In the middle of my conversation with Bruce Willis at the Four Seasons, the lights inexplicably go out and we’re plunged into darkness. John McClane, his Die Hard alter ego, would probably punch me in the face, ask me who I was working for, and deliver some kind of kicky cowboy wisecrack — “Well, yippee-ki-yay, bitch.” But Willis just stays put, unfazed. In fact, he alternates between staring into space and doodling on a pad while he talks. Is he bored?
WOULD HE DO DIE HARD FIVE?: "I would do another one. I think I’ve learned to not say no. I had a ball on this film."
He’s been doing this a long time, that’s for sure. The first Die Hard came out almost 20 years ago. That film, along with the work of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, helped energize and define a successful brand of American machismo moviemaking, one punctuated with high-tech explosions, blood and guts, and deadpan, cynical one-liners, usually delivered as a bad guy meets his end.
Now Willis is promoting the fourth installment of the Die Hard franchise, Live Free or Die Hard, which opens this week. (Still waiting for one called So Die Already.) Dressed in blue jeans and a collared shirt, his head shaved, a smug, easy smile on his face, he’s an amiable sort, but he admits that, when he’s doing press, he likes to jerk people’s chains, just to see what happens. Here he squawks about Paris Hilton, Hollywood, and the scariest thing he’s done in his adult life.
In Live Free or Die Hard, everyman John MCClane attempts to outsmart a hacker who’s trying to shut down the entire nation.
And not very successfully. That’s kind of the concept of this film, that the world’s technology has passed John by.
You’ve often said that the first Die Hard film was, in your mind, the only good one. If Die Hard: 2 and Die Hard: With a Vengeance didn’t live up to your standards, why did you decide to do a fourth?
I wanted to see if we could do another one of these films, another Die Hard that came closer to the values and the qualities of the first one. I mean, the second and third films have their fans, and I’m a little bit of a tougher critic with those movies. The third film, Die Hard with a Vengeance, I thought was pretty good. They should have called it “Thank God Sam Jackson’s in the Movie.” But I just wanted to try again, and I wanted to make a movie that brought the Die Hard franchise into the 21st century.
Is this the last Die Hard movie? Would you go in for number five if you were asked?
I would do another one. I think I’ve learned to not say no. After I did the first one, I was really adamant. I said, “I’m not going to do any more of these Die Hard films.” And now I’ve done three more. I had a ball on this film.