DIE HARD (1988) Breakdown | Hidden Details, Mak...

DIE HARD (1988) Breakdown | Hidden Details, Making Of, Things You Missed And More

DIE HARD (1988) Breakdown | Hidden Details, Making Of, Things You Missed And More

Welcome to the Heavy Spoilers show, I’m your host Paul, and Yippee Kay Yay Christmas lovers… This is our Die Hard Breakdown!

Now, Die Hard is hands down one of the best action movies ever made. It completely redefined the genre and took it from mainly featuring macho action heroes to your more grounded everyman.

Both Schwarzenegger and Rambo get mentioned in the movie, and originally they were both wanted for the role.

However, going with a more grounded hero was an inspired choice, and this is seen right from the off. The man rides with everyone else on the airplane and even sits up front in the limousine.

This is in contrast to Dwayne T. Robinson, who we see arriving later on, sitting in the back. The man’s doing this even though the passenger seat is empty because he views himself as being a big shot, whereas John doesn’t.

He’s struggling with his marriage, smokes and drinks, jumps at vents and misses them, and comes across as a blue-collar guy. It’s little things like this that make John McClane relatable and someone that you instantly gravitate towards.

The film, of course, also made Bruce Willis’ career, and I think it still stands as the best Christmas movie ever. Yep. It’s a Christmas movie, shut the f**k up, and throughout this video, we’re going to be pointing out all the little details that you might have missed.

Look, those papers at the end are meant to represent snow. See, Christmas!

If you enjoy it, then please hit the thumbs up, and if you’re looking for your new second-favorite breakdown channel, then Hans… bubby… I’m your white knight. With that out of the way, huge thank you for clicking this, now let’s get into Die Hard!


Now Die Hard is a loose adaptation of the book “Nothing Lasts Forever” by Roderick Thorp. This was a sequel to the novel and film “The Detective,” with the latter starring none other than Frank Sinatra.

At the time the movie was a massive success, and Sinatra went to Thorp asking for a sequel. Thorp was more interested in telling an action story, though, and it took him a decade to put the piece together. At this point, Sinatra was too old, and lackluster sales led to there being little interest.

The documentary on Netflix, “The Movies That Made Us,” really goes into the making of it, and I don’t want to just rattle that off as you should definitely check it out. However, it doesn’t include some of the build-up to the script phase, and it kinda skips over the decade in between.

Originally Clint Eastwood then picked up the rights to it, with the actor planning to adapt it around the end of the ’70s. However, things fell apart, and it was all sort of up in the air until…

Jump to 1987, and screenwriter Jeb Stuart had found himself in a pretty poor place financially. Several of his projects had fallen through, and thus when he was asked to adapt the novel, he jumped at the chance.

Now, the original book was inspired by “The Towering Inferno,” in which Thorp had dreamt up a fight between good and evil going down in a skyscraper.

Now though Stuart was given a lot of creative freedom, there are still some remnants of the story that remain in the film.

We start off with a flight attendant being a bit flirty, and the book had its main character, Joe Leland, starting up a relationship with one. Leland also kills the first terrorist by breaking his neck, with McClane also carrying out the same thing. That’s by accident, though, and it sort of also speaks to the tone that Stuart and the director went with.

John McTiernan thought that the original work was a bit joyless, and he wanted to add some lighter touches and comedic beats. The man was just coming off the back of Predator, and though Joel Silver was desperate to get him on board, he ended up turning it down three times. In the end, he agreed, but he wanted some changes and was dead set on not making it another terrorist film. Even though the credits label them as such, they’re more like highly sophisticated robbers, and that’s one of the movie’s big twists.

Jeb also said in the doc he had difficulty writing the script because he just couldn’t get the daughter thing to work. After a fight with his wife, he drove into the night, thinking about the ways that he was going to apologize. Driving down the freeway, he had a near-death experience when he almost hit a fridge that fell out of a truck.

Everyone else had swerved to avoid it, but he’d been so distracted that he hit it head-on. Luckily for Jeb, the box was empty, but this was the thing that caused the penny to drop.

DIE HARD (1988) Breakdown | Hidden Details, Making Of, Things You Missed And More
DIE HARD (1988) Breakdown | Hidden Details, Making Of, Things You Missed And More

On the documentary, Jeb says that he realized if he’d died, he wouldn’t be able to apologize, and this then inspired him to build the film around John and Holly. The pair have an argument, and the entire time he’s trying to get back to her so he can apologize.

Now there are other elements that sort of play into the story, but these were changed up for the final film.

