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Remembering "Die Hard"

Read more at
in70mm.com
The 70mm Newsletter
Written and compiled by: Michael Coate Date: 01.11.2008
Twenty years ago, “Die Hard” was released to movie theatres. The film made Bruce Willis a superstar and John McTiernan an A-list director and raised the bar on the action-adventure film genre. It was also a fantastic and memorable moviegoing experience, especially when viewed in the high-quality 70-millimeter format.

CAST:
John McClane – Bruce Willis
Holly Gennaro-McClane – Bonnie Bedelia
Sgt. Al Powell – Reginald Veljohnson
Dwayne T. Robinson – Paul Gleason
Argyle – De’voreaux White
Thornburg – William Atherton
Ellis – Hart Bochner
Hans Gruber – Alan Rickman
Karl – Alexander Godunov
Theo – Clarence Gilyard, Jr.
Uli – Al Leong
Joe Takagi – James Shigeta
Special Agent Johnson – Robert Davi
Agent Johnson – Grand L. Bush

DIRECTOR: John McTiernan

SCREENPLAY: Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza (screenplay), Roderick Thorp (novel)

PROMOTIONAL SLOGANS:
“40 Stories Of Sheer Adventure!”
“An Adventure That Will Blow You Through The Back Wall Of The Theatre.”

PRODUCTION COST: $28 million

OPENING-WEEK BOOKINGS: 21

OPENING-WEEKEND BOXOFFICE GROSS: $601,851

CUMULATIVE NORTH AMERICAN BOXOFFICE GROSS: $83 million

RANK ON TOP-GROSSING FILMS OF 1988: 7
 
More in 70mm reading:

25th Anniversary of "Brainstorm"'s 1983 Release

Internet link:

 

Memorable Quotes

 
“Do you really think you have a chance against us, Mr. Cowboy?” — Hans / “Yippee-kai-yay, motherf***er.” — McClane

“Nine million terrorists in the world, and I got to kill one with feet smaller than my sister.” — McClane

“Attention, whoever you are, this channel is reserved for emergency calls only.” — Supervisor / “No f***ing sh**, lady! Do I sound like I’m ordering a pizza?” — McClane

“I am an exceptional thief, Mrs. McClane.” — Hans

“You throw quite a party. I didn’t realize they celebrated Christmas in Japan.” — McClane / “We’re flexible. Pearl Harbor didn’t work out, so we got you with tape decks.” — Joe Takagi

“We’re going to need some more FBI guys, I guess.” — Dwayne T. Robinson

“Hey, business is business. You use a gun; I use a fountain pen. What’s the difference?” — Harry Ellis
 
 

What the critics said

 
“Alan Rickman, a British stage actor, in his movie debut as the chief terrorist, creates a classic villain.” — Dave Kehr, Chicago Tribune

“‘Die Hard’ is dynamite.” — Joel Siegel, Good Morning America

“[Bruce] Willis has found the perfect vehicle to careen wildly onto the crowded L.A. freeway of ‘Lethal Weapons’ and ‘Beverly Hills Cops’. And he keeps a respectable grip on the wheel, his only acting requirements being to shift that ‘Moonlighting’ glibspeak into R-rated high-drive and fire his Baretta 92 to heart’s content.” — Desson Howe, The Washington Post

“‘Die Hard’ is exceedingly stupid, but escapist fun.” — Caryn James, The New York Times

“This summer’s action movie to see.” — Mike Clark, USA Today

“For sheer roller-coaster thrills, the pick of the crop is ‘Die Hard’.” — David Ansen, Newsweek

“See it in 70mm and kick back; it’s a party of a movie.” — Peter Stack, San Francisco Chronicle

“‘Die Hard’ has audiences rising to their feet and screaming at the screen! You’ll have a whale of a time.” — Mike McGrady, Newsday

“‘Die Hard’ is the archetypal big-deal Hollywood exploitation picture. It’s like a giant war toy, a triumph of well-oiled mechanical precision that performs miracles of destruction. As a grand flourish of cinematic technique, it is awesome; as a human drama, it is disgusting and silly, a mindless depiction of carnage on an epic scale.” — Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times
 
 

Release Dates

 
15.07.1988 Canada
15.07.1988 United States
21.09.1988 France
23.09.1988 Taiwan
27.09.1988 Philippines
28.09.1988 Italy
28.09.1988 Spain
30.09.1988 Sweden
06.10.1988 Australia
07.10.1988 Austria
07.10.1988 Finland
14.10.1988 Israel
19.10.1988 Hong Kong
19.10.1988 Singapore
11.11.1988 Netherlands
11.11.1988 Norway
11.11.1988 Thailand
11.11.1988 West Germany
02.12.1988 Malaysia
15.12.1988 Argentina
26.12.1988 Denmark
02.02.1989 United Kingdom
11.02.1989 Japan
20.04.1989 Colombia
 
 

Trivia, Tidbits & Factoids

 
The Nakatomi Plaza featured in the film is the Fox Plaza, the Los Angeles corporate offices of 20th Century Fox Film Corporation.

