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Die Hard with a Vengeance

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Die-hard-with-a-vengeance movie-poster-01
Die Hard with a Vengeance theatrical poster
Written by Roderick Thorp (characters)
Jonathan Hensleigh
Directed by John McTiernan
Produced by John McTiernan
Michael Tadross
Starring Bruce Willis
Jeremy Irons
Samuel L. Jackson
Larry Bryggman
Graham Greene
Colleen Camp
Music by Michael Kamen
Cinematography by Peter Menzies Jr.
Editing by John Wright
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Buena Vista Pictures
Release Date May 19, 1995
Budget $90,000,000 US
Preceded by Die Hard 2
Followed by Live Free or Die Hard

Die Hard with a Vengeance is the third film in the Die Hard series starring Bruce Willis as police officer John McClane, released in 1995. Vengeance introduces Samuel L. Jackson as Zeus Carver, Willis' reluctant partner. Jeremy Irons plays the main villain, Simon Gruber. It was directed by John McTiernan and written by Jonathan Hensleigh. It was followed by Live Free or Die Hard in 2007 and A Good Day to Die Hard in 2013.


Main article: In-depth synopsis of Die Hard with a Vengeance

The antagonist in this movie is Simon Gruber (Jeremy Irons), brother of Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman, who, like Irons, was an English actor playing a German). Hans was a German criminal who was killed by McClane at the climax of Die Hard, the first film in the series. It first appears as though the elder Gruber is out to avenge his brother's death but it is later revealed that other motives are at work.

He begins by blowing up a bomb in a busy street and telling the police, calling himself "Simon", that McClane must walk through Harlem displaying a sandwich board reading "I hate niggers". When some offended African-Americans threaten him they are held back at gunpoint by shopkeeper and black activist Zeus Carver. Carver gets McClane away, not out of concern for a white man, but that the colleagues of a white cop might go gunning for every black man in the area if one of their own is killed. Simon now insists that this "Good Samaritan" has become part of the game whether he likes it or not.

Simon has planted real as well as phony bombs throughout the city, and forces McClane and Carver to participate in a game of "Simon says", which usually consists of giving them information about a bomb and giving them a chance to defuse it.

The first game happens at a public telephone. Simon calls and reads them the As I Was Going to St Ives riddle saying that he set a bomb near the phone ooth in a trash can. To answer the riddle, McClane needs to dial 555 followed by the answer within 30 seconds. They make the call, but are 10 seconds late. Simon laughs and says there is no bomb, since he "didn't say 'Simon Says'."


Zeus and John listening to Simon on the pay phone

McClane is told they have half an hour to go to a phone at a subway station near Wall Street from where they are on the upper west side. To do this, McClane drives through Central Park and makes a radio call for an ambulance which they follow through heavy traffic. McClane manages to climb into the subway train from an above grating and finds the bomb, quickly chucking it out the train window. Only Zeus makes it to the station to pick up the call. Simon says that McClane's absence is a breach of the rules and the bomb is detonated, but it turns out that Simon intended for the bomb to go off anyway, since an activation switch was placed on the subway tracks to detonate the bomb once the subway car hit the switch.

After the bomb is detonated, they must go to another park to answer another riddle. This time Simon says "What has four legs and is always ready to travel?" Zeus figures out that it is an elephant, and they find a briefcase bomb in an elephant fountain in the park. After a short argument on whether or not to open the briefcase, John decides to open it. When he does, an LCD screen reads "I am a bomb. You have just armed me." Simon then calls them again, telling them that they must use a 5 gallon and a 3 gallon jug to put exactly 4 gallons of water on the bomb's scale to disarm it, which they do in the nick of time.

Simon's next riddle is "What is 21 out of 42?" Zeus figures out that there have been 42 Presidents of the United States, but is unable to remember who the 21st was. Later, a truck driver tells McClane it is Chester A. Arthur and it identifies a school in which Simon claims to have placed a bomb - it is later found to be Chester A. Arthur Elementary School, where Zeus's two nephews, Raymond and Dexter attend. However, Simon has other plans for the bulk of his explosives, and the bomb the police find in the school is an elaborate dummy filled with pancake syrup.

As Zeus and McClane are traveling between destinations, McClane catches and reprimands a boy for stealing a candy bar. The boy comments that every cop in the city is searching the schools and one could, as the boy puts it, "steal City Hall". McClane abruptly realizes the nature of Simon's plan.

So far the police have been led to believe that all this is an overblown act of revenge. However, it is really a diversion from Simon's real goal: to rob the high-security vault in the basement of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which holds 5000 tons of gold bullion of several foreign nations, even more than Fort Knox. The need to search the thousands of schools in New York means that the police, emergency and Federal agencies are all occupied elsewhere. This enables Simon and his army of East European mercenaries to break into the vault and make their escape with a dozen dump trucks filled to the brim with gold bars.

McClane and Carver see through the plan and catch up with the gang as they embark their trucks on board a stolen ship. They are captured and left on the ship with a huge bomb. (At this point they hold a heart-to-heart, with McClane admitting that he and his wife are yet again estranged, and Carver trying to convince him to try to at least call her.)

They both manage to escape the ship just as the bomb explodes. Simon has led them to believe that the gold was still aboard the ship and that the whole thing was a plot to upset the world economy. However McClane guesses that it is yet another diversion and that the gold is safely elsewhere. After suffering a horrible headache all day, McClane had finally managed to obtain a bottle of aspirin from Simon himself. Based on Carver's prompting, McClane then calls his estranged wife. As the call is connecting, McClane goes to take one of the pills, and a label on the bottom of the bottle shows that they were purchased from a pharmacy in Quebec. McClane is forced to leave the phone to pursue Simon and leaves his wife hanging on the line. This leads the action to a warehouse in Canada where Simon and his gang have indeed taken the gold. There they witness Simon's gang being caught by the Canadian police before being attacked by Simon in a helicopter. The final battle ensues and as the helicopter hovers underneath some power lines, McClane cleverly shoots out the power lines with two shots, destroying the helicopter, and sending Simon to join his late brother.