There’s, of course, the name Leland, which now becomes McClane, and he was also visiting his daughter instead of his wife. She was called Steffie Leland Gennaro, with that surname being brought across to Holly. Hans Gruber was called Anton “Little Tony” Gruber, with Hans instead being the name of Karl’s brother. Nakatomi was also the Klaxxon Oil company, who were illegally selling arms to a Chilean dictatorship.

The story culminates with Gruber holding Joe’s daughter hostage, and though he shoots him off the building, the daughter goes too. Both end up dead because of it, with the brother also returning at the end for a major shooting spree.

Again, that tone was causing some issues, and sadly, Jeb was fired from the project. The action scenes were kept, but then Steven De Souza did a rewrite with him punching up the dialogue with more jokey scenes. This wasn’t ready in time for the production, though, and they started shooting without a finished script. With just 35 pages, they went into production with Steven having to make up the other 99.

Elements of this somewhat affect the film, and Heavy Spoilers are about to spoil the movie for you. So at the end, the baddies want to escape in an ambulance, which rolls out the back of the van they arrived in. However, when the film starts, we see them walk out the back of it, and we can see that there’s no ambulance there. It’s a nitpick, but it’s just moments like this that show how much they were winging it.

A lot of the movie was improvised, including Ellis calling Hans “Bubby” with Rickman’s confused reaction also being genuine. Willis ad-libbed calling Holly “Honey” at the end, as it showed a more affectionate side to him.

McClane meeting Hans was also thrown together when they overheard Rickman messing around in an American accent. Before then, they’d been trying to figure out how to get both the two to meet without McClane instantly knowing who Hans was. They also had to find a way that Hans would learn he was barefoot in order for this to lead into the next one. So Rickman’s impression made them realize he could pretend to be a party guest, and they shot the scene without even rehearsing. This added to the spontaneous side of it, and it’s one of my favorite moments in the movie.

Now, on top of that, people don’t realize how big of a risk Willis was at the time. He was a big star on TV, but on the big screen, the man was coming off the back of two pretty big flops. Bruce was beloved, though, and seen as a TV heartthrob, which made Arnold Rifkin negotiate an amazing deal. Given 5 million dollars, he became the highest-paid actor in the world, with Bruce being worth every single penny.

The man completely nails the part, and I think what works about the movie is that every character’s strong in it. Whether it’s Reginald VelJohnson, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia, or even the slimy Richard Thornburg, they’re all unforgettable.

Now we begin with John’s flight landing in LA, which is a far cry from the New York that he’s used to. LA is boiling hot, with this creating a summer aesthetic. Though I’ll die on the hill that this is a Christmas movie, it’s, of course, been contested over the years. McTiernan swears that it’s one too, whereas Willis describes it as a summer blockbuster. He said that it’s simply the settings that make people think that way, but the movie was actually released on July 12th. Still, though, mate, I always watch it at Christmas, and look… got a guy with a beard that comes from the sky, yay.

Now, McClane’s shown as being vulnerable from the off as he tightly grips the armrest when they come to land. One important thing was that McTiernan wanted to show this was a guy with flaws and make the movie more grounded in reality than what had come before. We get a lot of human moments like this, like the SWAT team member who walks through the rose bush.

Uli picking up the chocolate bars was also improvised by Al Leong, as he felt like it gave the character some extra depth. The movie is full of that, as well, with John’s wedding ring also playing a big part of the shot too. Typically in action movies, the heroes would get the girl in the end and they’d spend the filming with them going back and forth. Here though we instantly know that the love stories gonna be more realistic with it featuring a man dealing with marriage.

This moment was achieved through the magic of movie-making with them renting out an airplane and then just pulling it around in circles on the runway to give the feeling that it had just landed.

He’s given the advice to make fists with his toes on the rug.

And this foreshadows the danger his feet will be in later on. Glass is mentioned throughout the film.

Which, of course, backfires a bit when it gets stuck in his feet. The man would also come to hate Glass in the Unbreakable trilogy with Mr. Glass. Dear me, that’s a reach. Now, I love how throughout the film he just walks around barefoot and again it helps to add vulnerability. The novel had the events taking place over three days, with that also being brought over to the script. However, McTiernan was inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream to have this all go down over one night.

It also really helps to add to the pacing, and because we’re nearly always with John, it feels like we’re going through it too.

The idea of him making fists with his feet also paints the ideas that he’s ready to scrap no matter what.

At this point, he pulls down a toy bear which has a red ribbon tied around his neck. In our Predator Breakdown, we pointed out this is a running thing with McTiernan, as he also had one pop up on a plane during his Hunt For Red October.

The passenger with McClane spots his gun, and ahhh the days when you could be a cop and travel around on airplanes with weapons. This lets you know, though, that he’s never really off the job.

