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Explosive Facts About Die Hard With A Vengeance Only Die-Hard Fans Know

None of us can outrun our past. No matter how fast we move or the ways we try to move away from yesteryear, the ripple effects of our past will eventually catch up to us. Not even John McClane (Bruce Willis) is impervious to this universal truth, as seen in "Die Hard with a Vengeance." This third entry in the "Die Hard" franchise sees McClane and reluctant partner Zeus Carver (Samuel L. Jackson) having to save New York City from the machinations of Simon (Jeremy Irons), the brother of original "Die Hard" villain Hans Gruber. Gruber died by McClane's hands, and now Simon is here to ensure that McClane suffers and pays for killing his sibling. The stakes have never been higher for McClane, but that's just the kind of situation Bruce Willis action movies thrive in.

Though nobody in their right mind would declare it the equal of the original "Die Hard," "Die Hard with a Vengeance" has garnered a solid following over the years and is considered by many (via Reddit) to be a superior film to most other sequels in the franchise. This collection of facts about "Die Hard with A Vengeance" addresses the aspects that have given the movie its fanbase over the years, including how Samuel L. Jackson got cast in the film. Give out your best "yippe-ki-yay" and read on for some explosive facts about "Die Hard with a Vengeance."

Die Hard 3 originated as an original thriller

The saga of "Die Hard with a Vengeance" begins with a movie entirely separate from the "Die Hard" franchise. Per The Los Angeles Times, 20th Century Fox and producer Larry Gordon worked together to buy an original spec script by James Haggin named "Troubleshooter." This happened in early 1990, just a few months before "Die Hard 2" even opened in theaters. This script's key concept revolved all the chaos that unfolds when bad guys take over a cruise ship, with good having to prevail over evil on the high seas.

20th Century Fox's desire to get another "Die Hard" going quickly after the massive success of "Die Hard 2" meant that the studio began eyeballing the original "Troubleshooter" screenplay as something that could be reconstituted as a "Die Hard" movie. It did make some sense, since the first "Die Hard" sequel took place at an airport. Why not find another mode of transportation to use as the foundation for another "Die Hard" adventure? Plus setting the movie on the ocean would give it an immediately distinctive visual look and atmosphere compared to its predecessor. The third "Die Hard" would evolve dramatically from here, but initially, it looked like the "Troubleshooter" script would serve as the storytelling skeleton for this installment.

How Steven Seagal sent Die Hard 3 back to square one

Throughout history, Hollywood has loved dueling movies centered on similar ideas. There's a bit of cockiness behind this phenomenon, as no studio wants to be seen as "weaker" for putting down their version of a specific concept. That's how we've ended up with years containing multiple asteroid disaster movies, several White House action films, or a pair of computer-animated titles focused on ants. For a moment, though, it looked like moviegoers across the planet would also be dealing with warring action movies set on cruise ships.

The Los Angeles Times reported in November 1992 that 20th Century Fox initially was racing to get an early version of "Die Hard 3," where John McClane had to save a cruise ship taken over by terrorists, into theaters to beat Steven Segal's "Under Siege," which concerned evildoers exploiting a Navy battleship. While Fox was game to try and beat "Under Siege" to the punch, behind-the-scenes turmoil delayed the filming of the third "Die Hard" movie and ensured that "Under Siege" began shooting first. Additionally, there were reports that, once it became clear "Die Hard 3" wouldn't be the first of these two movies to get released, Bruce Willis didn't want to be seen as headlining rehashes of Segal star vehicles.

With "Under Siege" setting sail, the third "Die Hard" installment was forced to go back to the drawing board and come up with the plot of "Die Hard with a Vengeance."

Laurence Fishburne was supposed to star in Die Hard 3

It's impossible now to imagine anyone but Samuel L. Jackson lighting up the screen alongside Bruce Willis as the co-lead of "Die Hard with a Vengeance." Not only is Jackson a hoot in the film, but this action sequel paired him with Willis just a year after they both appeared in "Pulp Fiction." That's the kind of cinematic reunion that's irresistible from square one. However, despite Jackson being so integral to why "Vengeance" worked as it did, the actor wasn't always supposed to be one of this movie's heroes.

Director Quentin Tarantino explained to the podcast The Rewatchables that his original choice for the part of Jules Winnfield in "Pulp Fiction" was Laurence Fishburne rather than Samuel L. Jackson. Fishburne wanted to play the role, but his representatives convinced him not to do the film. Tarantino added that Fishburne was then courted for the co-lead role in "Die Hard with a Vengeance," with the character written for the actor. When Fishburne's salary demands proved too much, producer Andy Vajna discovered an alternative casting choice upon seeing a screening of "Pulp Fiction." If Fishburne had been cast in "Pulp Fiction," perhaps he would have impressed Vajna enough to get his desired salary. Sadly for Fishburne, however, Jackson not only scored that "Pulp Fiction" role, but also the part in "Die Hard with a Vengeance."

