Die Hard 2 director Renny Harlin recalls his major Bruce Willis disagreement while filming the sequel, which largely focused on McClane’s personality.
Just over 30 years after it first hit theaters, Die Hard 2 director Renny Harlin is opening up about a major disagreement he and Bruce Willis had on the set of the action sequel. The 1990 film picked up two years after the events of the iconic original, finding Willis’ John McClane stuck in Washington Dulles International Airport on Christmas Eve waiting for Holly, with whom he is married to again, to land, only to contend with terrorists who have taken over the airport and is preventing any of the incoming planes from landing in the middle of a snowstorm. While not as well-received as its predecessor, Die Hard 2 was considered a hit at the time, though not without hurdles to overcome.
In a recent interview with Empire, Renny Harlin reflected on his time making Die Hard 2 and working with Bruce Willis. The director revealed he and Willis actually had a somewhat difficult time working together on the film, primarily stemming over how the star wanted to depict John McClane in the film, opting for a far more serious tone than the comedy of the original, which led to Harlan, Willis and producer Joel Silver having to have a sit-down meeting to negotiate a middle ground. See what Harlin explained below:
Bruce had turned from a Moonlighting TV star to a movie star overnight with one movie. And it’s not uncommon that when actors get into that position, they sort of develop different goals. So Bruce had this notion from the beginning that he wanted to now play John McClane totally straight, that this movie had to be serious. I said to him, ‘That’s not the John McClane the audience loves. They feel like you’re their friend now, and they don’t want to lose their friend.’ We had a major disagreement about this. He said, ‘Those one-liners and jokey comments — that’s bullshit. With lives on the line, you can’t say that kind of thing.’ I said, ‘Yeah, not in real life, but this is a movie. This is Die Hard.’ It came to a point where I had to go to Joel (Silver) and say, ‘We have a real problem.’ We had a big meeting, Joel and Bruce and I. The outcome was that Bruce agreed to do as many takes as he wanted of the way he wanted to do it, and then we’d do one take the way I wanted to do it, with humor. He did it reluctantly, and not so happily, but he did it. And in the end, every single funny moment that could be caught — even a smile he might have flashed before he realized the cameras were rolling — was cut into the movie. The first question the executives asked, when they saw it, was, ‘Do you have any more moments with humor?’ I said, ‘Unfortunately, I used everything I had.’
Why Die Hard 2 Is One Of The More Divisive Sequels
Though the final installment in the series, A Good Day to Die Hard, remains the worst-reviewed sequel from critics and audiences alike, Die Hard 2 is still considered to be one of the more divisive follow-ups in the franchise. Many reviewers and fans took issue with the film’s lackluster attempts to one-up the story of its predecessor, taking away the claustrophobic tension from the original Die Hard by putting McClane in multiple locations, rather than trapping him in one building with only so many methods of travel to remain hidden from the terrorists. Die Hard 2‘s plot was also deemed to be far less credible than that of its predecessor, with many noting the convoluted nature of its antagonists’ plans and the lack of likely safety protocols to prevent such a terrorist takeover from occurring.
One of the more consistent critiques for the film among Die Hard fans has been its very inconsistent tone, which too often veers intensely dramatic in comparison to its somewhat self-aware predecessor. Between its jaw-dropping plane crash killing hundreds of people to Willis’ hero delivering fewer one-liners and quips than before, Die Hard 2 has had a hard time resonating with many audiences for moving away from the formula that made the original such a hit. Evidence of this could be seen in the subsequent sequels, Die Hard with a Vengeance and Live Free or Die Hard, which saw McClane return to the quippy, beat-down personality fans had come to love and expect of the character.
Harlin Is Right About John McClane
While Willis’ hopes to keep things fresh with his character in subsequent sequels is an admirable one, especially being so early into the franchise, many are sure to feel that Die Hard 2‘s Renny Harlin was ultimately right about how John McClane should be portrayed in film. Though generally considered a hero throughout each film, McClane’s self-deprecating humor leaned into his being an imperfect protagonist audiences could easier connect to, whereas if he had been a clean-cut figure, he would’ve been far less compelling of a character to watch. Willis’ time in the franchise may be done, but audiences can revisit his tenure as McClane with the Die Hard franchise streaming across Starz and Fubo now.
Next: The Bizarre Reason Clint Eastwood Rejected Die HardSource: Empire