Barefooted Boy: How a Comedian Bruce Willis Became a Tough Guy

  Thirty years ago in the midst of summer, the American screens were visited by “Die Hard”. This Hollywood action was incredible – they managed to turn the comedian...


Thirty years ago in the midst of summer, the American screens were visited by “Die Hard”. This Hollywood action was incredible – they managed to turn the comedian Willis into an action movie hero. How a film, which was problematic in the production, admitted to the territory where formerly run indestructible Schwarzenegger and Stallone, and a vulnerable character, became American classics and gave rise to a wave of imitations. 

Natural selection

The story of Die Hard began in 1979, when Roderick Thorpe, an author of police thrillers, released the novel “Nothing Nevermore”, the continuation of his hit “Detective” (1966), which was shown in 1968 with Frank Sinatra starring. Following the contract, the 20th Century Fox studio, which produced the “Detective”, was obliged to offer the role to Sinatra in the continuation. The 73-year-old singer predictably showed no interest, and the script was rewritten under Schwarzenegger to make a sequel to Mark Lester’s “Commando”.


But Iron Arnie also refused: in the scenario left the German origin of most villains, and the hero and anti-heroes, while speaking with an obvious German accent, would turn the action movie into a farce. Then the producers turned to Sylvester Stallone. When he also said “no”, they tried all the actors, somehow associated with the genre of the action movie.

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From despair, the studio appealed even to actors with a reputation of serious men. So the list of refuses was supplemented by the unexpected Richard Gere (in the opinion of which the hero was to be a character in the spirit of Ian Fleming) and Al Pacino. In the end, the script was sent to Bruce Willis, whose fame was at that time held on a series of romantic and eccentric comedies, primarily on the television series “Detective Agency” Moonlight “. The studio reinforced its proposal with a check for $ 5 million, convincing the actor that if the film fails (there were even fears that, while shooting in “Die Hard”, Willis risks a career), then he will have something to console himself with. Willis agreed.


Human factor


No one believed in the casting of Willis. His portrait was not even placed on the first promo posters – there were only flaming skyscraper and helicopters. The irony is that, despite a couple of spectacular scenes with pyrotechnics, the film focuses on the human factor – the hero’s vicissitudes, as well as the relationship between the characters.

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In fact, “Die Hard” is not only an action but also a psychological drama. The very acquaintance of the viewer with the protagonist – the ordinary New York policeman, which sets the tone for the whole film, begins not with the typical scene for the action movies of the 1980s of the bloody justice over another rascal, but with an episode of human weakness.


The image of McClain went simultaneously and from the inflated improbability of Stallone and Schwarzenegger, which became popular in the Reagan era, and from the glossy, equally implausible elegance of James Bond, whose popularity in the late 1980s was already dwindling. He really is not a hero in the usual sense of this word. He does not have any super abilities (except for the unexpected equilibrist talent that McClain shows in the elevator shaft), neither the steroid flea of Slay and Arnie nor the indisputable aplomb of B-class stars like Steven Seagal or Chuck Norris.

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McClain became the new hero of America: an ordinary guy, your neighbor, always ready to kick ass and protect his life. He was loved by absolutely everyone: women over 50, teenagers, office plankton, retired cops, librarians and so on. But who would have thought that an explosion called “Die Hard” would be so strong? Could Bruce Willis expect to have such a radical change in his acting career?


It is for this that we love the movie world – when unexpectedly in the universe of established cliches something unexpected happens, we have the opportunity to observe real revolutions and historical moments.  


Photo Credit:Hindustan Times

One Comment
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    Chalta Purza
    14 March 2019 at 1:31 am
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    He is a really nice actor Bruce Willis. I liked his performance in Die Hard movie. Thank you very much for this information.

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