issues to this day. As he says, “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?’”

The seminal shot of Gruber falling to his death? Not only did they actually drop Rickman over 25 feet, but they did it on the count of “two” rather than “three” to create that historic look of surprise on Rickman’s face. Even the Nakatomi Plaza was the actual headquarters for 20th Century Fox! All of that added up to a film that lives on as one of the quintessential action movies of all time. So much so that the Smithsonian Museum proudly displays McClane’s blood and grim soaked tank top to this day.

Tags: Alan Rickman | Bruce Willis | Die Hard

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Kellar Ellsworth


Kellar Ellsworth was born and raised in Hawaii. He is an avid traveler, surfer and lover of NBA basketball. He wishes he could have grown up in the free love era!