Was there a better time to be a fan of tough-guy cinema than the ’80s? On any given weekend, you could go to the multiplex and see Arnold Schwarzenegger barking Austrian threats, Sylvester Stallone acting out some right-wing revenge fantasy, or a mulleted Mel Gibson unleashing his inner demons while his costar grumbled about getting too old for this s—. Well, you know who wasn’t too old for that s— back then? Me. I lapped up every last one of those Reagan-era action flicks and came back for seconds. I’ll admit that most of them haven’t aged well (sorry, Messieurs Tango and Cash). Yet there’s one that still feels as fresh as it did when it hit theaters on July 15, 1988. Just out on Blu-ray as part of the four-film Die Hard: 25th Anniversary Blu-ray Collection, John McTiernan’s original Die Hard may be the most perfect action film ever made. That’s a bold claim, I know. But the set’s EXTRAS do a first-rate job of backing it up while also revealing some juicy trivia. As we wait for next month’s A Good Day to Die Hard, here’s a taste of what we learned:
Frank Sinatra Passed
Yes, Ol’ Blue Eyes was attached to the 1979 book that Die Hard’s script was based on (Roderick Thorp’s Nothing Lasts Forever), since he’d starred in its ’60s precursor, The Detective. So producer Joel Silver had to offer Sinatra the part as a formality. Luckily, he said no. He would’ve been 72 when principal photography began.
Good Call on the Moonlighting Guy
The studio’s first choice to play New York cop John McClane was Richard Gere. Back then, Bruce Willis was just a small-screen romantic lead with a receding hairline opposite Cybill Shepherd. He was no one’s idea of a movie star. By the time Die Hard’s end credits, however, he’d become the next step in the evolutionary chain of ’80s action heroes. Finally, here was a scrappy, smirking wiseass palooka rather than a robot bodybuilder.
All Hail Hans Gruber
Hands down, the greatest villain of the decade was Alan Rickman’s Teutonic sadist in bespoke suits. He ”created the Eurotrash villain,” according to Die Hard fan Kevin Smith. But Twentieth Century Fox was so concerned about the actor’s mannered performance after seeing the dailies, he was nearly replaced.
The Action Looks Much Bigger Than It Is
In one of the film’s splashiest pyrotechnic set pieces, a helicopter crashes into Nakatomi Plaza and explodes in a ball of fire. It’s awesome. Even more awesome? Watching the crew shoot the scene with a seven-foot remote-controlled toy helicopter and an old-school broomstick. Yippee-ki-yay! A