Clint Eastwood

The Bizarre Reason Clint Eastwood Rejected Die Hard

Long before Bruce Willis was cast as Die Hard's John McClane, Clint Eastwood was approached but he rejected the screenplay for a strange reason.

Clint Eastwood was one of the first actors approached to play Die Hard’s John McClane – only to claim he didn’t get the gags. Die Hard made Bruce Willis an instant movie star, but the path to his casting was surprisingly convoluted. The film was based on the novel Nothing Lasts Forever, itself a follow-up to author Roderick Thorp’s The Detective. The latter was made into a movie starring Frank Sinatra in the late ’60s, meaning he had to be approached first. The singer had retired from acting following 1984’s Cannonball Run 2, leading to a casting search that ended with Moonlighting star Willis.

Despite Willis’ McClane – whose casting was weirdly controversial – being written as an everyman hero, every major action star of the time was approached. This includes Eastwood, who would have been in his late 50s during this period. Despite having played many cops roles during his career, he swiftly passed after reading Die Hard. According to co-writer Jeb Stuart (via SlashFilm), he told the producers “‘I don’t get the humor.’ Which, for me, was a shock because if you listen to a lot of those words, Eastwood’s one of the few people who could have delivered a line like ‘Come to LA, have a great time.'”

Die Hard’s McClane Was Written As An Older Character

John McClane crawling in the vents in Die Hard

Eastwood might be known for his stern screen presence, but in everything from Where Eagles Dare to the Dirty Harry sequels, he often dropped a dry gag. Die Hard was reworked to make McClane younger, but in the novel, he was a retired detective. He was coming to visit his daughter, not his wife, and while the book has many of the same setpieces, it was more somber. The best example would be the endings. The first Die Hard movie closes with McClane saving his wife and the day, while Nothing Lasts Forever ends with the protagonist’s daughter dying and the wounded officer being wheeled off to an ambiguous fate.

Bruce Willis Was Always Die Hard’s Best Casting

Bruce Willis winking in Die Hard

Eastwood would have played a very different take on McClane, but he definitely could have handled Die Hard’s humor. Outside of Eastwood, the part was offered to Arnold Schwarzenegger, Burt Reynolds, James Caan and many more. However, the light comic touch combined with both the vulnerability and physicality Willis brought to McClane is what made Die Hard work. The likes of Arnie or Stallone played heroes who were the exact opposite of the grounded McClane, while Richard Gere or Caan would have been too serious. Willis pitched his performance just right and was always the movie’s best casting choice.

Willis used the comic timing he had already perfected in Moonlighting – which can’t be streamed – but wasn’t afraid to show McClane’s flaws either. He’s not especially likable during early scenes where he’s all but requesting his wife Holly quit her corporate job so she can be a wife and mother, and the actor doesn’t shy away from that. He’s also willing to play the character as being in serious pain due to the many injuries he incurs, and even cries when he believes he’ll never escape the building. For those reasons and more, it’s hard to picture anyone but Willis in Die Hard.

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