Director: John McTiernan
Stars: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Bedelia
Plot: NYPD cop John McClane goes on a Christmas vacation to visit his wife Holly in Los Angeles where she works for the Nakatomi Corporation. While they are at the Nakatomi headquarters for a Christmas party, a group of bank robbers led by Hans Gruber take control of the building and hold everyone hostage, with the exception of John, while they plan to perform a lucrative heist. Unable to escape and with no immediate police response, John is forced to take matters into his own hands.
The Nakatomi Plaza Building is the Fox Plaza Building, located at 2121 Avenue of the Stars, Los Angeles, CA, United States. At the time of filming, the building was still under construction, and a scene of McClane exploring an unfinished floor complete with construction equipment was real. Production designer Jackson De Govia came up with the idea to use the building.
For the shot where Hans Gruber falls from the top of the building, Alan Rickman was actually falling from a 21-foot high model. He was holding on to a stunt man and falling on to an air bag. To get the right reaction, the stunt man dropped Rickman on the count of two, not three.
The Roderick Thorp book "Nothing Lasts Forever," which serves as the basis for this movie, was actually a sequel to the book and film The Detective (1968), with Frank Sinatra as Joe Leland. Surprisingly, few of the book's details are changed. Originally, a much older Leland (changed to McClane) was visiting his daughter, Steffie Leland Gennaro, who worked for the Klaxxon oil company. Takagi was originally a VP of sales named Rivers. Harry Ellis, Al Powell, and Dwayne Robinson were essentially the same, but the FBI was not involved. Hans Gruber was originally Anton "Little Tony" Gruber, while Hans was the name of Karl's brother. The purpose of the terrorist takeover was to allow the West German radical group to uncover an illegal arms shipment Klaxxon was making to a Chilean dictatorship. Finally, in the end scene (which was Christmas morning at 10 AM), Anton Gruber is shot by Leland and falls out the window, also catching a finger on Gennaro's watch, but in this case he pulls her out the window to her death.
Originally conceived as a sequel from Arnold Schwarzenegger's Commando (1985), until that Arnold dropped out from the project. Writers changed the locations and main plot of the script, creating so the movie. The plot of the abandoned sequel would had seen Matrix being hired by a big corporation to oversee their security to protect their executives from being kidnapped. To stop people breaking into their building and to make sure their computers are secure. So he sets it up and hires the most dangerous people to be guards in the building and then lo and behold - he discovers the people he's working for are in the illegal arms business and the big corporation is a simply a front. The end of the movie would see Jenny and Cindy, who is now a lawyer, trapped in the building and Matrix now has to defeat all the people he hired - all the meanest, toughest guards - as well as the security systems, the guard dogs, everything.
The scene in which Gruber and McClane meet was inserted into the script after Alan Rickman (Hans Gruber) was found to be proficient at mimicking American accents. The filmmakers had been looking for a way to have the two characters meet prior to the climax and capitalized on Rickman's talent.
Only a couple of the actors who played the German terrorists were actually German and only a couple more could speak broken German. The actors were cast for their menacing appearances rather than their nationality. 9 of the 12 were over 6 feet tall.
Director John McTiernan found it necessary to smash cut away from Hans Gruber's face whenever he fired a gun, because of Alan Rickman's uncontrollable habit of flinching from the noise and muzzle flash. If you look at Rickman's face when he shoots Takagi, you can see him wincing.
On Alan Rickman's first day of shooting he filmed the scene where Hans Gruber first runs into John McClane. He made a jump off the ledge about three feet high. He injured his knee when he landed and damaged some cartilage in his knee. He was told by his doctor not to put any weight on that leg and he had to use crutches for a week. For the rest of the scene where Hans Gruber is standing and talking to John McClane, Alan Rickman is standing on one leg for the entire time and has a leg brace on under his pants.
When John McClane runs through the glass shards in his 'bare' feet after Hans has his men shoot out the glass partitions in the computer room, Bruce Willis is in fact wearing special 'rubber' shoes designed to look like his own bare feet. One can in fact see this if looking closely as his feet appear quite unnaturally large in some of these crucial 'barefoot' scenes.
In the original script, as in the original novel, the action took place over three days, but John McTiernan was inspired to have it take place over a single night by Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.
The original script called for terrorists to hijack the building, and for a super-hero cop to stop them. Director John McTiernan modified the script to change the bad guys into robbers pretending to be terrorists so that the audience could enjoy their intention of grabbing a load of money. He felt having terrorists as the villains would make the movie less enjoyable and give it a political angle, which he wanted to avoid. McTiernan also changed the hero, John McClane, into an everyday, flawed man that rises to the occasion in dire circumstances. He felt the audience would identify more with him than with a "super-cop".
Alan Rickman nearly passed up the role of Hans Gruber, which ended up being his first film role. He had only arrived in Hollywood two days earlier and was appalled by the idea of his first role being the villain in an action film.
The scene where John McClane tries to smash the window with a chair in order to get the attention of Al Powell required multiple takes because the glass window was too strong to break from a single blow as depicted in the film. In fact the glass window was so strong that Bruce Willis actually ended up breaking the chair before he broke the window. Willis and the crew can be seen having a laugh over this in the vintage making of documentary.
Bill Cosby was briefly considered for the role of John McClain, but producers thought that his attachment to the film might have given audiences the misconception that it was a comedy.