Sunday, December 18, 2011

It’s a John McClane Kind of Christmas

Not every Christmas movie ends with a cliche — let’s say a family of chestnuts gathering for a soak in a mug of eggnog while the Coca-Cola polar bears dance around Zuzu’s petals in the background. The best ones are simply Christmas-tangential, by which I mean the holiday serves only as the backdrop and not the focus. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Poseidon Adventure, The Rules of Attraction, Batman Returns, Less Than Zero, The Ref and even the original Black Christmas make the most of decked halls and the enforced sense of mirth that come with Christmas while not ending with clanging Christmas Eve church bells. And, of course, there’s Die Hard, which I watched today for the first time in years. Great film. Exemplary action movie. Holiday classic. And I’m celebrating it the best way I know how: with trivia.

Here, in the spirit of giving, are three facts about Die Hard you may find surprising.

One: It was originally planned as a sequel to the 1985 movie Commando, with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character scrambling through a big-city skyscraper, picking off terrorists. I think the end result benefitted for starring Bruce Willis instead, though I wouldn’t mind hearing Arnold Schwarzenegger attempt the like “Yippie-kay-yay, motherfucker.” The fact that General Esperanza in Die Hard 2 hails from the factional Latin American nation of Val Verde is a nod to the setting of Commando.

Two: Though initially planned as a sequel to Commando, the plot originated in a 1979 detective novel, Nothing Lasts Forever, which itself was the sequel to The Detective, a book that was adapted into a film of the same name in 1968. It starred Frank Sinatra, who is essentially playing a prototype for Bruce Willis’s Die Hard character.

Three: Hans Gruber, the ur-90s action film heavy played by Alan Rickman, gets his name from a minor villain in the 1966 spy movie parody Our Man Flint. The film starred James Coburn as a twist on James Bond… thirty years before Mike Myers played a similar character in Austin Powers. (In fact, the ringtone of Austin’s personal phone is lifted directly from one in Our Man Flint, though before Austin it had been used in the less successful Bruce Willis action flick, Hudson Hawk.) The Hans Gruber of Our Man Flint gets iced by Flint in a toilet stall, so you might even say that that Irish assassin in Austin Powers — “They’re always after me lucky charms!” — has some shared DNA with the Die Hard Hans Gruber.

Non-trivia-related postscript: What is the best way to write out the word yippie-kay-yay, anyway?

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