Now instantly, we get the idea that John’s kinda weighing up the options of his marriage as we see him making eyes with the flight attendant. He also sees a woman jumping into the arms of her boyfriend, reminding him of the spark that he used to have.

According to IMDB, this is Terry Lynn Doss, who happened to be the playmate of the year.

When John arrives, though, he has to learn the hard way that she’s doing this, and symbolically when we’re in her office, the slow pan of photos has him being in the last one.

This then gets slammed down in Holly’s frustration to show how their marriage is pretty much done.

John didn’t call before the flight, and she also instructs the maid to make up the spare room. Thus, they aren’t going to be sharing a bed, and this photo getting slammed like the like button shows it’s over.

It, of course, ends up helping to hide his identity so that their connection can remain hidden. In the end, though, it’s flipped back up, symbolizing how the marriage could once more be repaired.

I think both are kind of married to the job, as John wants to be a cop in New York, which takes him away from his family. Holly is kind of the same too, as when we first cut to the party, she steps out of the elevator with papers in her hand. Everyone else is celebrating the party, but she walks through the crowd still focused on that.

At this point, we also meet Ellis, who tries to get Holly to have dinner with him. He says, “How about some mulled wine and an open fire,” and is clearly a sleazeball. Later on, he does his best Tony Montana impression on her desk, indicating he’s got no respect for her and John’s marriage.

Now, one of the things you might notice later on is that Ellis gets given a can of coke. Because of this, right… and it’s quite funny… people have suspected that the baddies asked him if he wanted anything, and when he said Coke, this is what they thought he meant.

It’s a great little detail, and he’s basically your ’80s business scumbag, building off the back of things like Wallstreet.

Now at the airport, John’s picked up by Argyle, where he then rides out to Nakatomi Plaza. Now like Michael J. Fox during Back to the Future, Willis also had to shoot his show alongside this. Fox was famously shooting during the day and then he’d go off to set to film at night. The moments that were done during the day had to be filmed over the weekends. For Willis, it was a lot more simple, as most of this movie takes place at night. However, that grueling shoot was still quite exhausting, and thus De Souza beefed up the other roles. This gave characters like Argyle and Powell way more screen time, which adds far more to the film.


What happened next was that he was supposed to rush up and, in some ways, come to the rescue. However, they realized when filming there’s no way he could’ve heard it, and him being there added in some extra complications. Still, though, he gets a moment to take down a bad guy, so they did manage to work him in in a cool way.

That bit with the Ambulance, though, actually came from a previous script De Souza worked on, with thieves also planning to escape in one in ’87’s The Spirit.

Now in the car, he plays “Christmas in Hollis” by Run DMC.

Like the movie, a lot of people have argued whether this is even a Christmas song because it doesn’t play upon the conventions of what we normally think. However, it definitely is; it’s just got its own unique voice, similar to Die Hard. That’s why I feel that it’s used in the movie because it’s commenting on how McTiernan thought it might be judged.

From this point, we go to Nakatomi Plaza, which is actually Fox Plaza in real life. This has been used in a number of films and also popped up during Speed, a film that had this movie’s cinematographer, Jan De Bont, directing it.

Being owned by Fox meant that the studio could use the building without issue, and Jeb took a tour of it to incorporate it into the script.

Inside, we see McClane scoping out the place and taking note of the cameras and security on the door. He’s told to take the express elevator, which he later uses to get up and down the building quickly.

Taking the elevator to the 30th floor, this was the 13th floor in real life, with it being vacant in real life. Inside, we can catch a recreation of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water. The backstory for this was that Nakatomi were so rich that they’d bought it and had reassembled it in the building.

McClane also refuses to drink, which shows that he likes to try and keep his wits about him. However, he’s still checking out the girls and even getting a sly kiss. You bloody cheeky devil.

At this point, he meets Mr. Tagaki and thanks him for the ride. He then takes him into the office and brings up one of the first of many Pearl Harbor references.

Later on, we see the password to the vault is AKAGI, which is the name of a Japanese Aircraft Carrier in the Battle Of Midway. A film was made about this in 1976, with James Shigeta playing Vice Admiral Nagumo. Shigeta also played Takagi in this film, and as I’ve been saying… it’s all connected… all connected shirts are available now below the video.

George Takei’s agent apparently was called and told that they wanted to give him the part, but his agent didn’t end up passing it on. Takei found out and wasn’t too happy, especially when the movie became a big success.

Now on Holly’s door, Gennero’s spelt wrong, and there have been some theories times about why this is the case.

On Reddit, there’s a big thread theorizing that it might be because she was going back and forth over whether to keep the name or not, so didn’t bother getting it changed to the right spelling. Now that’s a little Christmas Theory Time… theory time… theory time, in which we give away all our crap theories to less fortunate people.

