Summer Movie Q&A

Bruce Willis on 'Die Hard'

In the extended version of his chat in this week's issue of EW, the star of the best action film ever talks about becoming John McClane, his most explosive stunt, and living up to the film's legacy

WILLIS ''Oh, I think I was the 50th choice [to play John McClane]! They went to everybody''
Image credit: Frank Masi
WILLIS ''Oh, I think I was the 50th choice [to play John McClane]! They went to everybody''

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When you made Die Hard in 1987, you were on a hit TV show, Moonlighting. How badly did you want to do movies?
BRUCE WILLIS: Things were happening so fast I didn't have time to sit down and go, Here's what I want to have happen this year, or next year, or in five years. I was never that guy anyway. I was never the guy that said, OK, in five years, I need to be here...all I knew was I got to act every day on TV. The show had become popular by 1988, I think I'd already read the script for Die Hard once, but had to pass because of the show. As it turns out, a miracle happened — Cybill Shepherd got pregnant and they shut down the show for 11 weeks — just the right amount of time for me to run around over at Nakatomi Tower.

So was there ever a point when you were shooting days on Moonlighting and then actually moonlighting at night on Die Hard?
I don't think so. Maybe a day or two. I remember on the third one, Die Hard with a Vengeance, when we reshot the ending — which I predicted, not that I'm smart or anything, I just knew that the ending that we were going with wasn't a Die Hard ending. It wouldn't satisfy the audience when they said 'One Year Later' at the end — you never want to see that. I remember telling one of the producers on the film, ''Look, in six months I'm going to be doing Twelve Monkeys. I'm going to have a shaved head, tattoos all over my skull, and I'm going to have to put a wig on to look like John McClane and it isn't going to be fun.'' And it wasn't.

You were the studio's fifth choice to play John McClane...
Oh, I think I was the 50th choice! They went to everybody.

I've heard Richard Gere...
I heard that.

Arnold Schwarzenegger...
Clint Eastwood...

Stallone and Burt Reynolds...
[Laughs] Burt Reynolds? All of those guys probably would have been great John McClanes. As it turns out, if you think about John McClane now, you can't imagine anybody doing it but me, right? The thing about the first film you have to understand is I was doing TV, I'd only been in L.A. for a couple of years, I was still really learning how to act, so most of what went into making John McClane from a character standpoint was the South Jersey Bruce Willis — that attitude and disrespect for authority, that gallows sense of humor, the reluctant hero. What I always say about John McClane is if he had the choice of someone else stepping up and doing what he had to do, he would let them do it. I remember right around that time, the script for Lethal Weapon came across my path and my girlfriend at the time read it and said it was way too violent. Thank God I didn't do that one! [Laughs]

NEXT PAGE: Willis on reading the script, becoming the $5 million man — and ''Yippee-ki-yay, motherf---er''

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