As the film ends, McClane calls his wife on a nearby pay phone, despite worrying about the fact that he left her on hold. The credits roll as the call is connecting.


Law EnforcmentEdit



Script and settingEdit

Die hard with a vengeance ver1 xlg

Die Hard with a Vengeance teaser poster.

This movie is based on a script written by Jonathan Hensleigh originally titled Simon Says, which was originally conceived as a Brandon Lee action film, then later considered for use as the fourth installment of the Lethal Weapon series. The first half of Die Hard with a Vengeance is almost identical to Simon Says; the robbery was added to bring the story in line with other Die Hard films. The original plan was to have the villains burgle the Metropolitan Museum of Art, an idea not used here, but which appears in John McTiernan's film The Thomas Crown Affair.

Alternative endingEdit

In the original ending, found on the special edition DVD, it is presumed that the robbery succeeds, and McClane was used as the scapegoat for everything that went wrong and has been fired from the NYPD after more than 20 years on the force. McClane tells Simon that the FBI has even taken away his pension as a result. In this version Simon has dumped or double-crossed most of his accomplices, driven the gold north to Nova Scotia and had the gold turned into statuettes of the Empire State Building in order to smuggle it out of the country. But McClane still manages to track him down to his foreign hideaway. This is reminiscent of Alec Guiness' situation in the British heist movie The Lavender Hill Mob, made some 45 years earlier.

McClane has tracked him using the batch number on the bottle of aspirins (this original ending may take place in Germany, because McClane mentions that he has traced the batch number on the bottle of aspirin to "a German pharmacy"). McClane is keen to take it out on Simon whom he invites to play a game called "McClane Says". This involves a form of Russian Roulette with a small Chinese rocket launcher with the sights removed, meaning it cannot be determined which end is which. McClane then asks Simon some riddles similar to the ones he played in New York. When Simon gets a riddle wrong, McClane forces him at gunpoint to fire the launcher, which fires the rocket through Simon, killing him. At the very end of the sequence, it's revealed that McClane was wearing a flak jacket the entire time, and could not have been killed by the rocket launcher.

In the DVD audio commentary, screenwriter Jonathan Hensleigh claims that this version was dropped because the studio thought it showed a more cruel and menacing side to McClane, a man who killed for revenge rather than in self-defense. Hensleigh's intention was to show that the events in New York and the subsequent repercussions had tilted him psychologically.

According to the DVD audio commentary, a second alternate ending had McClane and Carver floating back to shore on a makeshift raft after the explosion at sea. Carver says it's a shame the bad guys are going to get away; McClane tells him not to be so sure. The scene then shifts to the plane where the terrorists find the briefcase bomb they left in the park and which Carver gave back to them (in this version it was not used to blow up the dam). The movie would end on a darkly comic note as Simon asks if anyone has a 4 gallon jug. This draft of the script was rejected early on, and unlike the rocket-launcher sequence, was never actually filmed.


Box office successEdit

Released on May 19, 1995, the movie was a box office success. It debuted at #1, grossing $22,162,245 on its opening weekend, and ended up grossing $100,012,499 in the U.S. market alone. But it proved to be a bigger hit on foreign markets, outgrossing the biggest U.S. summer movie that year, Batman Forever, by grossing $261,200,000, to a $361,212,499 total. Worldwide, Die Hard with a Vengeance became the biggest hit film in 1995, with Disney Pixar's Toy Story coming in at a close second and Apollo 13 coming in third.

Production NotesEdit

  • On the DVD commentary, screenwriter Jonathan Hensleigh says the idea for the film's plot came to him when he imagined what would happen if one of his childhood friends, who was injured after Hensleigh threw a rock at him, decided to seek revenge on him as an adult.
  • There was a scene where John McClane describes to Zeus Carver why Simon Gruber wants to kill him. He explains that he killed his little brother by dropping him off the 32nd floor of the Nakatomi Plaza skyscraper. This is incorrect. Hans actually fell from the 30th floor, two floors below, where the Nakatomi Vault was located.
  • The protagonist in Hensleigh's original Simon Says script was a New York cop named Alex Bradshaw, and the character that became Zeus Carver was a woman. The film studio wanted Hensleigh to change Zeus's race from black to either white or Asian.
  • The scene where John McClane (Willis) wears the sandwich board that says "I Hate Niggers" was filmed in Washington Heights in order to avoid any conflict/riot in Harlem. The street signs in Audubon Ave. between 173rd and 177th Streets, along with several store awnings and signs, were replaced to replicate Harlem. Additionally, the sandwich board that Willis wore was blank. The slogan was digitally added to the board during post-production. (For the film's commercial television runs, the slogan read "I Hate Everybody").
  • In the director commentary, director McTiernan states that then-future Vice President Dick Cheney makes an uncredited cameo in the film.
  • Much of the film was shot around Charleston, South Carolina, including the subway scenes (which were shot on a set) and the bridge scenes (which were shot on the John P. Grace Memorial Bridge).

External linksEdit

Die Hard
Films Die Hard -- Die Hard 2 -- Die Hard with a Vengeance -- Live Free or Die Hard -- A Good Day to Die Hard
Games Die Hard -- Die Hard 2 -- Arcade -- Trilogy -- Trilogy 2 -- Nakatomi Plaza -- Vendetta -- Die Hard 5
Comic Die Hard: Year One

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