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Ellis then tries to badger Holly into showing him the gift they got, which, as we learn, is a Rolex watch.

Now at this point, the bad guys arrive with them being led by Hans Gruber. The composer of Silent Night was called Franz Gruber, and classical pieces often accompany him. The theme at the beginning is based on Ode To Joy, with this being what’s used later on in the film when the bank vault opens.

Before it explodes in that big scene, just like how the piece does when it’s played in full. It initially starts off quiet and reserved before building up into whats almost an explosion of music like how its used in the film.

Initially, there was some pushback on using this with the movie’s composer, Michael Kamen, calling it sacrilege. He didn’t believe that it should accompany violence, but after McTiernan brought up one of his favorite films, “A Clockwork Orange,” Kamen changed his mind and thought it would work.

On top of it, the villains’ German is full of mistakes, with a lot of it being grammatically incorrect. Thus, when the movie was released in Germany, they changed it to say that they were just from Europe.

The villains also carry guns from Europe, with most of them being made by Steyr and H&K. Rickman also brought this idea of his character being unmistakably European, even down to how he smokes a cigarette later on. Gruber holds it like a European tends to, whereas McClane handles it like an American. Things like this really add to the performance and even act as a clue in that scene to what’s going on.

The truck they show up in has “Pacific Courier” on the label, which was brought up in the Blu-ray commentary. Production designer Jackson De Govia said the name’s a joke due to it meaning “Messenger of Peace.” De Govia also worked on “Die Hard With a Vengeance” and they placed an Atlantic courier truck in that to show the difference on the east coast. “Pacific Courier” also popped up during “Speed,” bringing another influence in from this film.

You can also catch one of his henchmen about to walk directly into the wall, but they cut away just before that happens. Couldn’t have the man just shift out the way because otherwise, that would have stopped it looking cool.

I also love how, as Theo walks up to the desk, he’s rattling off about sports games.

The man’s constantly doing this and it kind of plays into the quarterback line later on.

In the bathroom, John and Holly’s moment is broken up by a couple bursting in. This couple is a far cry from John and Holly who are completely distant. They represent the young love that they once had and the closeness they shared. In a really cool bit of attention to detail, we can see the pair still together as the film wraps up. The actress here is playmate Kim Mailing, making the second playmate to appear in the movie.

Holly and John end up in each other’s arms too, showing how that distance has now been closed from the last time they saw them.

Now, what causes the argument here is that Holly’s name is showing that she wants to be apart from him. Her secretary also busts in and calls her Gennero.

In the back again, you can hear “Ode to Joy,” but the fact she calls her Gennero shows that’s the name she’s made herself known by. Holly is called out to deliver a speech, with John clearly also showing remorse for how he’s handled it. We can clearly see that he has a scar just beside his pec, hinting at the idea man’s been in a number of scraps.

Later, as he runs up the stairs and goes into the floor under construction, we can also see that he has a tattoo on his arm. It’s difficult to make this out throughout the film, but images online show that it’s a skull with a hat on it. It also has the tagline ‘no one quits,’ making eagle-eyed fans suspect that John’s had special forces training.

Theo locks everything down, though, and we see how planned out this job was. The security guard has the same uniform denoted by his waistcoat, and Tony walks through the corridors, saying the directions out loud, showing how he’s memorized them.

Tony is also, of course, an important name, with it being a nod to the main villain’s nickname in the book.

Downstairs, he cuts open a Pacific Bell panel, and this company, like the courier, would return down the line. In “Die Hard 2,” we catch John using a payphone, which is also made by the same company.

Now, from this point, the movie hits the ground running with gunfire breaking up the party. John makes a break for it, and on the next floor, he spots a woman in the window across the street, which to me symbolizes the two choices he has. The man could make a run for it and be free and single, but obviously, he chooses to stay with the ol’ ball and chain and go through the pain.

That’s loyalty, which we see a lack of when Hans moves through the crowd, looking for Takagi. He lists off his entire life story, and though there could be a Spartacus moment here, no one takes his place.

Should’ve bloody paid that Christmas Bonus, mate.

Anyway, in the office, we see several models for oil factories and oil rigs. This is likely something that links in with the Klaxxon oil company from the novel, who had more nefarious plans. Hans quotes his education and wrattles off things about Alexander and his domain.

This hints at this being a battle beyond just brawn and also hints at the direction things could go. Gruber is clearly well-educated and more than just a common petty thief. It makes you instantly gravitate towards him and wonder what his plans are.

Not only is he cunning and smart, but he’s also deadly.

