When Bruce Willis and his longtime producing partner Arnold Rifkin were marooned in Manhattan on Sept. 11, the two took a somber walk down a muted Park Avenue. Along the way, a young fan spotted Willis and shouted, ''Where is John McClane when you need him?!''
''What I realized,'' says Rifkin, ''is people wanted to see John McClane again. Not necessarily Bruce Willis,'' he qualifies, ''but the character he created. So what if there were another individual that could become John McClane if John McClane was no longer capable? There's a ticking clock in life, you know.'' So expect some major torch-passing in Live Free or Die Hard (in theaters June 29). Possibly to Justin Long, who makes a giant leap from hawking computers on TV to saving the world from a cyber-terrorism plot as McClane's sidekick.
Die-hard fans of McClane can also take comfort in Rifkin's promise that the new movie has ''nothing to do with Die Hard 3.'' To which we can only reply: Yippee-ki-yay!