For most people, 'tis the season to be jolly. For me it's a time to watch one of my favourite Christmas movies, the greatest Christmas movie of all...Die Hard. A tradition made all the more poignant this year with the loss of Alan Rickman. When terrorists led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) seize control of Nakatomi Plaza taking thirty people hostage, the last thing they expect to find is John McClane (Bruce Willis). McClane, a New York Police Detective is in town to spend Christmas with his estranged wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia). With the building locked down by the heavily armed terrorists, McClane is the only one who can save the hostages.
I know I don't need to talk about Die Hard, it's a classic. Not only is Die Hard my favourite Christmas movie, it's probably my favourite movie in general. And before the naysayers start complaining that Die Hard isn't a Christmas movie, here's proof that it is:
- The story takes place during a Christmas party on Christmas Eve
- There's Christmas music
- McClane uses Christmas tape in a rather unique way
- There's at least one giant Christmas tree in the movie
- The terrorists receive a Christmas message (wearing a Santa hat) that reads: "Now I have a machinegun Ho-Ho-Ho", coldly read by Hans Gruber
- In saving the hostages McClane clearly pulls off a Christmas miracle, and
- It's on TV every Christmas
There you have it, definitive proof that Die Hard is without doubt a Christmas movie!
The movie is based on Roderick Thorp's second book Nothing Lasts Forever. The title "Die Hard" was developed by Lethal Weapon writer Shane Black for another script, but was purchased by the producers for use with this movie. Thorp's first book, The Detective was the inspiration for the 1968 movie of the same name starring Frank Sinatra. Due to the fact Nothing Lasts Forever is a sequel to The Detective, Fox was contractually obligated to offer Sinatra the lead role when it was adapted into a movie. At the time Sinatra was in his early seventies, when he turned down the role it was decided to distance the project from the source material and the 1968 movie.
The movie was then pitched to Arnold Schwarzenegger as a sequel to Commando, although writer Steven E. de Souza has since denied this. Did they really think steel drums would work with Christmas music? Originally the main character was supposed to be more of a super-hero cop hence why Sylvester Stallone was also considered for the role. Director John McTiernan was bored of this type of character, wanting McClane to be more of an "average guy" who acted because he knew he was the hostages only hope. It was felt that Willis could play the average guy securing him the role and a $5 million salary.
It wasn't just Willis who got his big break with Die Hard, this was Alan Rickman's first movie. John McTiernan and producer Joel Silver saw Rickman play Vicomte de Valmont in a stage production of Dangerous Liaisons, it was this performance that earned Rickman the role of Hans Gruber. The scene where McClane and Gruber first meet was inserted into the script during filming because of Rickman's ability to convincingly mimic an American accent.
Made with a budget of $28 million, Die Hard went on to gross over $140 million worldwide. The movie has developed quite a legacy, spawning a good sequel (Die Hard 2), a great sequel (Die Hard with a Vengeance) and two fucking awful sequels (Die Hard 4.0 and A Good Day to Die Hard). The original format has become a template for action movies in which lone heroes face seemingly insurmountable odds, and the title is frequently used to nickname new action movies. Under Siege was dubbed "Die Hard on a battleship" and Olympus has Fallen was dubbed "Die Hard in The White House". I am guilty of this myself, I dubbed my review of London has Fallen as Fallen 2: Fall Harder, a play on Die Hard 2: Die Harder.
One thing that differentiates a (real) Die Hard movie from other action movies is the location. Die Hard has the Nakatomi building, with McClane running around barefoot. This iconic looking building is in reality the Fox building in Los Angeles, which really was under construction at the time of filming. For Die Hard 2 it's the airport caught in a snow storm. Even Die Hard with a Vengeance has New York, the people, the places, the traffic, the Indian summer. These are all things McClane and Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson) have to deal with while Simon (Jeremy Irons) uses them to his advantage. The location is such a big part of the story it almost becomes a character itself. Len Wiseman and John Moore seemed to forget about this important element, part of what makes a movie a Die Hard movie. 4.0 jumps from place to place meaning no one location has any real effect on the story. The same can be said of A Good Day to Die Hard, the story begins in Moscow and moves to Chernobyl, again with no major bearing on the story.
As a former postman I can come across as a little "bah humbug" at this time of year. But you try watching your workload quadruple over the course of a few months knowing full well that some imaginary fat guy in a red suit will get all the credit. I think the problem with Christmas is everything starts way too early. You wake up on 1st November, walk into Tesco and that wall that was covered in Halloween costumes and pumpkins just yesterday is now filled with Christmas trees, lights, decorations and advent calendars. As I write this in early November, my office building is already decked out in Christmas garb. That's why Die Hard is the ultimate Christmas movie, you watch it at Christmas and it may give you a warm Christmas feeling, but it's not so Christmasy you can't enjoy it all year round. There's loads of action, one-liners and comedy, combined with an excellent story and great characters that make this movie awesome 365 days of the year!
But I'm not done, in fact to quote the man himself "how can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?" If Die Hard is a Christmas movie, surely McClane's slightly chillier adventure, Die Hard 2 must be as well. It's a Christmas movie for many of the same reasons as Die Hard...plus there's snow.
John McClane, now a Detective Lieutenant with the Los Angeles Police Department, is spending Christmas in Washington DC with his in-laws. When he goes to pick Holly up from the airport, terrorists hijack the communications and landing control systems before her plane is able to land. Their goal, to free General Esperanza, a Latin American dictator wanted by the US Government on drug trafficking charges. Now it's a race against time to stop the terrorists before planes start falling out of the sky.
What do you think of Die Hard and its four sequels? Is it your favourite Christmas movie? Do you even count it as a Christmas movie? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below or find us on Facebook and Twitter.