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The Die Hard Actors You May Not Know Passed Away

"Die Hard" is almost universally acknowledged as one of the most original and best action movies ever made. Based on a forgotten novel by Roderick Thorp and directed by bombast master John McTiernan, it made "Moonlighting" star Bruce Willis into a permanent A-lister and action hero. He was the perfect star to play John McClane, a wisecracking, charmingly self-doubting NYPD officer tasked with saving his wife and a bunch of other hostages from the clutches of heisting terrorist Hans Gruber and his nefarious team in their raid on Nakatomi Plaza.

Spawning multiple sequels over more than two decades, "Die Hard" is one of the most beloved franchises in American movie history. But it started so long ago that the world has begun to lose some of the people who made it so special. Here are the actors — with roles both big and small — from the "Die Hard" movies who you may not know have passed away.

Paul Gleason

Apart from terrorist Hans Gruber and his dozen henchman, the secondary villain of "Die Hard" is Dwayne T. Robinson, Deputy Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department. Ostensibly on the side of the good guys with John McClane, he arrives quickly on the scene at Nakatomi Plaza and immediately takes control. However, he's in way over his head and tries to overcome his maddening incompetence with unearned arrogance. McClane has to work through Robinson's ineffectual, inadvertent meddling as well as a terrorist collective in order to save the day.

Dwayne T. Robinson is exactly the kind of character that Paul Gleason portrayed masterfully through his career. Beyond "Die Hard," Gleason played a smug and nasty jerk of an authority figure in multiple '80s movies, including Vice Principal Vernon in "The Breakfast Club" and shady operative Clarence Beeks in "Trading Places." According to Gleason's daughter, Shannon Gleason-Grossman, the actor had mesothelioma — a type of lung cancer related to asbestos inhalation (via the Chicago Tribune). Gleason died in May 2006 at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California, at the age of 67.

James Shigeta

Joe Takagi is the impetus for much of the action that goes down in "Die Hard." As a top executive of the Nakatomi Corporation, he hosts a company Christmas party at the brand-new Nakatomi Plaza, which is underway when Hans Gruber and his goons take over the building as part of their plan to steal millions in bonds. After Takagi refuses to turn over the codes to open a vault containing that which Hans seeks, the villain shoots him in the head.

Hawaiian-born actor James Shigeta made major inroads for American actors of Asian descent, according to the Los Angeles Times. In the early 1960s, he won a Golden Globe for best new star and a year later starred in the film adaptation of the hit Broadway musical "Flower Drum Song," one of the first leading roles for Asian American men. 

Shigeta refused to take parts he found degrading or cliche, and he amassed a long resume of guest and recurring roles in TV dramas. According to Shigeta's sister-in-law, the actor had a stroke in 2012, and he endured health issues for the next two years. Shigeta died at a Beverly Hills assisting living facility in July 2014 at the age of 85.

Alan Rickman

Hans Gruber is decidedly a very bad man. He leads the plan to steal $640 million worth of bonds from Nakatomi Plaza in a heist that involves property destruction, the taking of innocent hostages, and killing whoever gets in his way. Gruber is so extreme that he was tossed out of Volksfrei, a dangerous German fringe organization. But still, he's just so likable — one of the most memorable movie villains ever, in fact — with his quips, clipped manner of speaking, and above-it-all sensibility.

The character is as complex and fascinating as he is because of the actor who portrayed him: Alan Rickman. He performed with England's illustrious Royal Shakespeare Company in the 1970s but didn't find his breakthrough film role until "Die Hard" in 1988 at age 41, according to the BBC. Rickman quickly found his niche in Hollywood playing complicated and charismatic villains and malcontents, such as the Sheriff of Nottingham in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," Judge Turpin in "Sweeney Todd," a cheating husband in "Love Actually," and Professor Severus Snape in all eight entries in the "Harry Potter" saga.

In January 2016, The Guardian reported that Rickman had died in London, with many friends and members of his family present. Rickman had been diagnosed with cancer sometime earlier but had kept the news of illness private. He was 69.

