Alan Rickman on Why He Nearly Turned Down Die Hard

"I'm not doing an action movie," said Alan Rickman of Die Hard. But here's why he did...

Alan Rickman’s second film as director, A Little Chaos, which hit US theaters in 2014, is currently playing in UK cinemas. Last week, he was on the promotional trail for the movie, and as part and parcel of that, he was interviewed as part of a BAFTA event dedicated to his film work. As you might expect, Die Hard was mentioned, and Rickman revealed that he very nearly turned the movie down.

“I didn’t know anything about L.A.. I didn’t know anything about the film business… I’d never made a film before, but I was extremely cheap,” he said. Yet when he first read the screenplay, his reaction was “what the hell is this? I’m not doing an action movie.”

Yet the script won him over for a number of reasons in the end, with its wit one factor. But also, elements such as the fact that “every single black character in that film is positive and highly intelligent. So, 28 years ago, that’s quite revolutionary, and quietly so.”

Rickman still butted heads with producer Joel Silver, saying that his character, Hans Gruber, should be in a suit rather than terrorist gear. Furthermore, it was Rickman’s idea that in one scene in the movie, Gruber is taken hostage himself. “I got Joel saying, ‘get the hell out of here, you’ll wear what you’re told’, But then I came back, I was handed a new script. It showed that it pays to have a little bit of theatre training.”

Ad – content continues below

Rickman wasn’t the only one to have suggestions for his character in Die Hard, either. Hart Bochner, who played Ellis, revealed to us back in 2012 that director John McTiernan wasn’t originally a fan of the way he played the character.

“My take on Ellis was that I always feel that when you’re playing a bad guy, you look for their insecurity, which drives their behavior,” Bochner said.

“While the character was a bad guy, he was certainly ridiculously obnoxious, and a fly in everyone’s ointment. So I came it at it from it’s coke behavior, and the coke masks his insecurity. So it’s Christmas Eve, it’s the party, he’s all alone, and he just wants somebody, so he hits on Bruce Willis’ wife. And I was doing it very much fast and loose and a bit hyper in the rehearsals.

McTiernan came up to me and said ‘I don’t know what you’re doing. I hate it. It’s not what I envisaged for this character. I want smooth. I want Cary Grant’. And I said to him ‘I know we haven’t discussed this, but I feel the character’s behaviour really has to come from insecurity and coke’. He said to me ‘you know what, that’s bullshit. Get rid of it. I hate it. Calm down.'”

In the end, Bochner’s Ellis take remained when McTiernan realised Silver and co-producer were laughing as they watched the performance on a monitor. One conflab later, the road to Harry Ellis was paved. The full interview with Bochner is here.

And you can read the full Alan Rickman write-up at The Guardian, here.

Ad – content continues below