It is almost twenty years since Bruce Willis first portrayed the enormously likeable and deeply flawed New York City Detective, John McClane. In ‘Die Hard 4.0’ he confronts his must ruthless and insidious adversaries so far, who are attempting to cripple the entire infrastructure of the United States – and throw the world into chaos.
Why did you decide to make this film?
I love this character, he is truly mythical and one of the cool things about DIE HARD 4.0 is that the first one was made 20 years ago, so guys who grew up watching the film, now have families of their own and it’s great that they can take their own children to this one. Loads of guys come up to me and say ‘I’m so excited I can to take my son and my daughter to see this film’. That is a terrific thing. I took a great leap of faith that people would still be really interested in this character, but you know, they are.
How exciting was it for you returning to this popular character?
It really is exciting. It was a huge risk, on the face of it, because I could have retired from the series undefeated, and gone out with just the three films. But during the years since the third film, whenever I travelled around the world, I found that when we actually started shooting the film and word got out about a fourth DIE HARD, there was a great response and I got even more excited. So I do know there is a huge audience waiting for this film, and you can be sure that I personally feel this one is at least as good as the first one and maybe even better. We had a terrific crew who were all fans of the original films themselves. Everyone who came to work on this film did so because they believed in it.
What can you reveal about the plot?
In a very tactful way, the film handles the notion of the United States being threatened by cyber terrorism. In fact, we ask how vulnerable the United States – or any country actually is – through their technology and their dependence on that technology. We look at the concept that If you take down certain key elements, it may leave the country vulnerable, For example if you knock the satellites out, we would be in great danger. If you knock the communications out completely, you would be taking a big shot at any country.
How realistic is this in terms of what is going in the world do you think?
It is completely realistic. When you see the film, you will see that it is really easy to believe that this scenario could take place. However, we don’t take advantage of anything going on in the world just now and we do not sensationalise terrorism. It’s still a film about good triumphing over evil.
What happens to you this time, how does John McClane find himself in grave danger, yet again? Is it another case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time?
I get sent to pick up a kid who is in trouble in relation to guys who have hacked into the part of the main frame of the country, the computers. They want to talk to him about it. John McClane is now a member of The Joint Terrorist Task Force – that is what we call it in the film. He goes to get the kid (Justin Long) and all hell breaks loose. We find out that the bad guys are also looking for this kid. The action in this film is relentless – just non stop with bigger stunts than we have ever done before.
Your on screen daughter has now grown up and appears in this film, what is her role?
Yes, one of the characters in the first movie was the five year-old girl, my daughter and she in this film too, she has now grown up to be a college student. It is fascinating for me because it is like having a calendar in front of you saying 20 years have gone by. it is amazing. Anyway, without giving too much away, she gets kidnapped.
Once again, this film is action packed, how much of the action did you do yourself?
I have a stunt man, there are some things I just cannot do. I can’t jump off a tall building and land on the hood of a car, somebody else does that. But I have to tell you, I did a lot of stunts, all the fight sequences. I know that getting hurt is always one of the dangers, but I was happy to take the risk.
You got injured I believe, how did that happen?
I got injured a lot. I got kicked in the head, I have an L shaped scar (as you can see). I had to have about 20 stitches on the inside and 14 on the outside.
Were the stunts in this film particularly challenging and spectacular?
They were – also I was doing stunts with guys who were 30, I got beat up and bruised as lot and I have a catalogue of my scars. I actually got four or five and I would have to take off my clothes to show you. But I love action. There is a fight scene with Maggie Q where I have to let her kick me and beat me to keep her from killing from Justin Long, because he’s doing something with the computer that I do not understand. I eventually stop her in a really cool and unique way, but you will have to see the film to find out what I do. I can tell you that Len Wiseman thought up some amazing stunts and the visual dimension of the film is different and brings it right up to date in an original way.
You are in such great shape, did you do special training for the film?
I work with a trainer all the time. I lift weights and do cardiovascular training for stamina. I run too. I look at working out as work, I don’t do it for fun. It’s not a thing I look forward to, I don’t say ‘wow, great, lets go work out’ , but I had to do it a lot on this film because I needed the stamina. I needed to have as much muscle on my frame as possible so that I could do the action sequences, for example, diving onto concrete from four or five foot feet high.
Did the fact that you are older take a toll on you physically and make the shoot harder?