We watch as he mercilessly murders Takagi, and there were actually a couple of issues with Rickman when it came to guns. He hadn’t really fired any, and “The Movies That Made Us” talks about how he’d limply hold them in a theatrical way. He’d also flinch when shooting, so they tried to cut around this as much as possible.

Still, though, all of this gets lost as he exudes something sinister as he just stares at the vault, teasing something else coming down the line. John’s pretty smart too, and he triggers the fire alarm to try and get an emergency response to the building.

However, the bad guys say it’s a false one, and Tony goes looking for John.

This was later referenced in “Stranger Things” with Hopper and Grigori.

Barely managing to beat him, John looks at his ID which later clues in Powell that he might be a cop. John then writes “ho ho ho I have a machine gun” on his chest before sending him down in the elevator. Shoutouts to Reddit user MasterBall9 who pointed out that throughout the movie the elevator ding signals a change in dynamics.

Here it’s to show the tables have turned, and later on, it changes the dynamics when McClane has Hans.

At the end, it’s signalled just before the explosion which turns the tower into a towering inferno.

During the filming of this, the cinematographer Jan de Bont became trapped in one and started to panic that he wouldn’t be able to get out. As we’ve mentioned, he’d then go on to direct “Speed” with this moment inspiring him on how to open that movie.

After making notes of the bad guys’ names, we see as John rides the express elevator to the roof. John jogs past a playmate poster and takes a second look, again playing on him being flirty and not really locked into his marriage. Later on, at the 48-minute mark, he ends up high-fiving this poster, possibly showing that he’s now putting her in the friend zone.

John does a radio call from the roof, but at this point, it’s ignored by the dispatch officers. This is Diana James, who also appeared in “Die Hard 2” on Holly’s flight.

We also see the address and phone number put up on the screen with these being the real-life ones for Fox Plaza.

Now at this point, we meet Al Powell, renowned for having shot a child with a toy gun, who has refused to fire his gun ever since. It’s kind of wild that they took this as a place to start the character off from, and he ends up coming full circle from this.

He’s told there’s a code 2, which requires urgent response but without any sirens. There’s also the price of gas… look at those bloody ’80s prices.

We also see as he looks up at the roof and mistakenly sees what he thinks are lights. It’s in fact gunfire, and this involved the production team setting off blanks to create the effect.

As John shoots it out with the bad guys, we watch as Karl descends the stairs, which he’d later fight John on. We can even catch the chain there, and it’s sort of like poetry, they rhyme.

I think that’s what I love about this film the most, and you can see why so many other movies mimicked the premise.

Die hard in the White House
It allows you to revisit and see how locations change, adding different dynamics to the familiar. Even just things like at the 53-minute mark, you see Takagi’s blood on the floor from where he was shot. This really makes the location as important as the characters, and it’s inspired so much.

Looking at you, Batman Arkham Asylum, bloody love you as well.

Dangling over the end with his gun, John barely makes it to the vent, and we see as his vest starts to get dirtier and dirtier. The production team ended up creating 17 different vests for him, with each one being slightly darker than the last.

Now in the vent, we see John sparking up the lighter that he ended up taking from Tony’s body. This is something that helps him navigate the vents, and it also helps him out later in the franchise. In “Die Hard 2,” when John takes down the plane, he does this by lighting up the fuel dripping from it. The same lighter was used in this moment, showing how John kept it after the events of this film.

Al goes up and knocks on the front door, which is when the guard greets him with a

Southern accent. Clearly, all of the crew have been practicing these, which explains how Hans later on is able to do one too.

Now as he reverses out, we can actually hear Stevie Wonder’s song “Skeletons” being played later on Argyle’s radio.

This is a little joke as John’s just said, “Who is this guy, Stevie Wonder?”

Also, in what’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, you can see the terrorist’s body coming off the top of the cop car as it reverses out. It moves really fast, so you kind of have to slow it down, but if you look out the back of Argyle’s window when the car goes over the bump, you can see it jump up off the front.

“Welcome to the party, pal.”

Returning to Takagi’s office, we see as John ends up hiding under a table while a terrorist shoots down over the top of it. If you pause and look at the shape of the table, then you might notice that this is actually the Nakatomi logo.

“Next time you have a chance to kill someone.”

Now sadly, yeah, John doesn’t actually take this advice because he could’ve easily have killed Hans, but he hesitated. Still, though, I love how he’s not a cold-blooded killer, and a lot of the kills are either by accident or in self-defense.

In real life, Willis ended up suffering permanent hearing loss when shooting this scene, as they took a number of measures to make the gun blasts seem more impressive. The blanks used in the film were filled with more materials to make them louder and so that they’d also provide bigger muzzle flashes. Plexiglass was also placed over the top of Willis to protect him from potential splinters in the wood, but this just ended up increasing the sound. Willis later revealed this made him lose 30% of his hearing, with him wearing a hearing aid that was hidden during most of his films.