Alexander Godunov

Hans Gruber is a wickedly nasty man with a plan, but he relies on his gang of underlings to do a lot of his dirty work. His chief lieutenant and most trusted ally is Karl Vreski, who initiates a lot of the casual violence and destruction necessary to stage the raid on Nakatomi Plaza. Karl is the one who takes down the first line of security guards, cuts the phone lines, and starts the ruthless search for John McClane.

Well before he was a film actor, Alexander Godunov was one of the best ballet dancers in the Soviet Union, performing with the esteemed Bolshoi Ballet in the 1970s. When his troupe visited New York for a series of shows, Godunov defected from his Communist home nation, asking for and receiving political asylum in the United States, according to the New York Times. In America, he moved into acting, taking on supporting roles in "The Money Pit," "Witness," and "Die Hard."

In May 1995, according to the Deseret News, Godunov was found dead in his West Hollywood home by his in-home nurse after having not heard from the actor and dancer for two weeks. His spokesperson, Evelyn Shriver, said that Godunov died of the effects of alcoholism. He was 45.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Wilhelm von Homburg

Just as menacing but somehow striking an even more unsettling figure than terrorist cell leader Hans Gruber is the man's henchman, James. The guy straight-up fires a missile launcher like it's something people normally do in the course of a day. However, James is one of the villains who meet their doom at the hands of John McClane when the policeman memorably ambushes him with a load of C4 explosives dropped through an elevator shaft right to the floor where he's stationed.

Actor Wilhelm von Homburg is terrifying as James in "Die Hard," but he's even more frightening as Vigo the Carpathian in "Ghostbusters II," the role for which he's likely best known in a career that dates back to episodes of "Gunsmoke" and "The Wild Wild West" in the mid-1960s. Born and raised in Germany, von Homburg's real name was Norbert Grupe, and he followed his father into the family business, boxing, where he also positioned himself as a villain.

According to Deadspin, Von Homburg was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and he died in March 2004. The actor, boxer, and wrestler was 63.

Matt Landers

Captain Mitchell is one the top cops of the Los Angeles Police Department, among the first to arrive on the scene with a SWAT team to thwart the Hans Gruber-led attack and occupation of Nakatomi Plaza. It's Mitchell who orders the SWAT team to break in and clear a path for police to rescue hostages, and when that plan fails, he sends in an armored car that gets blown up by anti-tank weaponry.

Portraying a law enforcement official springing into action was all in the line of duty for veteran actor Matt Landers. He worked extensively in northeastern U.S. and touring theater productions in the 1970s, including stints in Broadway productions of "Grease" and "Working," earning a Drama Desk Award nomination for the latter. In the '80s, Landers moved into film, landing small roles in some of the most definitive movies of the '80s besides "Die Hard," including "Flashdance," "Commando," "Action Jackson," "Brewster's Millions," and "48 Hrs."

Landers died at the Los Angeles home of his daughter in March 2015, a few years after receiving a cancer diagnosis. The character actor was 62 years old.

Mary Ellen Trainor

Television journalist Gail Wallens delivers a lot of the exposition in "Die Hard," explaining and attempting to make sense of the absurd and frightening events taking place at Nakatomi Plaza to KFLW Channel 5 viewers. The film's audience learns from Gail that the bad guy in charge is named Hans Gruber and that he used to be part of a terrorist organization until he started his own fringe group, before interviewing psychologist Dr. Hasseldorf about how the standoff may unfold.

Mary Ellen Trainor was all over the most popular and enduring of 1980s movies. In addition to her work in "Die Hard" and as LAPD staff psychiatrist Dr. Stephanie Woods in the "Lethal Weapon" movies, she appeared in "The Goonies" (as Mikey Walsh's mother) and "Scrooged" (as Ted). Trainor often worked alongside her then-husband, filmmaker Robert Zemeckis, appearing in his films "Romancing the Stone," "Death Becomes Her," "Back to the Future Part II," and "Forrest Gump."

In May 2015, according to Vulture, Trainor died at home in Montecito, California. Her friend, then Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, reported that the actor had pancreatic cancer and died from complications of the disease. Trainor was 62.

