Spoilers lie ahead for Die Hard
Die Hard is pretty much a flawless film for our money, with just one or two things here and there that are barely worth quibbling about. Still, screenwriter Steven E. de Souza has been addressing one of them.
It’s to do with the fact that John McClane twigs that Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber is a terrorist. This is at the part of the film where Gruber is pretending to be Bill Clay, something that McClane sees through but it’s never quite explained why. We just assume that McClane is very clever.
Turns out it’s all do with some deleted material, that references wristwatches. McClane is still quite clever, mind.
At a Q&A following a 30th anniversary screening of another of his films, The Running Man, de Souza explained that the watches of the terrorist gang was a bigger plot point than we got in the final cut.
“Originally, they get off the truck, the camera craned up, you saw them in a circle and Alan Rickman says ‘synchronise your watches’”, he explained. “They all put their arms out in a circle with the camera moving down and they all had the same Tag Heuer watch. If you notice, the first guy Bruce kills almost by accident going down the steps, he searches the body, looks at the IDs.”
Which sets the scene for what comes later.
“When Bruce offers the cigarette to Alan Rickman, Bruce sees the watch. You see his eyes look at the watch. That’s how he knows that he is one of the terrorists.”
Material was cut back, though, as de Souza came up with a late idea to have Gruber and his cohorts escape by ambulance. The problem? There was no ambulance to be seen at the start of the film when the terrorists are synchronizing their watches, and thus cuts had be made. Director John McTiernan reportedly ordered to “cut as soon as you can when they get off the truck so we don’t see there’s no ambulance,” and as de Souza notes, “now, without ‘synchronize your watches’, all of these moments where Bruce looks at these guys’ watches makes no sense.”
In the scheme of things, it’s not a big thing. But it’s still good to know. And given the massive plot holes of the recent John McClane cosplay film, A Good Day To Hard, it’s somewhat refreshing to know that someone still cares about a little detail in the original, nearly 30 years on.