I was one of the lucky attendees at the Fox Studios lot on January 31, 2013 for the unveiling of a brand new mural done in honor of “Die Hard” at Stage 8. The action classic which starred Bruce Willis as New York Detective John McClane is now at its 25th anniversary, and the fifth movie in the long running series (“A Good Day to Die Hard”) is about to be released on February 13. Joining Willis in this celebration were Fox Filmed Entertainment chair Jim Gianopulos and the cast and director of “A Good Day to Die Hard.”
I cannot begin to tell you what a thrill it was to be a part of this historic moment. Like so many others I was raised on the original “Die Hard” and its sequels, and the fact that the series has held up so well is really a testament to the character of McClane and Willis’ portrayal of him. Before McClane, all action heroes in movies were these indestructible superhuman armies of one who obliterated every single bad guy while barely getting hurt in the process. McClane however was a different kind of action hero because he was like the rest of us; vulnerable, easily wounded, scared, and far from ever being indestructible. Gianopulos made that clear when talking about the character and his enduring status.
“While John McClane describes himself as the ‘fly in the ointment, the monkey in the wrench, the pain in the ass,’ I’d like to think that his appeal is just that he’s the everyman who just has this uncanny way of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and who never, ever says die,” Gianopulos said. “So however you try and categorize him, John McClane will live on for audiences in our hearts and the studio’s legacy and so will his ‘yippee-ki-yay…’ Well it’s a family thing so I can’t really say it.”
Gianopulos also rightly pointed out that unlike Batman or James Bond who have been played by several different actors over the years, John McClane has been played by the same actor in all five “Die Hard” movies. The crowd was thrilled to see Willis show up for this mural unveiling, and he looked genuinely happy that we were all so excited to be a part of this event.
“This is really very nice, really nice,” Willis said of this occasion. “I worked on this lot. I started on Stage 20 here and I moved on to bigger things here at Fox, and I just couldn’t be more pleased that you all came out here. It has been a big, great, fun time doing ‘Die Hard’ for the last twenty-five years and living to talk about it.”
After that, Gianopulos gave Willis this device that looked like a detonator to a bomb and, after the 20th Century Fox Fanfare was played, he pushed the button on it. What followed were some loud pyrotechnics and the dropping of the curtain to reveal the 35- foot “Die Hard” mural which was designed by muralist Van Hecht-Nielsen and painter Fernando Cepeda. It depicts the scene where McClane makes his way through an air vent and pulls out his cigarette lighter to see what’s ahead. This of course led to one of Willis’ famous quotes from the movie:
"Come out to the coast, we'll get together, have a few laughs..."
I personally got a huge kick out of the whole presentation as did everyone else, and it was greeted with thunderous applause from the onlookers as well as a large number of car alarms that were inadvertently set off by the pyrotechnics (I guess they had to have their say as well). Then again, “Die Hard” did get its name from a car battery, so the irony is hard to ignore.
Following the mural presentation, we were invited to a screening of “A Good Day to Die Hard” which was held at the Zanuck Theatre on the Fox Lot. Introducing the screening of the movie was its director, John Moore, who added that he hopes his funeral looks like this with so many excited people in attendance. He also pointed out that while this was a special screening of the new “Die Hard” movie, he also called it a “nerd screening” because of a new sound system being utilized.
“This is an Atmos screening of ‘A Good Day to Die Hard,’” Moore said. “To explain what that is, Atmos is a new three-dimensional sound system that Dolby is rolling out over the next few years, and this is only the eighth film to be mixed in Atmos. If I could direct your attention to the ceiling for a moment, you can see there is an array of nearly 40 speakers, and this creates a three-dimensional sound that’s gonna role of you like nothing you’ve ever experienced… Or since the last time something’s rolled over you.”
But for many of us, the big treat of the evening was when we were invited to the 21st floor of the Nakatomi Plaza where the original “Die Hard” was filmed… Okay it’s really called the Fox Plaza, but to us “Die Hard” fans it will always be known as the Nakatomi Building because that’s how much we love the movie. The lobby in the building has changed only so much since the movie was made, and while the lighting inside was different it still kind of looks the same as it did back then. You should have seen us when we got onto the elevators though because they looked exactly the same as they did in the movie. My friend Phillip was practically hyperventilating from all the excitement of being there, and he later claimed that he almost died of “sheer awesomeness.” We all definitely shared in that feeling and I had a great grin on my face for the rest of the night.
The 21st floor was decked out with a DJ and food that ran from cheese and apple blintzes to bigger dishes like beef stroganoff and egg noodles, perhaps to reflect the fact that “A Good Day to Die Hard” takes place in Russia. I loved how the floor resembled the one McClane hid out on when he set off the fire alarm and was waiting for the fire trucks to show up. This had a lot of us going up to the windows and looking out while repeating our favorite lines from “Die Hard” such as “c’mon baby, come ta' papa, I'll kiss ya' f---ing dalmatian” or “you macho a—holes! No! No!” We didn’t bang our hands on the windows though as that probably would have gotten us into trouble.
Actually, some of us got a really nice security guard to take us up to the 30th floor where the Christmas party in “Die Hard” took place, but it looks nothing like it did in the movie. In fact much of what we saw in the movie was done on a soundstage, and the real 30th floor was full of empty office spaces that are still waiting to be occupied. We were also hoping to go to the roof where the helipad is so that we could imitate the scene where McClane shot his machine gun to get the hostages to run downstairs, but unfortunately the guy couldn’t do that for us (he was very nice about it though).
Still, we got to see the front parking area where Sgt. Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson) drove around in circles before going inside, and we also got to see the place where a terrorist stole a Nestle Crunch candy bar while waiting for SWAT to break into the building. It’s all those little details that got us so excited.
Seriously, this was one of the best evenings I’ve had in a long time. To be a part of it was an honor, and it was exciting to be able to go inside the Nakatomi/Fox Plaza and see where “Die Hard” was filmed. I came out to Los Angeles to be a part of the movies and to be close to those involved in their making, and this was an occasion which allowed me to do just that. I’ll never forget this evening, and I look forward to having many more of them.