“Die Hard” is based upon the 1979 book “Nothing Lasts Forever” by Roderick Thorp.

The world premiere of “Die Hard” was held on 07 July 1988 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills, California.

“Die Hard” was released initially in North America in 21 theatres in 20 markets on Friday, 15 July 1988, all exclusively presented in 70mm (see list below). One week later on Wednesday, 20 July, the film was released (in 35mm) in 1,255 additional theatres throughout the United States and Canada.

Bruce Willis received a reported $5 million salary for his acting services, despite having appeared in only two feature films and having no track record in the action-adventure genre.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds and Richard Gere all reportedly passed on playing the role of John McClane.

“Die Hard” was nominated for four Academy Awards: Film Editing, Sound, Sound Effects Editing, Visual Effects. The film won a BMI Film Music award for Michael Kamen’s original score and a Hocho Eiga Sho (“Best Foreign Picture for 1989”) from the Japanese newspaper Hochi Shimbun.

For the theatrical film prints, a spherical film element of the 20th Century Fox logo that opens the film was used instead of an anamorphic element, resulting in a noticeably stretched-out image. The effect was repeated on “Die Hard 2” but corrected for the home video versions.

“Die Hard” spawned three sequels: “Die Hard 2” (1990), “Die Hard With A Vengeance” (1995) and “Live Free or Die Hard” (2007).

“Die Hard” inspired the high-concept story-idea expression: “Die Hard on a ______”.

The musical score during portions of the film incorporates cues from other 20th Century Fox films, including “Aliens” (1986, composer James Horner).

Translated international-release titles include “Hard to Kill” (Spanish, Latin America), “The Glass Jungle” (Spanish, Spain), “Big Building Fight” (Thai), “Operation Skyscraper” (Norwegian and Swedish), “Die Slowly” (German), “The Crystal Trap” (French and Italian), and “A Hard Nut To Crack” (Russian).
 
 

The 70mm Engagements

 
The following is a list of the 70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo presentations that were booked for the film’s exclusive, limited-market release. These were, arguably, the best cinemas in which to experience “Die Hard”.

Atlanta – LENOX SQUARE
Boston – CINEMA 57
Chicago – WOODFIELD
Cincinnati – KENWOOD
Dallas – NORTHPARK I-II
Denver – CONTINENTAL
Houston – SPECTRUM 8
Los Angeles – AVCO CENTER
Miami – DADELAND
Minneapolis – SOUTHTOWN
Montreal – PLACE ALEXIS-NIHON
New York – BARONET
New York – CRITERION CENTER
Philadelphia – SAMERIC
St. Louis – ESQUIRE
San Francisco – CORONET
San Jose – TOWN & COUNTRY
Seattle – CINEMA 150
Toronto – PANTAGES
Vancouver – GRANVILLE 7
Washington – WISCONSIN AVENUE CINEMAS

Sources/References: Numerous newspaper articles, reviews and advertisements; and Boxoffice; Boxofficemojo; Cinerama and Large-Frame Exhibition in Canada; the motion picture “Die Hard” (1988, 20th Century Fox); The Hollywood Reporter; Internet Movie Database; Newsweek; Time Magazine; Variety.
 
 
 
Copyright 2008 Michael S. Coate


Michael Coate is a journalist and film historian. He has contributed to American Cinematographer, Boxoffice, Replication News, Sight & Sound, Widescreen Review, and the websites CinemaTreasures.org, FromScriptToDVD.com and In70mm.com. He was Widescreen Review magazine’s Research Editor from 1997 to 2004. In 2004, he co-founded FromScriptToDVD.com, and in 2008 formed Fans of Showmanship, a Yahoo! Group focusing on the discussion of film history.

Attending Major League Baseball games across the USA is Mike’s hobby when he’s not haunting libraries around the globe looking to unearth useful facts about film history. He is a graduate of the Radio-Television-Film program at California State University Long Beach and resides in Los Angeles.
 
 
 
 
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