Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Reel 25: DIE HARD

“Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs…”

This month marks the 25th anniversary of John McTiernan’s DIE HARD.
Fresh off the success of his recent action/sci-fi flick PREDATOR, director John McTiernan, along with writers Steven E. de Souza and Jeb Stuart, adapted DIE HARD from the novel Nothing Lasts Forever (1979) by Roderick Thorp. The novel was a sequel to Thorp’s own 1966 novel The Detective, which had been adapted into a film of the same name starring Frank Sinatra. 20th Century Fox was obligated to offer Sinatra the lead role, which he turned down. The lead was then offered to a host of 80’s action stars, who all passed on the role.

The final choice went to Bruce Willis, who at the time was a comedic, small-screen star. The selection at first was laughable, but by the time the smoke cleared, it was Willis who had the last chuckle. Willis’ charm and charisma, coupled with his ability to play an everyday-man stuck in an incredible situation, turned the action-genre upside down and set a new bar for action movies for the next two decades and counting.
Centered around an off-duty cop taking on a group of terrorists in an L.A. high-rise, McTiernan’s knack for creating tension amidst spectacle while never forgetting about the characters made DIE HARD an instant classic. The sharp dialogue produced some of the most memorable quotes in film history, and the performances…from a brilliant turn by Alan Rickman to the great supporting cast, were real and full of heart. The film made such an impact, that its Christmastime framework made it a holiday favorite…despite being full of explosions and having that big-bang summertime vibe.

DIE HARD was a box office hit in 1988 and was nominated for four Oscars. The late great Michael Kamen’s score earned him a BMI/TV Film Music Award. In 2001, DIE HARD was listed as #39 of AFI’s most heart-pounding films. Rickman’s villainous role sits at #46 on AFI’s Heroes and Villains list, and in 2006 was ranked as the 17th greatest film character by Empire magazine. Willis’ character was placed at number 12 of the same list. Entertainment Weekly magazine in 2007 named it the greatest action film of all time.

If the bottom line of any movie is to entertain, then DIE HARD can be considered to be a perfect film. It has action, romance, fun, a lot of heart with a bit of swashbuckling thrown in…and in this adventure, the hero actually does ride off into the sunset with the girl.

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