|by Peter Sobczynski
The star of the eagerly anticipated "Live Free or Die Hard" is all by himself in a hotel room and being peppered with stupid questions. Will he survive? Read on and find out.
In “Live Free or Die Hard,” the long-awaited fourth installment of the enormously popular “Die Hard” action franchise, Bruce Willis is set upon by machine-gun-toting goons, kung-fu-kicking babes, hurtling automobiles, helicopters, exploding gas lines and even a fighter jet in his quest to save America from cyber-terrorists looking to knock out the country’s entire computer infrastructure. Of course, all of those perils pale in comparison to the notion of sitting in a hotel room and having to answer a litany of idiotic questions. Nevertheless, that was the situation that Willis faced a couple of weeks ago when he arrived in Chicago to promote the film to a group of print and radio people. To be fair, the press-oriented people asked reasonably intelligent questions and Willis, who has made no secret in the past of his dislike of the entertainment press, answered them in kind. Alas, the radio people seemed to be having some kind of personal contest to see who could ask the most inane thing possible in an effort to prove why most people no longer listen to terrestrial radio. I’ll put it this way–one woman pulled out a harmonica and asked him to play a little bit for her and that was only the second dumbest question that she personally asked.
As a result, the following interview isn’t as long or as in-depth as some of the other ones that have run here in the past. However, these are some of the more interesting topics that came up during the talk.
Why now for another “Die-Hard” movie?
Why not? It was a long time coming. It was like 12 years to get a script, I thought it was a good time to go back to work and do one of these again. I didn’t have to do it, I didn’t have to do another “Die Hard.” I did it because at this point, it was like taking a risk and I like taking risks.
Over the past 12 years, there have been numerous rumors about a potential fourth “Die Hard” film–there was one that was supposed to take place in the jungle and another in which Britney Spears was rumored to be playing your daughter. Did any of those rumored versions come close to getting off the ground and what was it about “Live Free or Die Hard” that finally got it going after all that time?
The jungle was supposed to happen, the Britney Spears thing, not so much. I read that, too. We were able to get a story that I thought had an interesting concept that you could make a film about. What gets hard when you get to the fourth installment, whether it is “Die Hard” or “Lethal Weapon” or any sequel, is to come up with a story that competes with the earlier films. This one had a more interesting idea to me, an analog cop trying to fight a digital problem.
Of the films in the series, do you have a personal favorite?
These two–the first one and this one–are the ones that I think are most representative of the mythology of “Die Hard.” Len Wiseman was 16 when the first film came out and it was such an odd thing to do a film with a guy who kind of grew up on the “Die Hard” films. I really wanted to do a film that had the benefit of seeing the first three films–Len and I were able to go back and look at the other films to see what we wanted it to be and what we didn’t want it to be in order to get it as close to the first film as we could while bringing it into the 21st century. You try not to do the retread and it is a trick to bring the experience of the first film to audiences again–I can’t come out with “Die Hard: The Musical” because that would be wrong.
Were there moments while filming where you thought it used to be A LOT easier?
Every day, almost every day, yeah. Any day we were doing stunts, it was an interesting day. Fun, still fun, just different Actually, I did more because they say “You’re older, you shouldn’t be doing this” and you say “Oh yeah, watch this!” So much of what that first John McClane character was, that was me at 30. Coming out of New Jersey and New York, the disrespect for authority, the cussing all the time. It’s hard to do a “Die Hard” without cussing.
I wanted to say thanks for all the Letterman appearances. Are you going to be on to promote “Live Free or Die Hard”?
I’m sure I will. We started talking about me coming on when I was on doing press for “Perfect Stranger.” Thanks for noticing, I think now it’s representative of my sense of humor, and the fact that I really make fun of myself and send up the whole thing about being famous.
Any plans for this one?
No, we talked about some stuff. I don’t know if you saw the last one, but we crammed a TON of stuff into it. Always a better day when you have the video montage. But I didn’t remember a lot of that stuff, until I saw it. Someone asked, “Did you really dress as a woman?” But, I’m not the only one here that’s dressed as a woman. But, it really is a pleasure and Dave loves it if you come in and try. [When he did make his appearance, he wore a windmill hat, attempted to set off an enormous firecracker and “jumped” off the roof of the building in an ill-advised attempt to hit a swimming pool sitting on the street outside the Ed Sullivan Theater]
One of the things about the original “Die Hard” that still makes an impact on viewers today is that all of the big action sequences were done without the aid of computer-generated imagery–those were real stunts and real explosions. Over the years, of course, the technology of action filmmaking has changed dramatically to the point where you can do a film like “Sin City” in which you are basically standing in front of a green screen by yourself and all of the other aspects are added in later with digital trickery. For you, what is it like to work in such extremes and how did they come into play on “Live Free or Die Hard”?
It’s a really different experience. “Sin City” was a specific use of digital technology and cameras that you would normally use for a home video, only real big. I think I’m lucky to do both kind of things. They use different sets of muscles. It is different to imagine that the whole city is over there when it is just a green screen and a staircase going up to little Nancy’s house. That is a good question because with this “Die Hard,” we had the conversation on a regular basis on keeping the stunts non-CGI and not relying on that technology. They took it to some pretty extreme things. They really took a car and drove it into a real helicopter. I wasn’t there on that day–we were shooting something else on the street and they had to do it a couple of times because they couldn’t get the car going fast enough and it would miss the helicopter. The car in the tunnel that you see flipping in the trailer–that is a real car! They hooked cables to that car and flipped it like 28 times. I think that was the ideal way–to not make it CG–because that is the old school side of “Die Hard” and we really wanted to go the other way because the film was about technology and the low-tech response of John McClane. To him, driving a car into a helicopter seems like the right thing to do at the time.
You’re the cameo king right now, with “Astronaut Farmer,” “Fast Food Nation,” “Nancy Drew” and “Grindhouse.” Are you just building up an arsenal of people that owe you?
Yeah, all favors, all debts that I’m going to call in later. I do films for a lot of different reasons, like this film. I wanted to challenge myself and take risks. Sometimes I do films because I’m returning favors or I wanted to work with an actor that I like. But last year did seem like a cameo year. I think I’m going to take a break, take a year off and be a normal human being.
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originally posted: 06/27/07 11:07:01
last updated: 06/27/07 11:16:12