You can also catch a casing hitting Willis in the eye, which meant he had to get medical care for that right after this too. Not a good moment, but still, it’s one of the most memorable parts of the movie.

Anyway, at this point, we meet Richard, who’s promising his wife stuff he can’t deliver.

Like John, you might also notice that the man’s wearing a wedding ring; however, in “Die Hard 2,” we see that this is gone, showing that he and his wife didn’t work it out.

Also… look closely… look closely at this man’s crotch, and you will see that this man has, in fact, no dick.

Now, Richard overhears the police radio, and we watch as they close in. He has trouble getting it past the news anchor, and I love how we cut to him on TV angry. Just reminds me of something recently when we caught a news reporter doing something a bit naughty, and again, it adds a little bit of comedy to the film.

John radios in, and as he moves through the office, Hans starts to taunt him by calling him a cowboy and an American who’s seen too many movies.

DIE HARD (1988) Breakdown | Hidden Details, Making Of, Things You Missed And More
DIE HARD (1988) Breakdown | Hidden Details, Making Of, Things You Missed And More

In the end, John says he was more partial to Roy Rogers, which helps to create his catchphrase.

This is sort of riffing off this song by Roy, which is called “I’m an Old Cowboy.”

However, Roy also gets a deep cut at the end of the movie. One of the last things John says to Hans is, “Happy trails, Hans.”

And the outro song for “The Roy Rogers Show” was called “Happy Trails.”

John, of course, gives the name Roy to Al over the radio to keep his cover, and I love how it all kind of stems out from this line.

They had to edit these phrases quite a lot for the TV version, with him saying “Yippee Kay Ye Melon Farmer” in this, with Sam Jackson also saying that in “Die Hard with a Vengeance.”

Didn’t even let the man say the words he’s famous for, what a bunch of melon farmers.

Now later on, Hans calls him a cowboy again, with him making reference to another Western.

John corrects him and says that was Gary Cooper, with this actually being a reference to a similar film.

That is 1952’s “High Noon,” which involved a lone hero facing down against a big group of enemies, which he defeated single-handedly.

Now, though he gets mocked for being American, while he’s German, Willis is actually more German than most of the characters here. When researching it, I found out Bruce was born in West Germany, with his father being an American soldier while his mum was from Kassel.

One of the big issues that they have is that John has the bag of explosives, which means that the roof detonation later on. John also sits down and sparks up a cigarette, with these being European ones due to where the villains come from.

Holly then goes in and starts to negotiate with Hans, which I always thought was a really good touch. Though it seems like she’s trying to help the workers, I ended up taking something else from it this watch-through. Looking at the photo, I think that she’s also here to find out if they know about John. She kinda seems relieved that it’s face down as it means that she and him are still secret.

Anyway, outside the terrorists then fire rockets and destroy the SWAT’s plan to infiltrate the building. We get a shot used twice here with the rocket ‘cos hey… that stuff’s expensive to make mate.

Now, John manages to stop them by using the explosives he grabbed and a CRT monitor. McClane jabs the detonators in the C4 and then drops it down but weirdly this would need electricity to pop off.

Mazon Del actually explained how this would happen on Reddit, with the user going into why a CRT monitor was used. Detonators need electricity to trigger, which the CRT monitor could provide. They had a reputation for their capacitors discharging high voltage shocks if you broke the screen, so this is why that was needed to trigger the blast as well.

In order to get this effect, they collected every kind of camera flashbulb that they could get their hands on and lined the outside of the building with them. The fire was then superimposed over the top of this, creating the explosion that we see here.

We also see the news have uncovered Hans’ past with him being a member of a group known as the Volksfrei. This roughly translates to mean people’s freedom, and it’s one of the only things we ever learn about him. Though we know he’s classically educated and used to build models, it’s a bit of a mystery. Due to his brother also being a bad guy, though, many have theorized that the pair had a rough childhood.

Later on, he also lists off some demands to waste time, including trying to get people with similar causes around the world freed. He asks that the members of the New Provo Front are released, who are based on the real-life Provisional Irish Republican Army.

There’s also the Liberte De Quebec, which is based off the Front De Liberation Du Quebec. This was a separatist group that kidnapped and killed government officials during the ’70s in an event known as the October crisis.

Lastly is the Asian Dawn.

Ok, and it turns out that these were based on the Tamil Tigers.

Still, though, the suits thing makes him seem upper class too, and this is, of course, what helps him act like a hostage later on. I do kinda see him and Ellis as almost mirrors of each other, with this line sticking out.