What excited Jeremy Irons about his Die Hard character

"Die Hard with a Vengeance" came at an interesting point in the career of Jeremy Irons. Having already won his Oscar for "Reversal of Fortune" in the early 1990s, Irons was flourishing as a performer and showing up in movies ranging from "The House of the Spirits" to "The Lion King." With "Vengeance," Irons received a chance to not only show up in a blockbuster but also to engage in many firsts in his career.

In an interview conducted as "Vengeance" was rolling toward release, Iron remarked that he was very excited by how "Die Hard with a Vengeance" gave him a chance to appear in his first action film. Irons was also enamored with the fact that his character, the villainous Simon, wasn't quite like anyone else in his filmography. Though it would be a movie filled with explosions and quippy one-liners, Iron was still stoked over the idea of "Die Hard with a Vengeance" offering him the opportunity to explore new territory as an actor. Irons was also intrigued by how Simon was a bit of a mirror image of "Vengeance" director John McTiernan, namely in their shared intellect and love for rocking the everyday status quo.

With these qualities in the back of his mind, Irons embraced "Die Hard with a Vengeance" as one of the many exciting movies he appeared in during one of the most fascinating stretches of his career.

Bruce Willis scored a $15 million payday for Die Hard 3

It's impossible to tell if "Die Hard" could ever work without Bruce Willis. Maybe the character of John McClane is like James Bond, where another actor could take on the part in sequels and the world wouldn't fall apart. However, back in the mid-1990s, 20th Century Fox was not interested in testing the waters to see if this franchise could survive without Willis. For the third "Die Hard" installment, the studio was willing to shell out some mighty hefty sums of cash to ensure that the franchise's leading man wasn't going anywhere.

Just as "Die Hard with a Vengeance" was preparing to open in theaters, The Baltimore Sun reported that Bruce Willis took home a hefty $15 million payday to play McClane for the third time. That meant roughly 17% of the film's $90 million budget went toward just its leading man's salary. That was a staggering 200% increase from the $5 million payday Willis got for the first "Die Hard" years earlier, though "Vengeance" would itself get dwarfed by Willis's $25 million salary for "Live Free or Die Hard" over a decade later. With this kind of money being forked over, it's clear that, no matter the era, 20th Century Fox was not interested in seeing what the "Die Hard" franchise looked like without its original leading man.

Samuel L. Jackson had always wanted to be in the Die Hard franchise

It's hard not to wish you could be in on the action with John McClane when you're watching the original "Die Hard." Even with all the challenges and glass shards McClane dealt with, his experiences saving the day look so exhilarating that it's impossible not to get wrapped up in fantasies of being a hero just like him. For many viewers, the urge to be in "Die Hard" is an abstract concept and a testament to the alluring power of that movie's filmmaking. But for Samuel L. Jackson, it was a little different. As an actor looking for his big showbiz break at the time, he literally wanted to be in the original "Die Hard."

Jackson explained in an interview with Barry Norman that, back in the late 1980s, he had been eager to try out for the role of LAPD Sergeant Al Powell in the original "Die Hard," a role that ended up going to Reginald VelJohnson. Unfortunately, not only did Jackson not get the role of Powell, he wasn't even allowed to audition for it. Jackson was understandably frustrated by this whole affair, but he got his chance to enter the "Die Hard" saga after all once the character of Zeus in "Die Hard with a Vengeance" came up in the 1990s. Jackson finally fulfilled his dream of being in a "Die Hard" movie.

Bruce Willis almost died shooting Die Hard 3

Back when "Die Hard with a Vengeance" was first coming out, Bruce Willis was quite open to CBS 8 San Diego's George Pennacchio about how the film's stunt work was no walk in the park. With audiences now having lofty expectations about what a "Die Hard" movie should look and feel like, this third installment in the franchise ratcheted up the scale of its action set-pieces compared to its predecessors. While that ensured that moviegoers would be getting plenty of bang for their buck, it also made shooting "Die Hard with a Vengeance" a bit of a nightmare for Willis.

While he mostly just got bruised or a bit roughed up while doing various stunts on "Die Hard with a Vengeance," Willis noted that one particular stunt involving him and Samuel L. Jackson leaping off an exploding boat almost went fatally wrong. As Willis recalled, he nearly missed the landing pad laid out for him to fall on. If he had just been a few more inches off in his trajectory, Willis would have perished right then and there. That's a harrowing thought to consider and one that emphasizes the fragility of existence itself. It also reflects just how elaborate and risky the stunts had become in the "Die Hard" saga by the time "Die Hard with a Vengeance" rolled around.

Composer Michael Kamen's complicated feelings about Die Hard 3

Bruce Willis and director John McTiernan weren't the only ones who came back from earlier "Die Hard" installments for "Die Hard with a Vengeance." Composer Michael Kamen also returned for this third John McClane adventure. Though working on a film like "Die Hard with a Vengeance" gave Kamen a lot of exposure, he expressed mixed feelings about being associated with the franchise to Movie Music UK. In fact, Kamen came right out and said that he didn't have positive feelings whatsoever towards "Vengeance," while also confirming his lack of interest in scoring any further installments in this franchise.