George Christy

Dr. Hasseldorf, a former hostage negotiator and author of a book on the subject, doesn't appear in "Die Hard" for much more than a minute, but he leaves an impression. Interviewed by KFLW Channel 5 reporter Gail Wallens, the author of "Hostage Terrorist, Terrorist Hostage" tries to explain what Hans Gruber's captives might be going through, and that they even may start to sympathize with the terrorists in a classic example of Stockholm Syndrome, which he oddly misidentifies as Helsinki Syndrome.

George Christy's appearance as the foolish Dr. Hasseldorf amounts to a cameo, and it's one of many such performances by the actor, who was well-known in the movie industry as a powerful and popular columnist for The Hollywood Reporter. Christy showed up in dozens of movies in the '80s, '90s, and 2000s, usually playing a reporter, guard, doorman, store customer, or himself (as he did in "Troop Beverly Hills").

According to The Hollywood Reporter, where Christy wrote a gossip column called "The Great Life" until he resigned in 2001 amidst multiple ethics scandals (he was accused of illegally receiving health benefits and trading gifts and favors for positive coverage), the journalist and actor died of heart failure at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, in August 2020. Christy was 93.

Fred Thompson

Somehow, John McClane finds himself in a "Die Hard" situation again in the sequel "Die Hard 2," this time dealing with a rogue collective of former Special Forces guys seizing control over the air traffic control system at Dulles International Airport and looking to wreak havoc. To restore peace and order, McClane has to work alongside the local authority figure: mistake-prone Ed Trudeau, head of air operations.

Fred Thompson brought a believable sense of gravitas and authority to the role of Ed Trudeau because he was an accomplished lawyer and politician in the real world. In the 1970s, he served as counsel to the U.S. Senate during the investigation into President Richard Nixon's involvement in the Watergate break-in. He later represented Tennessee Parole Board chair Marie Ragghianti when she sued for wrongful termination after calling out a corruption scandal. In "Marie," the 1990 film about Ragghianti, Thompson played himself and gave acting a try, appearing in "No Way Out," "Days of Thunder," and portraying district attorney Arthur Branch on "Law & Order" when he wasn't serving in the U.S. Senate or running for president.

According to Deadline, Thompson died in Nashville in November 2015 following a re-emergence of lymphoma. The actor, attorney, and politician was 73.

Stephen Pearlman

In "Die Hard with a Vengeance," Simon Gruber, brother of Hans Gruber, swears vengeance against his father's final rival. It takes NYPD forensic psychologist Dr. Fred Schiller to work up a profile on Simon, determining that he's a control-craving megalomaniac and a real threat to McClane and his fellow law enforcement officials.

Stephen Pearlman tended to play a lot of regular guys and dutiful public servants and professionals on screen, popping up as police officers and doctors in everything from "Die Hard with a Vengeance" and "Law & Order" to "L.A. Law" and "Kojak." Likely his most famous movie role is that of Rabbi Cohen in Darren Aronofsky's 1998 mind-bender "Pi." According to The New York Times, Pearlman was a downright theatrical legend, performing with the American Shakespeare Festival as well as the Second City troupe, where he was a founding member.

Pearlman died at his home in Manhattan in October 1998, the death attributed to cancer, according to the Buffalo News. He was 63.

Tony Halme

Just like his brother in "Die Hard," Simon Gruber in "Die Hard with a Vengeance" doesn't work alone, executing his terror plot on the Federal Reserve with the help of a big group of henchmen. Among them is Roman, who dresses up like a New York Police Department officer to blend in.

Appearing as overwhelmed thug Roman in "Die Hard with a Vengeance" (following roles in "Lionheart," "The New WKRP in Cincinnati," and "The Master Demon") is just one of the interesting wrinkles in the life and career of Tony Halme. Standing 6'6," Halme worked as a bodyguard and boxer (nicknamed "The Viking") as well as an MMA fighter and wrestler known by the ring name of Ludvig Borga. After walking away from combat sports and acting in the early 2000s, Halme returned to his home nation of Finland and served four years in the country's parliament.

