After four installments, it seems like a new Die Hard could very easily direct itself – at least, if unlike filmmaker John Moore, you think that the films are an assembly line of references from the previous ones, stitched together with a narrative that became boilerplate with the release of the 1988 original.
But speaking to A Good Day to Die Hard helmer Moore, whose previous work includes Behind Enemy Lines and Max Payne, he insists that the through line of the series is comprised of two essential things – basically, Bruce Willis and a very specific tone – while the rest is created from scratch.
Celebuzz sat down with the director at the film’s Los Angeles press day, where Moore not only highlighted what he wanted to keep and discard as he took on his Die Hard installment, but discussed the unusual nexus the film finds itself in – somewhere between self-referential nostalgia and pure, earnest originality, down to its combination of stars old (Willis) and new (Jai Courtney).
Celebuzz: What do you feel like are the essential qualities of a Die Hard movie?
John Moore: Well there are some very simple truisms. Heart and soul, beyond cynicism. John McClane is trying to do the right thing for his family. In all honesty, he’s not trying to crack all world villainy plots or solve world hunger. He’s trying to do the right thing. So they need to have that. But there isn’t a mixing bowl — there isn’t a “there is that ingredient from Die Hard and that ingredient from Die Hard.” The process is more like a story. And Bruce sees the story and sees if he can imagine John McClane in that story. So there is no intermediary stage where it’s checked for veracity as a Die Hard.
However, as you’re going along, you’ll know when something is not Die Hard — you know, If it’s disingenuous or too self-aware. And that was a major worry of mine on this movie — not to criticize another filmmaker’s work, but I was a little shocked and disturbed in Skyfall when they’re in the Aston Martin and they made that joke about the ejector seat. Am I the only one that was horrified by that? I might have been! I thought they just sold the family farm for three bucks. I am serious; I was genuinely heartbroken that they did that. And we were super cautious not to be making wisecracks to reference any of the earlier movies.
CB: So essentially John McClane himself and a certain tone are the elements that you knew you needed to be faithful to.
JM: Yes, so it could grow around it and it could be anything. And to overprocess is a road to failure — that is self-evident in that there only have been five movies in 25 years. There probably has been 100 pitches and 100 scripts, but 95 of them have been made from ingredients [like], “Ohh this is perfect, he’s in a tall building, he’s doing this, what’s not to like?” But of course they were doomed to fail because they had a cynical construct and a pre-awareness. Whereas here is a story where “Hey, what if John’s kid is a bad seed? How heartbreaking would that be for John? He’s a cop. “ His kid is a bad seed. His kid is a, you know, a lost cause — or is he? (4:00)
CB: How much, if at all, did you want to make any reference to the structural or the narrative hallmarks of the previous ones? For example, when he’s flying to Russia, I wondered if he was going to make fists with his toes on the airplane.
JM: The very fact that you’re in that furniture means that those land mines are everywhere, some benign, some grotesque, some cute, fuck it, do it. I mean, for example, in the hotel shoot out, it was scripted that he says “shoot the glass.” No way on God’s green earth was Bruce ever going to let that one happen. But for those of us who adore it, he looks up, and its there if you see it, but he does happen to shoot at the skylights, which happen to be made out of glass, so if you want, there is a lot of loving reference to the mythology of Die Hard.
CB: We have entered this era where action movies are so nostalgic, reviving stars like Bruce and Arnold Schwarzenegger. In the original Die Hard there was a very deliberate everyman-ness to John McClane, and then 25 years later you have a guy who falls twenty stories and manages to get up and walk away. How much of that do you have to subscribe to an invulnerability of the iconography of that person as opposed to the immediate humanity of the character?
JM: Nostalgia has more durability than an immediate credibility of the action. Ronald Reagan couldn’t string a sentence together in his second term, but there was such a profound desire to believe in the man that the idea of Ronald Reagan persevered beyond that. And there is a love and belief that wills John McClane beyond what is physically possible, because the imperative is he jumps out the window [and then] he has to get up — if he doesn’t get up, he’s defeated. There is no other way. And so, yes of course there is a balance where you’re going to turn people off and they’re going to be like “Ok, you’ve even tested my loyalty, you’ve tested my love” and you’ll be hated for it.
But maybe even more than the genre, maybe it’s the men themselves. I think that there is a curious failure of manliness in America, a curious failure of manhood and strength, and honor and prowess. No offense to the Hemsworths and whatever — but maybe plenty offense to them. I had to go to fucking Australia and find Jai Courtney [to find an actor] big enough, present enough to be the son of John McClane. So I think there almost is an angry nostalgia — a God damn it, give me the fucking hamburger, I am sick of this fucking soy thing. I am sick of the Facebook of it all. The word tweet is not manly, I am sorry. And Thor is looking pretty lame now with his hammer, because we got John McClane — so fuck yeah, he’ll jump out the building, and yeah it’s silly, but get up.
CB: How much does tackling an installment of such an iconic series make you want to continue pushing this franchise forward, as opposed to maybe utilizing the visibility it gives you to create your own series or launch a different project?
JM: I am a music fan. I remember when Robert Trujillo got the gig playing bass for Metallica, and he has his own personality and all that, but he was still playing bass for Metallica. By the way, John McTiernan [is up here] and the rest of us [are below him], just so we’re clear. But anyone who comes into a Die Hard has to be a pro, and that’s what’s exciting about getting to do a diehard. If you haven’t fucked it up, you get that pro badge. It doesn’t mean people are going to fucking take your picture and ask for your autograph, it’s not that. But it’s like, you know how they say about golfers, “He’s a golfer’s golfer?” It sort of puts you there, where people are like, “Alright, you can drive for a while.”
Watch Celebuzz’ exclusive video interview with Jai Courtney, and then let us know in the comments section below — what do you think of A Good Day To Die Hard? Did John Moore pull it off?
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