Justin Long and Director Lin Wiseman join Bruce in the park for a candid discussion about their latest sequel
It was loud in Woodley Park today. So loud, we could barely hear Bruce Willis as he took the microphone under a small blue tent. In auspicious place for an interview, we were there to discuss his role as John McClane in the new Live Free or Die Hard film.
Co-star Justin Long and director Lin Wiseman joined Bruce in the park. The fifty-two year old actor looked rather cut. He wore a Speed Racer Shirt. And he drank an RC Cola. This is what he and his coworkers had to say:
Bruce Willis: Can you try and make it quieter, please? Hey, Justin, hustle over here. Stop flirting and get over here. God, he runs like a chick. Come on, buddy. We got to get Lin back to the editing room so he can finish the editing. How is everybody doing? You guys aren't smoking weed out here, are you?
No, of course not.
Justin Long: Then there goes my second question.
In the first three Die Herds, John McClane was a reluctant hero. In this one he seems to be embracing his role as the action hero.
Bruce Willis: Really?
Is that the case?
Bruce Willis: No. Now I will be extra reluctant now.
Lin Wiseman: Since I'm still in the process of making the movie, what made you think that he wasn't as reluctant?
He was really into the shoot-out at the beginning. He just seemed to jump head first into everything.
Bruce Willis: One of the things a friend of ours said early on, a kid named Jason Smilovic, who wrote Lucky Number Slevin, came up with the idea of the mythology of Die Hard. Part of the mythology of Die Hard is that John McClane loves his country. He loves his family. He's not going to let anybody hurt anyone who can't really defend themselves. Which is the situation I think you are talking about in Matt's apartment. (A loud jet goes overhead) That jet may be landing right here. But, yeah, I think (shouts over the plane) GIVEN A CHOICE...Given a choice of being able to not do what I have to do in this film, or any of the Die Hard films, I wouldn't do it.
The part of the film we saw showed John McClane being a very protective father. Can you relate to that aspect yourself?
Bruce Willis: I can relate to it, but that's just kind of overly dramatized in the film. My relationship with my daughters is just a lot more up front than that. What we've done as parents is try to send the girls out in the world with as much information about what those sixteen year old boys are thinking. We asked Justin what those young boys are thinking. Hopefully, that will keep them be safe. But it is just overly dramatized in the film. The character of Lucy McClane was not in the original draft of this film. That idea just kind of came to us as we went along. Mary Elizabeth Winstead really did a great job in this film. She brought her own kind of McClane-isms that kind of help towards the end of the film. Its both funny, and is a McClane-ism.
Lin Wiseman: Where does the footage stop that you guys saw?
Bruce Willis: Right after John says, "You are the criminal, you tell me." Right before our love scene.
Justin Long: Good, they didn't get to see that.
Bruce Willis: Right where they first kiss.
Are you strict with your own daughters in real life?
Bruce Willis: No, I'm not strict with them at all. I just tell them that I want to meet the guys they are seeing. That's the only thing I ask for. I just give them that little look. And I always put one of them in charge. If they bring a little group of guys over to the house to have a pool party, or whatever, I say, "Dude, what's your name?" And he says, "Sinjin." I say, "Sinjin, you are in charge. If anything happens to one of my daughters, I'm going after you first. Then I'm going to kill all of your friends right in front of you. And you will all be last."
Justin Long: I had the good fortune of meeting all of his daughters. They are all very smart. They are on this whole other level. Very elevated. They are very aware and very wise. The all made fun of us. Me and Bruce.
Lin Wiseman Scout was making fun of my man-rings. Should we be talking about this during a press conference?
Justin LongBut they were all very witty and mature. Someone did a good job.
Bruce Willis: Are all of you with the press corp.? Or are some of you out here having a picnic? You just thought you'd sit in today.
Justin Long: They probably want to watch the dog fight.
Two part question. Bruce, how did you hook up with Lin. And then Lin, what was the most challenging thing for you in making a film like this?
Bruce Willis: I don't really know how I hooked up with Lin. I can't even remember what I did last week. To answer a question about something that happened a year ago...I'm just kidding. I remember. I just sat down with him. My daughter Scout told me, even before I met Lin to sit down and talk about this film...My daughter turned me onto Underworld. I thought it was great. Just so happens that Fox asks me a couple of weeks later to sit down with him. It was a pretty easy choice to make. We both had similar ideas and goals about the kind of Die Hard we wanted to make. It's really easy to sit here and talk about the film now, because it really did turn out great. Unfortunately, you guys only saw twenty minutes of it. The film rocks. Its actually one of my favorite Die Hards.
