How A Literal Piece Of Garbage Made 'Die Hard' Possible
Don't worry. This article won't be about Harvey Weinstein or some other monster. You won't be learning about how 1,000 cockroaches in an unconvincing human suit—every one of which is actually made up of 10 smaller cockroaches wearing one big cockroach suit—are secretly responsible for one of the best action movies ever made. That being said, Die Hard would not be here today if it wasn't for a giant piece of garbage. Thankfully, I mean that literally.
First, though, a nice hot cup of FACTS. The reason why only the first three Die Hard movies were any good is that they mostly stuck to the same formula: an ordinary person gets caught up in an extreme situation. Through little touches like watching him deal with a long flight or having trouble with his wife, we get to understand John McClane and see that, in many ways, he is just like us. It makes us root for but also worry about him because if it were us in his situation, how well would we fare? That's a big part of the movie's draw. Sadly, this idea is mostly abandoned by A Good Day to Die Hard, where McClane is basically what would happen if James Bond made angry-love to Batman while Tom Clancy watched. The first movie got the "ordinary guy" angle so right, though, which was solely the work of screenwriter Jeb Stuart.
Die Hard is technically an adaptation of the 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever about a humorless, nearly 50-year-old cop who has an estranged daughter, whom he loses in the end. It had about as much chance of becoming an instant Christmas classic as a 4-hour-long Richard Dawkins lecture about all the popes he could probably take in a fight. Stuart got the idea to instead make the movie "about a 30-year-old guy who should have said he's sorry to his wife, and then bad stuff happens" when he almost died.
According to Stuart, after being tasked with writing the movie, he got into a fight with his wife and, while driving on an LA freeway, a fridge box fell off the truck in front of him. It turned out to be empty, but he didn't know it at the time. He thought he was about to do a Kool-Aid Man impression with help from his lovely assistant: the car window. And, by his own admission, all he could think about then were the things he never got to say to his wife. Thankfully, his car simply ran over and flattened the box, inspiring Stuart to write a movie about a regular guy with regrets who screws up but ultimately wants to do the right thing.
And that's why any movie past Die Hard with a Vengeance is not technically Die Hard, while White House Down is. Again, these are the facts. Drink up. DRINK.
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Top Image: 20 Century Studios