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Die Hard's 'Yippee-Ki-Yay' Line Traces Its Origins From Philadelphia

Ah, the holidays. It's the perfect time to get together with family, give thoughtful gifts, and maybe take over an entire office building by force to steal hundreds of millions of dollars. Well, although that plan may not be on everyone's to-do list, it surely was the plot of what Entertainment Weekly calls one of the greatest action films of all time — "Die Hard." Whether it should be considered a Christmas movie is still up for debate, however, the same holiday set the scene in the original 1979 novel "Nothing Lasts Forever," by Rodrick Thorpe, the book the film was based on.

The movie version added new elements from one of the writers, Steven de Souza, who lent some of his childhood roots to the dialogue. Despite only, at first, opening in just 21 theaters in July 1988, the movie not only launched Bruce Willis right into his action-star career but also began the "Die Hard" franchise, eventually gifting fans four more movies. This first one follows John McClane (Willis), who finds himself in the middle of a terrorist hostage situation while attending his wife's company holiday party. 

As great as the movie is, de Souza revealed to Matt Gourley on the "I Was There Too" podcast that much of the film was created on the fly. "The changes were happening so fast," he said, "And the picture was better for it." One change that was added to the script was the famous line, "Yippee-ki-yay, mother****er," spoken by Willis' character when he addresses the film's villain, Hans (Alan Rickman). And this well-known line actually stems back to both Willis' and de Souza's childhood.

Both Willis and de Souza watched the same Philly TV stations

There were more than enough iconic moments in the classic action film, "Die Hard," that are still referenced today. Bruce Willis even recently reprised his John McClane role, smashing through glass and shimmying through a metal crawlspace in a recent Die Hard car battery commercial (what took them so long?). One iconic moment from the film, which will probably never be spoken in a commercial, is when McClane, speaking to Hans via walkie-talkie, signs off with, "Yippee-ki-yay, mother****er." During his interview, the film's writer, Steven de Souza, explains how that line originated from an old TV show, one that Willis watched, as well.

Before filming, de Souza met up with Willis while he was filming his TV series, "Moonlighting." There they discovered that they both grew up near the Philadelphia area, even playing under the same Atlantic City boardwalk as kids. It was during this conversation that they realized they watched the same Philadelphia TV stations. "And we start talking about the kid shows we used to watch in the same Philadelphia stations, including 'The Roy Rogers Show,' who used to say Yippee-ki-yay, kids!" 

This connection between the actor and writer led to the line being included in the movie, yet as the Independent reports, its pronunciation caused a debate on set. "We had a really adult conversation about what was the proper way to say it," Willis recalled. "Was it 'Yippee-ki-yay, mother****er' or 'Yippee-ti-yay, mother****er?' I'm glad that I held on to 'Yippee-ki-yay.'"