His films have earned over two billion dollars at the box-office, but the best of Steven E. de Souza’s screenplays will likely always remain “Die Hard,” the 1987 Bruce Willis flick that invented the modern action film. And although the writer jumped off the franchise following “Die Hard 2” as if he were John McClane going over the side of the Nakatomi Plaza building, he insists there’s still life in the series.
“The franchise can go on and on, because it no longer has to be a ‘Die Hard’ movie,” explained the screenwriter. “Only the first two movies were actually ‘Die Hard’ movies, which I would define as the solitary hero with little or no help, largely alone for long stretches of time, trapped in an enclosed area he cannot escape. The first two pictures held to that model.”
Along with fan-favorites Bonnie Bedelia (as Holly) and Reginald VelJohnson (as Twinkie-loving cop Al Powell), de Souza was removed from the series for 1995’s “Die Hard With a Vengeance” and last year’s “Live Free or Die Hard.” “[Now] they go out and they travel,” he said of those films. “They go to Canada and come back, and they go to New Jersey, and they drive around in cars and go all over the Eastern Seaboard in the fourth picture. Those are excellent pictures. They’re well-made movies, but I think it’s interesting that neither one of those - three or four - was originally written as a 'Die Hard' movie.”
“They were each scripts that were done and ready to go, and someone at the last minute said, ‘Hey, we want to make a 'Die Hard' movie. Bruce is available, so let’s change this character’s name to John McClane,” de Souza pointed out. “So, a script called ‘Simon Says’ was turned into ‘Die Hard 3’ and the bad guy was turned into the brother of [Alan Rickman] from the first movie. Then the last picture was originally called ‘World War 3’ about an older cop who arrests a hacker. And again, they said: ‘Let’s make the older cop McClane.’”
“The first two pictures were written to be ‘Die Hard’ movies - whatever that briefly was,” de Souza explained. “The third picture could just as easily have been ‘Lethal Weapon 8’.”
And for all you fellow “Die Hard” nuts out there, get a load of this gem that de Souza let slip: “The firehose stunt,” he grinned, referring to Bruce Willis’ now-iconic leap from the exploding rooftop, “I stole from Harold Lloyd in [the 1923 film] ‘Safety Last’!”
Check out this clip for the scene that inspired John McClane’s greatest moment.
Would you like to see more “Die Hard” movies? Or is it time to tell McClane to put down the firehose and say “Yippie-kay-yay, Metamucil.”?