The action hero was a child of the ’80s. Sure, we had smooth-talking Humphrey Bogarts and swaggering Marlon Brandos decades earlier, but the archetypal action hero – the muscle-bound, gun-clutching cliché we’ve come to know and love – truly came of age in movie-making’s most overblown decade.
It seems as though those hard-boiled, half-baked action smashes of old are in vogue right now, judging by the recent return of the genre’s holy trinity of ’80s action heroes: Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and Willis. A few weeks back old Arnie broke a ten-year leading man hiatus in thrilling Tex-Mex shoot-’em-up The Last Stand. Last week Sly Stallone proved he still had it going on with the UAE release of Bullet to the Head. And this week Bruce Willis reprises his most memorable role as Die Hard’s John McClane. We sat down with the man himself to get the lowdown.
Did you need much persuading to do another Die Hard movie?
No, no. Really it has to do with whether someone can come up with a good story [for a new film]. What we realised before we started putting this script together is that the Die Hard films are more fun when there’s a family element in there – when there’s some family member to take the mickey out of my character, John McClane, and tell me how wrong I am and how much I don’t know. I like this kid in the new film who plays my son, Jai Courtney. He’s very good. He has a heavy Australian accent, but when he came into the audition it sounded like he was from South Jersey.
What happened to the white vest? You’re not wearing it this time.
Someone wanted to try out a new look. But that was always my good look – the T-shirt. That shirt saved my life on Die Hard 3. Sam Jackson and I were jumping off a boat into a river, and there was an explosion. We were to jump onto a high scaffold, and a grip named Tony Whitman was on the scaffolding and caught me as I was about to go flying to my death. He grabbed that little tiny T-shirt and pulled me back! My family thanks you for saving my life.
Why are Brits so often the bad guys in the Die Hard films?
It’s a Shakespearean thing – they’re all much better actors. In this case, Alan Rickman broke the mould. A lot of people over at Fox wish that we didn’t kill him off in the first one!
You were in The Expendables 2, which took a wink-wink attitude towards older action heroes. How long can you go on?
I’m sure my body will tell me when it’s time to hang it up. As long as I can still run and act like I’m running fast. I’m happy we didn’t go for the wink-wink version with this. People do get hurt and blown up in the film – all in the name of entertainment. We’ve seen other films where they just start going for the comedy in the second and third film.
How much did you have to work out to prepare for this role? You turn 58 this year.
I don’t think I had to do any more for this film than the workout I was already doing. I work out for myself and for my kids, so I can horse around and run and play with them.
Do people expect you to be harder than you are?
Sometimes in the pub! Sometimes people come up to me and say, ‘I’m going to fight John McClane.’ But I’m not a fighter! I’m just an actor. I work. It’s happened from time to time. Not often, but it’s happened.
Are you as tough to work with as director Kevin Smith makes out? He said working with you on Cop Out was ‘soul crushing’.
Poor Kevin. He’s just a whiner, you know? We had some personal issues about how we approached work and he takes a very different path to creativity. I don’t have an answer for him. I’m never going to call him out in public. Sometimes you just don’t get along.
Is the best of Bruce yet to come?
I had a pretty good time in 2011 and 2012 – I worked with Stephen Frears, Wes Anderson, Rian Anderson, and Die Hard turned out well. Is the best yet to come? It’s been fun for me, I like it. I don’t know what the best is. I only compete with myself. I don’t feel like I compete with other actors. I’m just trying to improve myself and be better in the next film than the last one. It’s just pretence. We’re just acting.
Are you still scratching your head over what the title of this movie actually means?
It’s a vanity that someone over at Fox gets to name the film. It’s naming day, and I go, ‘A Good Day To Die Hard?’ It sounds so complicated. What do you think?
It doesn’t make any sense. But we guess, for a global audience, it sounds okay?
Yeah, everybody is going to end up calling it Die Hard 5 anyway.
A Good Day to Die Hard is released on Thursday February 14.