And both are people that we’re meant to hate who come between John and his wife. Now I don’t want Ellis dead, mate; the guy’s just out of his depth, but they clearly made the pair similar. Ellis, to me, kinda represents someone who thinks he’s a big player like Hans too but he can’t cut it.

Anyway, we get news reports with psychologists breaking down the attack.

The news reporter then mistakenly corrects this to Helsinki, Sweden, which is then corrected back to Finland.

Now, though, man is made to look like a right nob, what the psychologist is describing is Stockholm syndrome. The capital of Sweden is Stockholm, so who looks stupid now, mate.

Now after Ellis is killed, agents Johnson and Johnson arrive with them being listed as Big and Little Johnson in the credits.

This joke gets paid off later in the saga as the guy assigned to help McClane in Live Free Or Die Hard is agent Johnson.

At this point, Hans runs into who goes under the name Bill Clay.

Rickman actually knacked his leg up doing this and had to stand on crutches for the next couple of weeks. You can actually see as he’s acting that he’s struggling to get up and kinda limps almost as he tries to get back to the gun. For the rest of the scene, he stands with one leg up against the wall so that he’s not putting pressure on it.

The director talked about what the original plan for all this was, and throughout the movie, John was gonna notice that the terrorists all wore the same wristwatch. This is how he realized Hans was one of them, but they ended up cutting the scene. Personally, I think he knows from the off that Hans is a terrorist but he doesn’t suspect that he’s the leader. He probably doesn’t think Hans would go himself to do a lackey’s work and is instead just drawing out information.

When you watch the scene, he doesn’t do anything to implicate his wife and just skirts around the questions.

He then asks him his name, and when he passes that, realizes that he’s gonna have to test him further.

Hans likely took this off the office directories and it shows how smart he is.


Now, as per usual when you’re making a film, you wanna sneak in some cheeky crew member names in the background, and that’s the case with the board here too. In the D section, we can catch Decovia for being the film’s head of production design.

De Souza is, of course, for the writer who came in to punch up the script, and lastly, De Bont is the cinematographer. De Bont is Dutch, and we’re gonna do a reach, but you might notice that a lot of this scene is shot with a Dutch angle. In case you don’t know, that’s when they tilt the camera angle to give the idea that something’s off, with this obviously hinting at John’s suspicion.

He ends up giving him an unloaded gun to see what he’ll do with it, and there’s actually a real cool detail on how he tricks him. John ends up holding the slide because he’s loading an empty magazine. If he didn’t do this, then it would’ve revealed itself to be empty, and thus he did this as a trick to make him think it was loaded. This detail was first noticed by Joten on Reddit and it’s such a cool thing to add into the film.

This is him basically trying to draw it out, and had he passed this test, then John would’ve probably eventually given him bullets. Anyway, backup arrives, and at this point, they shoot the glass. John has to run through it with Willis wearing rubber shoes during it to help protect the actor.

Everything is F’d with him losing the detonators, the terrorists getting them, and Dick doxing John’s kids.

At this point, McClane then quotes W.C. Fields.

“All things being equal, I’d rather be in Philadelphia.” This is wrongly thought to be on his gravestone, but it still helps to show that he’s a grounded hero that isn’t confident in the situation.

DIE HARD (1988) Breakdown | Hidden Details, Making Of, Things You Missed And More
DIE HARD (1988) Breakdown | Hidden Details, Making Of, Things You Missed And More

Later on, he tells Powell to apologize to his wife for him, as at this point, he doesn’t think he’s going to make it.

Now the FBI then cuts the power, which allows the final vault to be opened up. Also, the guy cutting it… I think that’s the dad from Scary Movie.

This opens the vault with the 640 million bonds being worth roughly $1.6 billion after inflation.

Inside, we see some pieces of art, including one by Edgar Degas titled Ecole De Danse.

The next part of the plan is then put in place, with the hostages being moved to the roof and Johnson and Johnson bringing in the helicopters.

This was apparently a nightmare to shoot, and due to all the noise at night from the set, there were several complaints. Thus, the city stepped in and said that they were only allowed two hours every Sunday to shoot the outdoor scenes.

Now, this was a big problem because they hadn’t filmed the helicopter or rooftop bit yet, which were obviously going to be massive scenes. McTiernan managed to break it all down, and he realized that he could get the full thing done in an hour if they hit their mark on absolutely everything.

In the end, it’s a massive part of the movie that is played off brilliantly, with John fighting Karl while Hans sees Dick’s report. The way he skids out and shoots a gun in the air always kills me, and man’s got those dance moves to die… hard for.

