Was Bruce Willis the First Choice for the Lead in "Die Hard"?

The 1988 Hollywood action film Die Hard turned its lead actor, Bruce Willis, into a popular film star practically overnight. Before Die Hard, Bruce Willis was a newcomer to the film industry having featured in only a few films that had not been successful. Die Hard was a huge success and Bruce Willis went on to star in the four Die Hard sequels (as of 2013). But was Bruce Willis the first choice for the lead in Die Hard? As it turns out, Willis wasn't the first one to be offered the lead role of John McClane. Due to contractual obligations, Frank Sinatra, who was 73 years old at the time, was originally offered the lead role in the film.

Die Hard is the adaptation of a book by Roderick Thorp called Nothing Lasts Forever. The book was Thorp's follow-up for his previous title, The Detective, which was made into a film in 1968 starring none other than Frank Sinatra. The contract for The Detective required that when the sequel was made, the lead role be again offered to Frank Sinatra. But Thorp published Nothing Lasts Forever a whole decade later. The role was offered to Frank Sinatra, but he naturally declined.

It took another decade before the script of Die Hard, which was changed somewhat, to be offered to Bruce Willis. It is believed that popular action heroes at the time were offered the role of John McClane and declined before Willis was considered by the filmmakers. It was eventually Bruce Willis who got the role and the rest is history.

More about Die Hard:

  • Bruce Willis, who was working in the TV series Moonlighting at the time, was able to accept Die Hard thanks to the pregnancy of his co-star.

  • Due to extremely loud guns used in Die Hard, Bruce Willis permanently lost two-thirds of his hearing in his left ear.

  • In order to get the most natural reaction in the scene where Alan Rickman's character dies in the film, they dropped him on the count of two instead of three.

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