It’s one of the most hotly contested issues of our times: is Die Hard actually a Christmas movie? Well, more than 30 years after its release, the film’s leading man Bruce Willis finally appears to have settled the debate once and for all. Yippee ki-yay!
Born in the German town of Idar-Oberstein in 1955, Bruce Willis moved to New Jersey with his family two years later. Upon finishing high school, he found employment as a security guard and private investigator before studying drama at Montclair State University. Willis then enjoyed his first credited screen role in a 1984 episode of Miami Vice.
Willis received his big break a year later when he beat thousands of hopefuls to the part of David Addison Jr. in Moonlighting. The star won both a Golden Globe and Emmy during his four-year stint on the romantic dramedy alongside Cybill Shepherd. And in 1987 he ventured on to the big screen to star opposite Kim Basinger in Blind Date.
Willis then portrayed an actor in Blake Edwards’ Sunset, played a Vietnam veteran in In Country and provided the baby’s voice in Look Who’s Talking. He also very nearly scored a U.K. number one single with a cover of The Drifters’ “Under the Boardwalk.” The track was taken from his debut album, The Return of Bruno.
Following a series of disappointing films in the early 1990s, Willis bounced back with a memorable performance as Butch Coolidge in cult classic Pulp Fiction. He then enjoyed success with sci-fi hits 12 Monkeys and The Fifth Element, as well as the Michael Bay blockbuster Armageddon. Willis also received some of the most glowing reviews of his career for his leading role in the 1999 supernatural horror The Sixth Sense.
Willis picked up another Emmy in the ’00s for his guest turn on Friends and also co-starred with that sitcom’s Matthew Perry in The Whole Nine Yards. He later appeared in neo-noir Sin City, grindhouse throwback Planet Terror and Hollywood satire What Just Happened, in addition to starring alongside his real-life daughter Rumer in the action movie Hostage.
During the following decade, Willis returned to his action roots by reuniting with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, his one-time Planet Hollywood business partners, in The Expendables series. He also appeared in comic-book adaptation RED and Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, before starring with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Looper. In 2015 he worked on the Broadway stage for the first time, in the Stephen King classic Misery.
Of course, it’s John McClane in the Die Hard franchise that remains Willis’ most iconic role. The star first portrayed the vest-clad NYC cop in 1988 and reprised the character in its 1990 sequel and 1995’s Die Hard with a Vengeance. After a 12-year break, the series returned for Live Free or Die Hard, while fifth installment A Good Day to Die Hard arrived in 2013.
Grossing more than $140 million across the globe on a budget of just under $30 million, the original Die Hard is widely considered to be the best. In fact, the United States National Film Registry even chose it for preservation in 2017. The movie also picked up four Oscar nominations including best film editing and best visual effects.
Adapted from Nothing Lasts Forever, the 1979 novel penned by Roderick Thorp, Die Hard very nearly had a different leading man. Indeed, the film was offered to both Frank Sinatra and Arnold Schwarzenegger before a wary 20th Century Fox eventually decided to take a chance on a relatively untested Willis. Of course, it proved to be an inspired choice.
Directed by John McTiernan, Die Hard sees John McClane come to the rescue when Alan Rickman’s German criminal mastermind Hans Gruber seizes control of a skyscraper in LA. So far so straightforward. But the film’s Christmas Eve setting opened up a debate that raged on for three decades: could Die Hard be classed as a festive film?
Indeed, Die Hard often places high in the all-time greatest Christmas film lists that pop up each December. But many fans argue that regardless of the Christmas Eve setting, the action thriller can’t be classed as a festive film. And in 2017 the results of an official poll conducted by YouGov appeared to support this viewpoint.
Only 31 percent of those asked classed pictures set during but not necessarily about the holiday as Christmas films. Half of the participants disagreed, with the remaining 19 percent sitting on the fence. There was a difference between generations on the subject, however, as 42 percent of 18-24 year-olds believed the likes of Die Hard could qualify as festive, but just 19 percent of over-65s felt the same way.
That same year Die Hard screenwriter Steven de Souza waded into the debate by tweeting that the action thriller was indeed very much a Christmas movie. Answering someone who had tweeted a series of reasons why the film is festive, de Souza replied, “Plus a woman about to give birth features prominently.” He also later used the hashtag #DieHardIsAChristmasMovie.
However, the star of the movie wasn’t buying it. While appearing on stage at his own Comedy Central roast in July 2018, Bruce Willis appeared to settle the debate once and for all. He declared, “Die Hard is a not a Christmas movie. It’s a godd*m Bruce Willis movie!”
Willis also paid homage to the film that established him as a bona fide action star while promoting the roast. In a trailer for the Comedy Central special, the actor can be seen crawling through a narrow air vent just like John McClane did in the original Die Hard. This time around, though, the scene ends with him breaking wind.
Some Die Hard fans were happy that the star of the movie itself had confirmed what they’d believed all along. One tweeted, “If Bruce Willis says #DieHard is NOT a christmas movie… then it’s NOT a Christmas movie!” Another posted, “Thank You Bruce. DIE. HARD. IS. NOT. A. CHRISTMAS. MOVIE.”
But others still weren’t convinced. One disgruntled fan tweeted, “#DieHardIsAChristmasMovie #DieHard erm Bruce Willis has no clue what so ever. Every Christmas I watch all the (yes even 4) die hard movies with my daughter it’s a Christmas tradition.” Another also rejected the actor’s claims, writing, “Die Hard is a Christmas movie idgaf what the lead actor said 30+ years after the fact…….”
Of course, Die Hard isn’t the only film to have sparked such a debate. The Apartment, Batman Returns, Brazil and Gremlins have also had moviegoers arguing about which category their festive setting but non-festive subject matter should fall under. More recently, Disney phenomenon Frozen has been at the center of a similar dispute.
Willis is set to reprise his most iconic character once again with the upcoming McClane. The sixth film in the Die Hard franchise will focus on the heroic cop in his 60s and flash back to his time as a twentysomething. However, it’s not yet known at what time of year the film will be set.