The Best of the Best
Meet the juggernaut: 20th Century Fox.
Known for producing major film franchises like Star Wars, X-Men, and Alien, the company has more than cemented its action movie brand. But frankly, they do everything, including television. Since its beginnings in the early '30s, 20th Century Fox has dominated the film industry, and we're betting you've seen more than a few movies that begin a little something like this.
While 20th Century Fox has the name recognition, it was mainly responsible for the distribution of the film, while Die Hard was actually produced by Silver Pictures, a small but mighty production company founded by famous producer Joel Silver in 1985. Known for a slew of action movies, Silver Pictures also produced Die Hard's first sequel.
Luckily for them, 20th Century Fox had the rights to Die Hard pretty much sewn up from the get-go. The movie is based on a 1979 novel by Roderick Thorp called Nothing Lasts Forever. This novel was a sequel of Thorp's previous work, The Detective, which Fox had made into a movie starring Frank Sinatra in 1968. As the legend goes, a producer at Fox needed only to see the book cover, with a picture of a high-rise aflame and a circling helicopter, before deciding on the spot to buy the rights. For more on this, see "Screenwriter."
On Set at the Office
While we're sure they did tons of work marketing the movie and the like, we here at Shmoop think that 20th Century Fox's biggest contribution to Die Hard is Nakatomi Plaza itself. That's right: Nakatomi Plaza is, in fact, the real-life corporate headquarters of 20th Century Fox, and just so happened to be under construction at the time of Die Hard's filming.
Many, if not most, of the interior and exterior scenes were shot in and around the building, making for some tricky legal negotiations with Fox's army of lawyers and the movie's stunt-production team. After all, the building was a shining beacon of Fox's industry success, and the moviemakers wanted to rip it to shreds on the silver screen. For more on this, see "Setting."
Worries About Willis
Since Fox was the distributor for the film, they had a hand in Die Hard's less-than-blockbusting initial release. It may be hard to believe, but back then, Bruce Willis's star was not on the rise. He was mainly known for playing a wisecracking private eye in the TV rom-com Moonlighting and hadn't exactly established his action movie street cred. In his personal life, he had cultivated a bit of a bad boy reputation, so Fox attempted to downplay his role in their marketing campaign, airing TV ads that deemphasized his central role.
They ate their words soon enough. Many credit Willis's turn as the iconic John McClane as one of the many keys to the movie's success. And while Willis may not have been an action star before Die Hard, afterwards the genre became his bread and butter, and we now consider him one of the icons of the genre.