According to MMA Fighting, authorities found Halme deceased in his apartment in Helsinki, Finland in January 2010. Per the Independent, examiners later ruled the actor and athlete's cause of death to be suicide. Halme was 47.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Clarence Gilyard

Theo is the eyes of Hans Gruber's entire operation as the group's computer hacker in "Die Hard." The sole American in the gang, Theo is known for his wisecracks even in the face of dire situations. The part was played charmingly by Clarence Gilyard Jr., who also featured in other 1980s hits like "Top Gun" and "The Karate Kid Part II."

Acting wasn't always at the forefront of Gilyard's sights, as he first joined the U.S. Air Force Academy, following in the footsteps of his veteran father. However, Gilyard quit the academy after a year. He then went on to major in acting at California State University Long Beach before moving to Los Angeles to start his acting career. After appearing in a number of films and television shows, including "Walker, Texas Ranger" and "Matlock," Gilyard semi-retired from acting in 2006 to teach stage and screen acting at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas.

Gilyard was also a devout Catholic and served on the communications committee for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He returned to acting in 2012, doing mostly independent films and stage plays. Gilyard reprised his role as Theo alongside Bruce Willis' John McClane in a 2020 ad for Advance Auto Parts' DieHard line of car batteries. He passed away in 2022.

Richard Russell Ramos

In "Die Hard with a Vengeance," a mysterious "Simon" has the entire NYPD, FBI, and CIA baffled over a lethal "Simon Says" game. His first demand? Have John McClane wear a racist signboard in Harlem. It's unknown why this terrorist has specifically targeted John until FBI Chief Hugh Prantera (Richard Russell Ramos) drops the bombshell revelation that "Simon" is Simon Gruber, brother of Hans Gruber, the big baddie of the first film whom John thwarted and killed.

Richard Russell Ramos was an acclaimed Broadway actor and director with a career in film, television, and theater spanning 45 years. Some of his television roles include guest appearances in "Law and Order," "Barney Miller," and "MASH." On film, Ramos had minor roles in Woody Allen's 1971 comedy "Bananas," Alan J. Pakula's 1971 crime thriller "Klute," Howard Stern's biographical 1997 film "Private Parts," and John McTiernan's "Die Hard with a Vengeance" and "The Thomas Crown Affair." 

In October 2006, Ramos died at age 65 after a fatal heart attack. His appearances in film and television were minimal, as his primary focus was always theatrical plays. "His life was theater," Ramos' brother Ken Martone told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune after his death. "He did some television and movies, but his love was theater and performing live on stage."

Brock Little

In "Live Free or Die Hard," when John McClane goes to apprehend black-hat hacker Matt Ferrell at his apartment, he finds himself in the midst of a shootout with multiple assassins armed with assault rifles. With just a pistol and his ever-reliable wits, John makes it out alive with Matt. It's later revealed that these assassins were sent by Thomas Gabriel, a cyber-terrorist and the main antagonist of the film.

One of those unnamed assassins, whose neck John smashes through a wall, is played by Brock Little, who was better known as a stuntman and surfer than an actor. A Hawaiian resident who'd been surfing since the age of 7, Little conquered waves that went as high as 30 feet tall. He also wrote a number of articles for magazines like Surfer and Surfing. Little became a stuntman in 1998.

His stunt credits include "Pearl Harbor," "Training Day," "Tears of the Sun," "Bad Company," "Live Free or Die Hard," "Tropic Thunder," and Michael Bay's first three "Transformers" movies. In January 2016, Little announced that he had been diagnosed with liver cancer, from which he passed away the following month at age 48 (per the Honolulu Star-Advertiser). While Little didn't have a widely known career in film, he was revered in the surfing community, with several notable surfers paying their tributes to him after his death.

Bryon Weiss

Stuntman Bryon Weiss played a character named only in the credits as "Robinson," a henchman working for Thomas Gabriel in "Live Free or Die Hard." Robinson drives the semi-truck carrying Thomas' mobile computer base. Whilst pursuing Gabriel, John McClane hijacks the truck by jumping on top and killing Robinson, which eventually leads to the infamous scene where John battles a fighter jet on the freeway.