Justin Long: It's your forth favorite.
Bruce Willis: (He throws a walnut at Justin) It's not "the" favorite. The weakest link really was Justin...
Justin Long: I'll second that, genuinely.
Bruce Willis: We both wanted to stay away from the CG aspect. That would have been a really easy thing to do with a film like this. To compete with every other CG film that is out this summer. What was the second part of your question? For Lin?
What was the most challenging thing for you on this film?
Lin Wiseman: The scale of it wasn't so much of a problem. I found that to be a lot of fun. To have the toys to do the action the proper way? That was fun for me. But, I guess the most challenging thing for me is that this is part of a trilogy. One that I am very close too. I have two responsibilities. One, to make the film. And two, to watch the film as the fan that I am. So, I always look at it that way. When I'm in meetings. When I look at the script. Is this going to be the movie that I want to see. Because I'm only doing it because I am a fan. That was the biggest challenge. The other stuff can be a headache, but it's a lot of fun to blow stuff up.
Bruce Willis: It's the most fun. But it was a tough shooting schedule, too. It was a really bizarre shooting schedule.
You can make any movie you want to. Why did you decide to remake something that was already twelve years old going into it?
Bruce Willis: That's a very good question. I could have retired undefeated. The first three Die Hards earned somewhere around $1.3 billion in international revenue. But, in retrospect, I was never as happy with the second and third one as I was with the first one. And I always wanted to do one more, and see if we could come close to the quality and the feel. Just the level of drama, and at the same time, just the elements of the first film. The potential to fail was really high. I can't tell you how good it feels to be sitting here talking about a film that I have already seen and know is really strong and powerful. And it really satisfies me in a way that it was what I had set out to do. And I'm a gambler by nature. I would have rather taken a risk than not. You guys have seen some of the risks I have taken that didn't succeed.
Do you have a list of those?
Bruce Willis: I think you know those films better than I do. The one with the shorts on the boat. (Mock pukes to the side) I remember saying before that film, "How bad could it be?"
Justin Long: You did get to work with Sarah Jessica Parker.
Justin, did you ever get teased by the crew for being this nerdy MAC computer guy?
Justin Long: It was mostly behind my back. My answer will be pretty long and involved.
How long did it take you to shoot some of these action sequences?
Bruce Willis: You would have to give me a specific scene.
How about the one in the tunnel?
Bruce Willis: How long did that take?
Lin Wiseman: The first unit was in there for maybe ten days. It feels like ten days.
Bruce Willis: But second unit was in there for a while. That car you see flipping in the ad. I don't know if you saw it in the twenty-minute section you saw, but that is a real car flipping. They cabled it up and flipped it six or seven times before they were happy with it. They were probably in there for a month's time.
Justin Long: I've never done a movie like this before. It was crazy for me to see how long and involved all these stunts were. When you see the movie, you forget what you did. You forget what the means to the end is going to be. Then you see it, and all those weeks and weeks of setting up and waiting just fades in seconds of film. And these scenes that I freaked out about, where I was doing push-ups, and trying to stay in character, and remembering all these lines....And then you just see me going, "Blahh!" That's all it is. I was freaking out about it, and my friend who works on CSI said, you are not going to have time to look good or bad. It's just going to be a quick shot of you, and that's it. It was just amazing considering all the time. These guys probably see it all the time. But it was really fast, and then it was over. In terms of people making fun of me, they did for many reasons. Not just because of the geek thing. There was the whole effeminate thing. I have three testicles.
Lin Wiseman: Just don't show your testicles.
Justin Long: I can't help it. I win a lot of money that way. I don't think anybody really bothered me. Everyone wanted me to get them an Iphone. People that never talked to me. People do often come up to me. People that recognize me from the Mac thing are always very casual about it. They never seem at all impressed. "Oh, there's a rock. There's a tree. There's the MAC guy." They are very nonchalant. I don't know why they wouldn't be. People also ask me a lot about computers. I play a hacker in this movie, and I have to deliver a lot of exposition...
