Most fans and critics agree that Die Hard is one of the most influential and greatest action movies that Hollywood has ever produced. But a section of the fandom will also swear that it is one of the best Christmas movies of all time. The question of whether or not Die Hard qualifies as a Christmas flick has led to many lively debates online. Now, the director of the movie John McTiernan has offered his expertise on the topic. In a video for AFI, McTiernan revealed how the original premise for Die Hard was vastly different from what the movie ended up becoming.
"Joel Silver sent me the script three, four times. And it was about these horrible leftist terrorists that come into the sort of Valhalla of capitalism, Los Angeles, and they bring their guns and their evil ways and they shoot up people just celebrating Christmas, terrible people, awful. And it was really about the stern face of authority stepping into put things right again, you know? And I kept saying to Joel, I don't want to make that."
McTiernan wanted the movie to go in a different, less hard-boiled direction, and he came up with a plan for infusing the script with the spirit of Christmas, taking cues from It's a Wonderful Life, particularly the film's "Pottersville" sequence where "the evil banker gets to do what he wants in the community without George, Jimmy Stewart, getting in a way to stop it."
"I went to Joel. And I said, 'Okay, if you want me to make this terrorist movie, I want to make it where the hero in the first scene when the limo driver apologizes that he's never been in a limo before. The hero says it's alright. I've never ridden in a limo before. Okay, working class hero. And Joel understood what I meant. And he said, Okay. And so we started to work on it....And in fact, everybody, as they came to work on the movie began to get, as I said, this idea of this movie as an escapee. And there was a joy in it. Because we were, we've had changed the content. And that is how Die Hard became, we hadn't intended it to be a Christmas movie, but the joy that came from it is what turned it into a Christmas movie. And that's really the best I can tell you about it."
And there you have it. Turns out people on both sides of the "Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?" argument were a little bit right. The film was not originally meant to be a holiday flick, but infusing the characters and the situations with the spirit of the season helped make the story better and more joyous. Instead of getting yet another Dirty Harry knock-off, John McTiernan and his crew gave audiences one of the most heart-warming action movies ever made and added a little more variety to the Christmas movie genre.