Twas the day after Christmas in our little house. Watching Die Hard with the family, as John saves his spouse. Hans Gruber was angry and wanted McClean dead, but John had other ideas instead.
This might sound strange to you, but each year on the day after Christmas, our family watches the 1988 film “Die Hard.” Yes, I said “Die Hard.” The one starring Bruce Willis, and co-starring my favorite fictional business complex name ever —Nakatomi Plaza. Come on, how can you beat that?
Even though the film was made eons before our kiddos were born, their usual aversion to anything “old” is set aside for Bruce, Hans and the boys. They enjoy this old fashioned action movie, where the bad guys are really bad, and the good guys win in the end, just as much as we do.
In our house, holiday traditions don’t necessarily end on December 25th, and it doesn’t have to for you either. After all as long as the tree is still up, and that one gift is still underneath —you know, the one you buy every year for that second cousin who sometimes shows up, but usually finds something else he’d rather do. As long as it still feels festive, and holiday-ish, pop in that Die Hard Blu-ray, or for those of you hopelessly trapped in the 90s, your VHS copy, get a plate of leftover turkey and pie, and man, you’ve got yourself a whole brand new holiday tradition.
Die Hard has a pretty interesting history. It’s based on the 1979 book “Nothing Lasts Forever,” by Roderick Thorp, and is the sequel to Thorps “The Detective,” a novel which was made into a 1968 film starring Frank Sinatra. After Sinatra turned down the role in the sequel (he was in his 70s by then), the story bounced around Hollywood for a few more years, and was finally changed so it didn’t resemble its predecessor at all. The role of Detective John McClane was offered to the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, even Harrison Ford, and Don Johnson. Fortunately for Bruce Willis, they all turned it down; and the rest, as they say, is history.
“Die Hard” reset the action movie genre so fundamentally that even today, nearly 30 years later, anyone who dare make an action flick must face the inevitable comparisons to John McTiernan’s classic flick. NPR recently named “Die Hard” one of the top 3 Christmas movies of all time, alongside such classics as “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and “Miracle on 34th Street;” pretty awesome company if you ask me. Who woulda thunk that a movie starring a little known television star, in a role no one wanted, would strike such a deep chord with movie audiences for 3 decades.
“Die Hard” is a success due in large part to Bruce Willis’ performance, but also because of a fantastic script. There are so many classic lines in this film that when you recite one from it, most people know exactly what movie you’re talking about. One line in particular that resonates with fans far and wide, is the oft quoted, “Yipee Kay yay M@#ther F#@&er.” This was actually a throwaway line by Bruce Willis, one he fully expected would be edited out. Instead it remains one of the most memorable, and most quoted of the movie; and is on AFI’s top 100 movie quotes of all time.
“Die Hard” manages to combine genuinely exciting action scenes, spot on humor, coupled with more serious moments, such as the scene when a demoralized McClane is talking to Sergeant Al Powell via walkie-talkie. When McClane asks why a cop as good as Powell is limited to desk duty, Al confesses that he mistakenly shot a 13 year old kid holding a toy gun. Instead of it being a giant sack of sappiness, it is a very moving scene with these two men who bonded through a very tough ordeal. And when they finally meet face to face for the first time, it is easy to believe they would embrace like old friends.
Still basking in the success from the TV series “Moonlighting,” Willis took some of the humor and charm of the David Addison character, and applied it to Officer McClane, giving him that same everyman persona.
McClane is a guy who does what is right regardless of the danger he may find himself in. You get the feeling that even if his wife weren’t among the hostages, he’d do exactly the same thing, with the same determination to stop the Germans from doing harm to innocent people. His solutions were practical, and made all the over the top implausibility present in any action film, quite plausible.
If you’re not the biggest fan of the action genre, or have a tendency to turn up your nose to films of this nature, put aside all your pre-conceived notions and dig in and watch what a nearly perfect movie looks like —regardless of genre. “Die Hard” is a clinic on how to do action-y movies, and everything that follows it will be perennially compared to the little film that no one wanted to make.
~Welcome to a monthly look at the art of creative writing from all kinds of mediums: Books, music, movies, television, and anything else I can think of. If you have any ideas please feel free to offer them in the comments below. I hope you find it helpful as well as entertaining ~AN
Ann Stanley says
Thanks, Alice. I’ve never watched this film, but you’ve made me want to see it, if only just to learn from it.
Alice Nelson says
Thank you Ann, I would be interested in knowing what you think about it. Have a wonderful New Year!
I’ve always loved this film! In fact, it was on TV Christmas Eve, and I watched it while wrapping presents. They don’t make action films like this one anymore. The scene where McClane asks Powell why he’s on desk duty has been one of my all time favorites, and it actually sparked an idea for me in my own story after reading your post! Thank you!
Alice Nelson says
Thank you so much Chrissy, I am thrilled that this post sparked a creative idea for you!
June Griffin says
A great read. I want to see it again now.
Alice Nelson says
Thank you June! Have a wonderful New Year!