Monday, December 25, 2017

Proof of a Movie God: Die Hard

The Movie God works in mysterious ways. Every now and again one of us puny humans will get an idea for a great movie and then proceed to try and screw it up through all sorts of bad decisions, bickering, and other typical people stuff. The Movie God steps in at various points along the way and steers the boat, so to speak. To most of us they seem like strange coincidences or just pure luck. To me, they're proof a Movie God. I realize that many of you reading this may be skeptical. This feature will attempt to convert you non-believers.

I haven't done one of these "Biblical" stories in quite a while, but I felt today would be a great time to get back to it. After all, it's Christmas Day. And I'm going to talk about a Christmas movie...depending on who you ask.

By now, you probably know Die Hard as the seminal action-flick released in 1988 that quite literally altered the genre. It's been given more sequels than necessary, copied countless times, and parodied just as many. The main character's catchphrase is one of the most recognizable movie quotes in cinematic history. The film itself has become such a huge part of pop-culture, it truly is one of the movies you have to see before you die. However, it would not have made it to theaters near you without a large hand by Movie God.

The journey from man's imagination to iconic movie actually begins way back in 1966 with a novel written by Roderick Thorpe called The Detective. Two years later, it was made into a film of the same name starring everyone's favorite crooner, Frank Sinatra, as New York City detective Joe Leland. It went on to become the 20th highest grossing film of 1968, pulling in about $13 million at the box-office. To entice Sinatra to take the role in the first place, it was put into his contract that he would be offered first crack at reprising his role if a sequel were ever made.

In 1974, Movie God gave Mr. Thorpe the inspiration he needed in the form of the classic disaster film The Towering Inferno. After watching this, he was mysteriously motivated to finally pen a sequel to The Detective. It's about good old Joe Leland, now retired, visiting his daughter in the skyscraper where she works during her company's Christmas party when a group of German terrorist take over. The book, titled Nothing Lasts Forever, was published in 1979. In the mid-80s, efforts began in earnest to bring Nothing Lasts Forever to the big screen by 20th Century Fox. As they had to, the lead role was offered to Frank Sinatra. Ol' Blue Eyes turned the role down mostly because, as Movie God was well aware, he was 73 years old. He had no interest in taking a part which required him to crawl around in air ducts. The main character's name was changed to John McClane, it became his wife working in the building instead of his daughter, the terrorists were downgraded to thieves, and any apparent connections to The Detective were removed. But Movie God's work wasn't done.

Since this was going to be an action movie in the 80s, the silly humans involved in its making did what they normally do. They offered the lead role to Sylvester Stallone. Movie God granted him sense enough to know he wasn't right and he turned it down. The same happened to others offered the role like Harrison Ford, Don Johnson, Richard Gere, Clint Eastwood, and Burt Reynolds. Movie God turned Fox's attentions to the small screen and a hit TV show called Moonlighting and it's male lead, Bruce Willis. He played a private detective in the show, but this was far more romantic comedy than action. Still, Willis was given $5 million to take the role, unheard of in those days for a guy who had only been in one moderately successful movie to that point (Blind Date).

Movie God gave out another bit of inspiration, this time to screenplay writers Steven de Souza and Jeb Stuart.  Knowing that none of McClane's heroics take place without the attempted heist, they wrote the script with the villain, Hans Gruber, as the protagonist. He is truly the person responsible for all the action. With that done, they needed someone to play that villain. For that, Movie God pointed them in the direction of a Tony nominated stage actor who had never appeared in a film, Alan Rickman. Rickman initially wasn't interested in the part, but Movie God persuaded him to take it, anyway. He even granted Rickman the werewithal to volunteer to shoot the most realistic death scene possible. Rickman agreed to be dropped about 70 feet on a green screen set. He was told he would be dropped on the count of three. Of course, the count never made it that far, so the look of terror on Rickman's face is absolutely real.

With Movie God's work finally done, the film opened nationwide on July 15, 1988. The world hasn't been the same since.

Click below for more Proof of a Movie God


  1. This was on TV last night as my brother-in-law and I both agree that Die Hard is a Xmas movie. I stated that there's 2 kinds of people. Those who believe (such as you, me, my brother-in-law, and many others) that Die Hard is a Xmas movie and those who don't think it's a Xmas movie (idiots).

  2. You forgot to mention that he was also canny enough to have Bruce Willis view Heart Like a Wheel before being offered the lead and be smart enough to be impressed with Bonnie Bedelia's performance requesting her for his leading lady. The picture would be so much less without her centered gravitas as the fearlessly no nonsense Holly who could go toe to toe with both McClane and Gruber and not blink.

    I can see it as a Christmas movie but it's not the first thing that comes to mind when someone asks me which are my favorites. If only they'd stop tarnishing its memory with ever worsening continuations!

    1. Great point! She was awesome. And please, no more sequels.

    2. Ha! How timely....I just saw a link to this on the IMDB main page and had to send it along.

    3. Yeah, this debate has been going on every year for quite a while, now.

  3. I loved reading this! I didn't know the story of the movie but I guessed it was inspired by The Towering Inferno given the similarities.

    I didn't consider it a Christmas movie at first, but now I do, and it's one of my favorites.

  4. Great post! I didn't know some of the things you said here.

  5. Yes, Virginia, Die Hard is a Christmas movie.

    It's also friggin' great, one of those rare movies by which others in the genre are judged.