Being older means that the recovery time takes a little bit longer if you are injured. I have a lot of scars, physical mementoes from this film. And the stunts were a lot easier to do 20 years ago. But I don’t mind the hard physical aspect of making DIE HARD films because doing this kind of film brings this little kid out in me ( he laughs), As kids we used to jump off the roof in the backyard and do really crazy stuff and that’s what it felt like doing this film, being a wild kid again, falling out of trees.
What were some of the most challenging aspects of making the film?
Doing the stunts for real – they are not special effects, they are mostly real.For example, at one point a car flips over ten times narrowly missing Justin and me – that was actually a real car. They had it on cables, it was not CGI. Different guys would have used more effects. Obviously we had stuntmen doing some of the bigger falls.
Is John McClane essentially the same guy?
The character is the same just older and a little crankier. He’s still a regular guy. He’s a guy you see in a bar and want to have a couple of beers with. He does not take himself very seriously.
What were the challenges for you in terms of your career, of stepping back into John McClane’s shoes?
The potential to fail was very high. I can tell you that we didn’t fail and we have made a great film.The hardest part of doing these films is trying to put the character back in jeopardy. Once you get him in jeopardy then it becomes easier because you are on your way. The hook this time is very believable.
What do you think makes your character so hugely likeable and popular?
Well Len and I discussed the fact that there is a mythology now to DIE HARD. John McClane loves his country, he loves his family and he will do anything to protect either. He will help anyone who’s in trouble and he will put that person’s safety ahead of his own. That he is what people identify with and respect, also that he rebels against authority and he’s got a sense of humour, it all adds to the mythology of the character.
What did Len bring to the film?
The thing that Len Wiseman brought to the film is that he took it out of 1986 and moved it into the 21st century. Len Wiseman was really the architect of the film. He was 14 years old when the first film came out. And he told me that as a kid, he made a DIE HARD movie of his own, in his backyard using a 8mm camera. Len was very collaborative. We would talk for hours on set, about what to do and how to do it. He showed up with a huge vision for this film and some of the big set-pieces in this film came out of his head. I wrote, or re-wrote a lot of my dialogue.We just worked together well. You know, the film has turned out great, it is big, very exciting. I would want to go and see this film.
Would you agree that DIE HARD had a formidable influence on the entire action genre and continues to do so?
Along with LETHAL WEAPON, that was shot in the same year, it did became the template for a lot of other films that came afterwards. It spun off a lot of other action movies that tried to replicate that DIE HARD experience and it did have a big impact. But you know, imitation is always a backhanded compliment, it is flattering.
This film deals with terrifying themes. Do you have fears about terrorism yourself?
You have to have an awareness of how dangerous the world is. Demi and Ashton (Kutcher ) and I all work together to teach our three kids what the world is and what is out there, what the dangers are – all the perils of the world that you and I have worked out for ourselves over the years. These kids are just coming into the world and it is hard, but my kids are really smart and really hip, they get it. I am so fortunate that we communicate about everything.
How does your co-star Justin Long fit into the story?
He is the guy who I take by the hand and I drag him through what I experience, but really he is the guy who manages the computer technological side of the film that John McClane could never do, I couldn’t either. I can barely use my BlackBerry. My kids are much more technological than I am.
After all these years, is acting still a passion?
I am very passionate about acting. I get to do all kinds of different films and have a lot of choice, I am lucky. I can make small independent films as well as big films and supporting roles in other people’s movies like GRINDHOUSE and LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN. And then I get to do big juicy studio films like DIE HARD and PERFECT STRANGER. But you know, I am still learning how to act. I am still finding a way. I do my best in everything I take on. Not every film I have done has turned out to be a hit, but I have always tried my hardest. Acting is a passion, I get a very big kick out of it, it is much more than a job for me and always has been, it is the way I express myself creatively.
Do you still enjoying playing music with your band The Accelorators?
I do Because music is something that I get to do and not that I have to assign some kind of monetary award to it. I do it just for myself, I do it just for fun. I couldn’t make a living at it, I would starve.
What are some of your own favourites?
DIE HARD of course, and the others I like – PULP FICTION, SIXTH SENSE, TWELVE MONKEYS . There is also a good movie I did called IMMORTAL THOUGHTS that I did with Demi that didn’t make a lot of noise or money but I like that character. And I liked NOBODY’S FOOL too with Paul Newman. I don’t know if I have done my best work yet though.