How 'Die Hard' Owes Much of Its Success to a Runaway Refrigerator Box

How 'Die Hard' Owes Much of Its Success to a Runaway Refrigerator Box

Jun 16, 2016

The origins of movies and the story of their continued developments are always of interest to die hard fans, and especially to Die Hard fans.

The classic action film has long been known to have a rich history as far as its source materials are concerned. It's somewhat based on the 1979 Roderick Thorp novel Nothing Lasts Forever, which is a sequel to his book The Detective. The earlier work became a movie of the same name in 1968 starring Frank Sinatra, and he was expected to reprise the lead role in the follow up.

Years went by after Sinatra passed on the movie and it was supposedly then reworked as a sequel to Commando (though screenwriter Steven de Souza has denied this). Eventually it wound up being a new property all its own, but there are two interesting things that happened along the way that have just been revealed in the Kindle e-book Die Hard: An Oral History. The movie's other screenwriter, Jeb Stuart, offers up the story of how it became, at its heart, a movie about an estranged married couple in need of reconciliation.

Cinema Blend relays the details, how Stuart had gotten into a big fight with his wife before storming out and then experienced a near-death situation that led to an epiphany. As he was driving, a refrigerator box fell out of the back of a truck in front of him. Fortunately it was empty, or it might have been the last thing he ever saw. And he never would have had a chance to make up with his wife. That's where the change was made so it's John McClane's wife who works at the L.A. skyscraper, not his daughter as in the novel.

"It's not about a 65-year-old man whose 40-year-old daughter gets dropped off a building," Stuart explains in the new e-book. "It's about a 30-year-old guy who should have said he's sorry to his wife, and then bad stuff happens." Yes, spoiler alert for the original novel, the hero's daughter (named Stephanie Gennaro instead of Lucy McClane) dies at the end, falling from the building along with villain Anton "Little Tony the Red" (not Hans) Gruber. At the end of Die Hard, the wife, Holly Gennaro McClane, has to be saved, in order for that final bit of making up.

One more interesting bit of trivia regarding the back story of Die Hard involves the name. Obviously it was changed from the novel, which doesn't sound much like a cool action movie, but where did it come from? It turns out it originated with Shane Black, who also indirectly inspired the Christmas setting via the success of Lethal Weapon -- both were produced by Joel Silver, who liked the idea. Die Hard was the initial title for Black's script that wound up renamed The Last Boy Scout. Silver preferred the title for the earlier production.

Die Hard, of course, became a hit and is considered one of the finest action movies ever made. As usual -- until it's selected -- fans are lobbying for it to be entered into the National Film Registry, and you can help in the quest by nominating it here




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