Film News

An Argument With Myself About Die Hard Year One, aka, They Should Adapt The Detective

And now, for the heck of it, an argument from inside my own head earlier this week when I first heard that producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura and director Len Wiseman (aka, Mr. Kate Beckinsale) have set up a Die Hard origin story tentatively called Die Hard Year One at Fox:

This sucks. This is total b.s. How dare they make a Die Hard origin story!

—Well, this is Hollywood. Should we really be surprised?

Not surprised, no. But just because film and TV continually worship the almighty IP doesn’t mean we’re not allowed to still be annoyed by it.

—Give into that anger all you want. It’s not going to do you any good, though. As Vulture joked, “If you thought you lived in a world where Hollywood would not make a Die Hard origin story, well, buddy, you thought wrong.” You’re powerless to stop that. Besides, why do you even care? You couldn’t be bothered to see the last two Die Hard movies, the one with Justin Long that was apparently pretty good (Live Free or Die Hard) and the last one everyone seemed to hate (A Good Day to Die Hard).

Die Hard 5
Lots of things, apparently

That’s true.

—So what’s with the outrage about the possibility of Fox making another Die Hard movie you’ll probably never see?

[Awkward pause] Honestly, as a film fan I feel obligated to have that reaction, and as a kid of the 90s who grew up on Die Hard with a Vengeance I feel like I should be protective of a once-great franchise. Truthfully, though, the first three Die Hard films are great, and I’ll always stop to watch them whenever they’re on cable. But I don’t feel duty-bound to see everything baring the Die Hard name the way I do with Terminator because of eternal affection for Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Plus, the shine kind of came off Die Hard once the “You know that Bruce Willis is an enormous asshole, right?” evidence became too large to ignore, unless his many, many, many former co-stars/directors are all lying about how much they hated working with him.

—Giant d-bag or not, Willis still is John McClane. The idea of someone else playing him, even if it’s Joseph Gordon-Levitt with those Looper prosthetics, feels weird, right?

looper5Yep. Look how well that worked for the poor guy playing the young Hannibal in Hannibal Rising.

—Two words: Mads Mikkelson.

Well played.  Two words back: Chris Pine…As Jack Ryan.  Okay, more than two words, but you get the point: Paramount just tried to reboot the Jack Ryan movies, and that flamed out immediately.

—-Maybe for Year One they’ll get Willis back to do a bookending narration to his early days on the force.

If so, his salary will probably be bigger than the rest of the cast combined.  I still love ya’, Bruce.  Regardless of how much everyone in Hollywood seems to hate you, you’re still pretty awesome in movies when you want to be there, like Looper and Moonrise Kingdom.

—How do you even do a Die Hard prequel, though? Isn’t the first movie more or less an origin story about that one time an ordinary Chicago cop became extraordinary with the help of Carl Winslow?

There’s an obvious answer. It’s a weird little fact that up until A Good Day to Die Hard every film in the franchise used a script which was not originally written to be a Die Hard movie. In fact, the first movie is adapted from Roderick Thorpe’s 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever.

Nothing Lasts ForeverNothing Lasts Forever sounds like a Bond movie

I know, right. It gets weirder. Nothing Lasts Forever was actually Thorpes’ sequel to his best-selling 1966 novel The Detective, which was made into a 1968 Frank Sinatra movie, and also played pretty heavily into Robert “The Kid Stays in the Picture” Evans starting his producing career.

—You bet your ass it did.

Anyway, because The Detective had been made into a movie Sinatra still had the right of first refusal to any sequels, which Fox didn’t know when it picked up Nothing Last Forever. All Fox wanted was a big action movie with a guy like Schwarzenegger at the center, but they were contractually obligated to offer it to Ole Blue Eyes, who was in his mid-60s by that point. If he had said yes they wouldn’t have made the movie. Obviously, he said no, although he took a couple of days to think it over. Eventually, they changed the name of the main character, from Joe Leland to John McClane, aged him down, placed him in LA to visit his estranged wife instead of his adult daughter, and called it Die Hard.

—-What does that have to do with the new Die Hard prequel?

It’s so obvious – they should simply remake The Detective and call it Die Hard Year One! Think of it – the first Die Hard is actually adapted from a book which was itself a sequel. The prequel should be based on the earlier book, then.

—-What actually happens in The Detective?

The_Detective_1968In the book, Leland is a private detective hired to investigate the death of an old WWII buddy who turns out to have a remarkably shady past dating back to the time that Leland was a cop. In the movie, which streamlined the plot of the book, Leland is a police department detective working a strange homicide case with unsettling sexual overtones, and after he seemingly solves the case a suicide case comes to him and ultimately reveals a conspiracy connecting the two deaths. Along the way, those in power try to influence him to stop asking so many questions, but he powers on despite his personal life falling apart due to his wife’s infidelity, which also comes into play in his investigation.

—-So, wait, you’re saying Die Hard Year One could suggest that John’s troubles with his wife in the first Die Hard originated from her cheating on him?

Yeah, that part wouldn’t really make sense. They could drop that part of it, and have John meet his future wife for the first time in Year One.

—-That part would work, but doesn’t that all sound kind of LA Confidentialy-y and less Die Hard?

I guess so.

—-It doesn’t sound like a summer blockbuster at all.

Not so much, no.

—-And who has the rights to The Detective?

At one point, Robert Evans did, or at least he had the film rights to the novel. That was back in the ‘60s. I have no idea who has the rights now. I know the movie was at least distributed through Fox, and they also make Die Hard.

—-So, ultimately you have no idea how feasible this is?

No, sir, I do not.

—-So should we just stop this, then?


The Detective Trailer:


    1. I’ve done it before a couple of times, mostly in reviews of the TV show arrow when I was starting to wonder why I was still watching the show. It can be a fun format to play with, although in the case of Die Hard Year One I probably did it to hide the fact that I don’t really have a strong opinion about the new Die Hard but felt obligated to talk about it.

  1. Interesting conversation. I can only ready about 3/4 though because my Book-to-Film Adaptation club is doing “Nothing Lasts Forever”/”Die Hard” for its end of year/Christmas special.

    I don’t feel the closeness of “Die Hard” as much as I do with “Terminator 2” either. OK. I confess. I never saw anything after “Die Hard 2”.

    1. I am not that far ahead of you. The only Die Hard movie I have seen beyond Die Hard 2 is Die Hard With a Vengeance. Btw, that sounds like a good topic to have picked for a boom to film adaptation club.

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