Movie director John McTiernan has answered the question that has plagued so many for more than 30 years: Is “Die Hard” a Christmas movie?
According to McTiernan, who directed the film, the answer is yes.
But it didn’t start out that way. It “turned into a Christmas movie” — an anti-capitalism Christmas movie.
What’s this now?
For decades now, Americans have debated whether the Bruce Willis action flick “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie.
The film’s genre — a summer action blockbuster with lots of violence, blood, and cursing — has led people to rule it out of the holiday film list. The story’s timing and location — Christmas Eve during an office Christmas party in downtown Los Angeles — has given ammo to the “it’s a Christmas movie, dadgummit” crowd.
Polls have been taken on the question — but have yielded inconsistent results.
One of the movie’s screenwriters, Steven de Souza, tweeted in 2017 that it is a Christmas movie.
However, Willis, the star of the movie, offered a different take in 2018 when he declared, “‘Die Hard’ is not a Christmas movie. It’s a god damn Bruce Willis movie.”
Image source: AFI YouTube screenshot
Now the question appears to be settled.
McTiernan said in a video last week that his movie is definitely a Christmas movie — an anti-capitalism Christmas movie that preached against authoritarians.
It’s that anti-capitalism, anti-authority streak that, to McTiernan, turned “Die Hard” into a Christmas movie.
What did McTiernan say?
In a “Behind the Scene” video posted by the American Film Institute, McTiernan explained how “Die Hard” became the so-called Christmas classic it is.
Based on McTiernan’s description, when the script was first written, it closely followed the book it was based on, “Nothing Lasts Forever,” the Daily Wire reported. It featured left-wing terrorists who were brought to heel by “the stern face of authority” — and McTiernan didn’t like that.
“‘Die Hard’ was a terrorist movie,” McTiernan said, before explaining how it changed.
“[Producer] Joel [Silver] sent me the script three, four times,” the director said. “And it was about these horrible leftist terrorists that come into the sort of Valhalla of capitalism, Los Angeles, and they bring their guns and their evil ways and they shoot up people just celebrating Christmas — terrible people, awful. And it was really about the stern face of authority stepping into put things right again, you know?”
“And I kept saying to Joel, I don’t want to make that movie,” McTiernan added.
What he wanted to make was a movie that had a message similar what the saw in the Pottersville scenes in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which, he said, “is what happens when the evil banker gets to do what he wants in the community without George … getting in the way to stop him.”
“It’s the clearest demonstration and criticism of runaway, unregulated cowboy capitalism that’s ever been done in an American movie,” he added.
So he got Silver to change the script and make the bad guys unfettered capitalist terrorists who were stopped by a “working class hero.”
And McTiernan, in order to best get across his anti-capitalism message — à la “It’s a Wonderful Life” — he felt the best vehicle was style of film reminiscent of a Christmas movie.
“I went to Joel. And I said, ‘OK, if you want me to make this terrorist movie, I want to make it where the hero in the first scene when the limo driver apologizes that he’s never been in a limo before. The hero says it’s alright. I’ve never ridden in a limo before,'” he recalled, adding, “OK, working class hero.”
According to McTiernan, Silver was on board making “Die Hard” into an anti-capitalist film.
“Joel understood what I meant. And he said OK,” he shared, adding that people working on the movie came to “catch on” to just what they were trying to create: “This was a movie where the hero was a real human being, and the people of authority — all of the important folks — were all portrayed as kind of foolish.”
“Everybody, as they came to work on the movie, began to get … this idea of this movie as an escapee,” McTiernan said, reflecting on how the content was no long under control of the man and instead in the control of the creators. “And there was a joy in it. Because we … had changed the content. And that is how ‘Die Hard’ became — we hadn’t intended it to be a Christmas movie — but the joy that came from it is what turned it into a Christmas movie. And that’s really the best I can tell you about it.”
Then he offered a Christmas wish for his viewers:
My hope at Christmas this year is that you will all remember that authoritarians are low-status, angry men who have gone to rich people and said, “If you give us power, we’ll make sure nobody takes your stuff.” And that’s the essence of authoritarianism , that’s always been the essence of it — and their obsessions with guns and boots and uniforms and squad cars and all that stuff and all those things you amass with power meant to scare us, meant to shut us up so we don’t kick them to the side of the road and decent people of the world get on with building a future.
Merry Christmas, and I hope we have a better year.