A big part of the reason viewers fell in love with John McClain, the working-class cop played by Bruce Willis in the original Die Hard, is that he annoyed the hell out of his antagonists with his dry wit and sarcasm. His catch phrase “Yippee-ki-yay” is a humorous answer to a question from Hans Gruber asking McClain if he thinks he has a chance to survive a night at Die Hard. And McClain remained witty in subsequent sequels, whether he was at the airport in Washington, D.C., or (uh-huh) in Russia. When we rank Die Hard movies, we tend to put the funniest ones at the top of our list. But from an interview with the director of Die Hard 2, we learned that the superstar of the franchise, Bruce Willis, did not want these films to turn out like this.
I really appreciate this story, mainly because it doesn’t just ask if Die Hard is a Christmas movie or not. This is a real look at the creation of Die Hard 2: Die Hard, the sequel to Rennie Harlin after the hugely successful Die Hard, which launched Bruce Willis into the stratosphere. For the casual fan, this is what is being held at the airport on Christmas Eve, when terrorists seize Dulles International Airport to bring back the general, who is being taken to the United States for extradition. Talking to Empire magazine, Harlin was thinking about filming and gave out a bombshell that many of you probably didn’t expect: Bruce Willis disagreed with the director and the studio about the amount of humor in the sequel and didn’t want to include jokes. and one-liners. How Harlin remembers it:
Bruce went from a “Moonlight” TV star to a movie star overnight with one movie. And often, when actors get into this situation, they seem to develop different goals. So Bruce had this idea from the very beginning that now he wants to play John McClain absolutely honestly, that this film should be serious. I told him, “This is not the John McLane that the audience loves.” They feel that you are their friend now, and they don’t want to lose their friend.” We had serious disagreements about this. He said: “These witticisms and joking comments are bullshit. When lives are at stake, you can’t say that.” I said, “Yes, not in real life, but it’s a movie. This is a “Tough Nut to Crack”. It got to the point where I had to go to Joel (Silver) and say, “We have a real problem.”
I can understand why this might be a problem. John McClain’s sense of humor in the face of danger is what helps the character feel close, even when he faces insurmountable obstacles. We like to imagine that McClain behaves the same way we might act in a similar situation, and his annoyance is often very recognizable. “Another basement, another elevator. How could the same shit happen to the same guy twice?” McClain grumbles, and we laugh because we know it’s a sequel that basically exists because Hollywood thinks it’s necessary. Mind you, I totally disagree. I think Die Hard 2 is the only great sequel to Die Hard.
So, Renny Harlin faced a serious problem. And his decision meant giving his massive star plenty of rope, but then also accepting a compromise to pick out some fun takes that Willis seems to hate. As the director continued:
We had a big meeting, Joel, Bruce and me. As a result, Bruce agreed to do as many takes as he wanted and the way he wanted, and then we did one take the way I wanted. , with humor. He did it reluctantly and not very happily, but he did. And, in the end, every funny moment that could be caught—even the smile that he could flash before he realized that the cameras were working—was embedded in the film. The first question the managers asked when they saw this was: “Do you have any more moments with humor?” I said, “Unfortunately, I used everything I had.”
In my opinion, it worked. I love Die Hard 2, and so do the audience. Because it was a huge success, the franchise continued, releasing a chapter that most fans consider the best sequel, followed by several parts that seemed largely unnecessary. There was a time when it seemed that Die Hard would have a prequel movie that might focus on a young John McClain, as well as a version of Willis’ character. The first year for McClain, so to speak. But then Bruce Willis announced his retirement, driving off into the sunset and leaving John McClain on the shelf. Probably for the best.