John is shot as well but he manages to beat Karl through using a chain. This scene was important because it had to show John could not only outsmart them mentally, but that he could outsmart them in a physical fight. Karl ends up showing up at the end of the movie still alive, and there’s actually a little goof here during the scene. As John backs up against the wall and loads his gun, you can spot the actor who played Karl in the top right. This is him looking over the character while he’s also hanging, but maybe man had Loki powers, and that’s how he lived, eh.

I’m not playing the theory time s**t, anyway Karl was played by Alexander Godunov who in real like was a distinguished Ballet Dancer. During the movies that made us we can see him performing and have to say… wasn’t expecting it.

Anyway, John rushes up to the roof and gets the hostages to move back down, but this makes him seem like a terrorist to the chopper.

It then leads into another great moment with John jumping out of the way of the explosion.

They were thinking that they’d have to use a stuntman for this, but Willis stepped up and said he wanted to do it. To him, this was the scene that would really sell him as an action star, and seeing him doing this stunt was going to cement him as being able to do it. You have to realize this was a time in which they worried people wouldn’t take him seriously, and thus this shot was really important.

Now next, it takes us into a style of screenwriting that also helps to add vulnerability to the character. Jeb describes this as good news, bad news, in which we see several events unfold rapidly that change the dynamics.

So firstly, you have the explosion, which is the bad news, but the good news is that he’s able to jump off the building with the hose.

This is a reference to the film Safety Last, which pioneered a lot of real stunts. It also got referenced at the start of Back to the Future, which we’ve just done a breakdown of on the channel.

Now this then gets torn off the wall in the explosion, but the good news is that it gets stuck on the building.

The bad news now is that he’s stuck on the outside, but the good news is that he’s got a gun. From here, he can then get into the building, but the good news is the hose holder has now fallen and is pulling him down. The good news is he’s able to get it off, and that’s how you make an action scene with lots of dynamism. The Indiana Jones films also used it to great effect, with Mission Impossible bringing it across too.

We also watch as the helicopter falls which was done with a model and then slowed down. Seeing what it looks like at normal speed… it’s pretty hilarious but yeah… slow motion makes everything better.

Hans wants to use this explosion to cause confusion and make the police think they’re all dead. By the time they’re finally able to pick the rubble clean and discover the truth, they’ll be on a beach earning 20%.

Left with two bullets, the man has to outthink the situation and strap the Beretta to his back with Christmas tape.

This is a Beretta 92F, with this same prop gun also being used by Mel Gibson in “Lethal Weapon.”

Shooting Hans sends the man out the window, and we get a happier ending than the book. Now, what’s so impressive about this bit is that Alan Rickman performs the stunt, which adds so much to this moment. This idea of a villain falling would be aped in a lot of other movies like “Batman” (1989) and the third “Turtles” film. However, this is by far the best because we see that it’s Rickman falling for real. Now, the stuntmen played a little prank on the actor, and they said that they were going to drop him on 3.

However, they said one, and then let him go so that shocked look is completely real. He also said on “The Movies That Made Us” that this was done on the last day of filming in case it went wrong, which he only figured out after.

Outside, John introduces his wife as Holly Gennero, but she corrects him, saying Holly McClane.

Finally, the pair have worked it out and realized how much they mean to each other.

Karl then returns, and we get some unused music from “Aliens” playing over his hero moment.

This is the song “Resolution and Hyperspace,” which, though on the soundtrack, was never in the film.

At this point, Holly punches Richard, proving finally that this man has no dick. This man right here… he has no dick, which would further get proved in “Die Hard 2.”

Anyway, that wraps up the film, and a huge thank you for joining me as we went through it. “Die Hard” would go on to spawn a number of copycats, with even films like “Con Air” getting labeled ‘Die Hard on an Airplane.’ There was “Under Siege,” which was ‘Die Hard on a Boat,’ with “Under Siege 2” being ‘Die Hard on a Train.’ “Die Hard 2” even became ‘Die Hard in an Airport,’ and it pretty much reinvented the genre.

It was also put in the National Film Registry, with it being labeled as culturally significant.

Again, I hope you guys have had a great Christmas, and a huge thank you for all your support over the last year. It’s really meant a ton to me, watching you guys support us, and thank you for sticking by us as we go through these older films.

If you want to get access to these videos early, then please consider clicking the join button. That will let you get the audio versions and edited ones before anyone else, and a huge thank you if you sign up.

We will be back with “Back To The Future 2,” and then yes… going to finally get back to “Terminator 3” and “Alien Resurrection.” I don’t want to, mate, but… pfft, gotta keep going, and if there are any other films you want to see, then let me know below. If you want to watch our first “Back to the Future” breakdown, then that’s onscreen right now, and a huge thank you to everyone who has checked that out.

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