Kamen went on to explain that he appreciated having his compositions connected to movies that endured in the popular zeitgeist. However, he also desperately hoped that his entire career wouldn't hinge on his contributions to franchises like "Die Hard" or "Lethal Weapon." With big-budget studio movies, Kamen just didn't feel there was enough creative freedom for him or other artists working on these films to really excel creatively. While Kamen still came back and gave all his effort to the score for "Die Hard with a Vengeance," it's also very clear that this kind of tentpole was not where his artistic passions lay.

Aldis Hodge played the first of two Die Hard characters in this one

One of the earliest stops in Aldis Hodge's lengthy career in Hollywood came in "Die Hard with a Vengeance," where he played Raymond Carver, the nephew of Samuel L. Jackson's Zeus Carver. In the years following "Vengeance," Hodge scored notable roles in a wide variety of movies, including "Clemency," "The Invisible Man," and "Black Adam," where he played the first-ever live-action incarnation of Hawkman. Also among his acting exploits was a small supporting role in the fifth entry in the "Die Hard" franchise, "A Good Day to Die Hard."

Hodge joked to IMDb in 2019 that he talked to "A Good Day to Die Hard" director John Moore about his later "Die Hard" character just being a grown-up version of his adolescent role in "Vengeance." While an amusing thought, Hodge showing up in two separate roles in this franchise is surely a strange coincidence rather than an indication that his "Vengeance" character stuck around for multiple installments. His prominent presence in the late 2000s show "Leverage" almost certainly influenced Hodge's presence in "A Good Day to Die Hard" more than prior "Die Hard" features. Still, it's now fun to look back on Aldis Hodge's work in "Die Hard with a Vengeance" and see not only the start of a great actor's career, but also the launch of a recurring face within the "Die Hard" saga.

The alternate Die Hard with a Vengeance ending

As seen on the physical home video release of "Die Hard with a Vengeance," there was initially a drastically different ending for this "Die Hard" sequel. This initial conclusion begins with John McClane finally tracking down Simon after the latter character's evil plot ends up costing McClane his job. Enraged and craving revenge, McClane and Simon begin playing a game based on riddles that entails anyone who gives a wrong answer being blasted away by a rocket launcher. Eventually, Simon gives a wrong answer and is blasted away by the rocket launcher. It takes him so long to realize it, but McClane finally gets his revenge on Simon.

An audio commentary on the DVD (per SlashFilm) detailed specifically why this initial ending was ditched and reshot with the final cut's conclusion. The biggest problem was just how small-scale this initial resolution was. Going with such an intimate, dark finale would have been an interesting departure from what moviegoers expected to see in a "Die Hard" movie. However, the filmmakers ultimately felt that, even with some artistic audacity in there, this conclusion was just too underwhelming in scope to function as a proper finale. This led to reshoots that gave the world the final and much more action-packed ending to "Die Hard with a Vengeance."

Bruce Willis's reflections on Die Hard with a Vengeance

Bruce Willis is not a guy who minces words. In many of his interviews from throughout his years as a movie star, Willis has been known to say whatever's on his mind to reporters or even express outright contempt for the interview process itself. Just look at his interview with Empire magazine for "Red 2" from back in 2013, where he seems to be loathing every minute of the interaction. Just because Willis was being sent on a publicity tour for a new movie didn't mean he was going to stick to the studio-mandated script, for better or for worse.

This trait meant that the general public got Willis's full, unfiltered thoughts on "Die Hard with a Vengeance" just as "Live Free or Die Hard" was coming out in theaters. Willis explained to BBC in 2007 that, when it came to "Die Hard with a Vengeance," his preferred title was "Thank God Sam Jackson and Jeremy Irons were in the film." Willis further explained that he saw "Die Hard with a Vengeance" and "Die Hard 2" sharing a similar fatal flaw of being too adherent to the original. While he conceded that "Vengeance" had some interesting elements to it, he overall felt like it was another entry in the "Die Hard" saga that failed to capture what made the original film so beloved.

The box office run of Die Hard with a Vengeance

"Third time's the charm," as they say, and that was especially true for the box office run of "Die Hard with a Vengeance." The movie grossed $366.1 million worldwide (via The Numbers) on a $90 million budget, including a $100 million sum in North America. Looking at those domestic numbers, "Vengeance" did come in behind the $117 million North American total of "Die Hard 2" five years earlier. A lot of time had passed between the first and second installments in this saga and domestic moviegoers may have slightly moved on to other action heroes.

Internationally, though, John McClane had never been more popular. The $266.1 million international haul of "Vengeance" blew the $122.5 million overseas gross of "Die Hard 2" out of the water and then some. The film nearly tripled its budget in international revenue alone, a tremendous feat that showed just how universally popular the John McClane character had become. Even better, "Die Hard with a Vengeance" narrowly eclipsed the $365.2 million worldwide gross of "Toy Story" to become the biggest movie of 1995 globally. In a year with lucrative titles like "GoldenEye," "Batman Forever," and "Jumanji," "Die Hard with a Vengeance" topped them all when it came to worldwide moviegoers. There were tons of explosions in this Bruce Willis vehicle, but what was really explosive about "Die Hard with a Vengeance" was its box office performance.