Lin Wiseman: That's what amazed me the most. How much you don't know about computers.
Justin Long: I am very, very computer illiterate. I think it is so funny that someone who is as retarded as I am is playing these, like, smart hacker guys. I get the worst of both worlds. I look like a geeky hacker, but I don't know anything about computers.
Bruce Willis: It's a lose-lose situation.
Over the years, there have been many ideas for another Die Hard. One even had you and Ben Affleck in the jungle, or something. What made this particular one the story you wanted to do.
Lin Wiseman: That one did come out, the one with you and Ben Affleck.
Bruce Willis: That was Cole Hauser. But, um, it just seemed like the right time. It was a good script, and a bunch of different elements conspired to bring it together. At a certain point, it was just a leap of faith. I had to say, "Lets take a shot." I liked what Lin had to say about the film. I was confident that if we got a good story, that we could improve upon that. That's what we ultimately did. At the end of the day, when it's at the eleventh and a half hour, you just have to say, "Here we go." Look, it could have sucked. We could be sitting here trying to get you excited about it. The really rewarding thing is knowing that we have a great film. When I saw the first cut of this film, I was so impressed and relieved at the same time. It really is kind of counter programming to what is out there this summer. But the Ben Affleck thing, I don't know where that came from. I had heard that before. There are a lot of rumors out there. Are you an internet guy? There you go. A lot of rumors out there.
Lin Wiseman: I hear someone pitched you the idea, "It's Die Hard in a building." It had come completely full circle. They said, "No, it's a really big building." I couldn't believe it.
With just a month left to go, can you tell me what's left to finish?
Lin Wiseman: I can tell you right now, because they keep texting me about getting back to finish those parts. We're in the middle of doing the final mix right now. The sound, and the score. All that stuff. That's where it's at right now. With the visual effects, you are always tweaking things. Our running time will be right at two hours.
Justin, did you ever do any improv on the set?
Justin Long: Yeah. They always wanted us to do a bunch scripted, but the script was always in a constant state of flux. So, there was defiantly some improvising. Bruce did some, too. In those moments where I'm supposed to be scared for my life, it's hard to stick to the script if you want to make it natural. The dialogue was not solidified. So, there was a lot of improv. Plus, he left a lot of that in the film. I was really surprised.
Bruce Willis: This film was not shot in sequence. Very few films are shot that way. Had we shot the film in sequence, we might have stuck a little bit closer to the dialogue in the script. But we had to shoot alternate takes of almost every scene in case there was a scene that we didn't shoot. There was one scene, the scene that had to do with Kevin Smith. We called it the Warlock scene, because that was his character's name. We only had Kevin Smith for three days. And it was a really locked in three days. And anything that we didn't know if it was going to be in the film or not, we said, "Let's put it in the Warlock scene." So, by the time we got to his scene, it was nine pages long. Fortunately, we had shot enough of the film that we knew what we needed in that scene and what we didn't. Kevin Smith actually helped us write a lot of that scene. Or cut a lot of it, rather.
A while back you said your days as an action hero were numbered, because you are getting older. Now, at 52 and having gone through the process, how do you feel about it?
Bruce Willis: I know a lot of cops that are actually my age. If you get in shape...I'm living testament that you can do a film like this and survive. I had to work out a lot to get my muscles to the size that they protected my bones, so they wouldn't shatter when I dove onto the concrete floor. But I lived through it. I get beat up, but you see that on screen. I'm glad I didn't wait a couple more years. Don't try this at home. There was a lot of healing. I wish I would have kept a running log of how much hide got scrapped off me.
Does that mean this is the last Die Hard?
Bruce Willis: No, I don't think so. Fox is already talking about doing another one. I told them I would only do it if Lin (Wiseman) was involved. And Maggie Q. Oh, yeah...And Justin of course. We couldn't do it without Justin. It's been twenty-one years. That is the span of all four of them. So you can see me when I'm thirty-one, and you can see me when I'm fifty-two. There are moments in the film where you see me getting up a little slower.
Lin Wiseman: You look like you're in better shape than you were in the third one.
Bruce Willis: I am in better shape. I was a beat-up alcoholic cop in that one. I spent years researching that one.
Live Free or Die Hard hits theaters on June 28th, 2007.