Much like most of the actors behind Gabriel's henchmen, Weiss was primarily a stuntman who worked on nearly 70 films. Some of his more prominent film credits include "Paranormal Activity 4", "Transformers: Age of Extinction," "Valkyrie," "Sin City," and the two "Amazing Spider-Man" movies. Weiss also had an uncredited acting role as an LAPD cop in 1987's "Beverly Hills Cop II," and he worked on the stunt teams of TV shows like "Prison Break," "Breakout Kings," and "Sons of Anarchy."

Before entering the film industry, Weiss served in the United States Marine Corps. The veteran-turned-stuntman passed away in 2014 at the age of 51 after a five-year battle with colon cancer. According to his obituary, Bryon had been producing and directing an independent film, "Hit for a Hit," at the time of his death, which was never released.

J.R. Horne

In "Die Hard with a Vengeance," Simon Gruber tells the NYPD that an elementary school in the city is rigged to explode with a radio detonator that uses the same frequency as the city's police force. As a result, Sergeant John Turley (J.R. Horne), the NYPD Chief of Internal Communications, is ordered to redirect all law enforcement communication to the main switchboard, to avoid any unintentional triggering of the explosives.

J.R. Horne was a Broadway actor who primarily worked in theatrical productions and voice roles, with a handful of film and television appearances. He began his career as a radio jockey at the age of 14, working in a few radio stations across the country for years until opting for an acting career in 1974. Having worked on "The Late Show with David Letterman" as a voiceover artist, Horne's additional voice credits include 13 episodes of "Courage the Cowardly Dog" and two "Grand Theft Auto" video games as a radio announcer. Horne's film credits include minor roles in "Mr. Popper's Penguins," starring Jim Carrey, and three Coen Brothers' movies: "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," "Burn After Reading," and "Hail Caesar!"

Apart from acting, Horne was also a vocal and active union member, serving in several positions within SAG-AFTRA. The actor died in 2016 at age 72 as a result of an infection caused by a recent surgery, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Jeanne Bates

In "Die Hard 2," while John McClane waits for his wife Holly's arrival at Dulles International Airport, she's seated on a plane beside an elderly and talkative passenger, played by Jeanne Bates. The passenger goes on about how "technology is wonderful" and shows Holly the taser she's carrying in her purse. Luckily, that taser proves useful for Holly later in the film in stopping Richard Thornburg — the intrusive reporter who made things worse for John and Holly in the first film — from broadcasting a live message to the airport's control towers.

Jeanne Bates began her career in radio soap operas before signing a contract with Columbia Pictures and making her debut on film in 1943. After a series of minor roles throughout the 1940s in films like "The Return of the Vampire," "The Soul of a Monster," and "Death of a Salesman," Bates moved over to television in the 1950s, guest-starring in "Peter Gunn," "The Lone Ranger," and "The Range Rider." In subsequent decades, she also earned credits for "The Twilight Zone," "Wonder Woman," "Charlie's Angels," and later, "That '70s Show."

Some of her more notable film credits include "Grand Canyon," "Die Hard 2," and David Lynch's "Eraserhead" and "Mulholland Drive," which was her final film role. Bates died from breast cancer in 2007 at age 89.

John Costelloe

While waiting to pick up Holly in "Die Hard 2," John McClane observes two suspicious men and follows them into the airport's baggage area. A gunfight ensues between John and the men, and after he neutralizes them, he sends their fingerprints to LAPD Sergeant Al Powell — his friend from the first film. Al reveals that one of the men, Sergeant Oswald Cochrane (John Costelloe), had been declared dead on government records for years. He's later revealed to be a mercenary working for Colonel William Stuart.

John Costelloe worked as an FDNY firefighter for 11 years, from 1987 to 1998, while he appeared in films like Ridley Scott's "Black Rain," "The Hard Way" starring Michael J. Fox, and Woody Allen's "Manhattan Murder Mystery." He is perhaps best remembered for his role in a 4-episode-arc of HBO's "The Sopranos" as Jim "Johnny Cakes" Witowski. A diner chef and voluntary firefighter, Jim develops a romance with Vito Spatafore (played by Costelloe's close friend Joseph Gannascoli) when Vito is in hiding in New Hampshire. Costelloe died from suicide in 2008 at the age of 47. 

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Anthony Peck

Only two actors have had the privilege of playing more than one character in the "Die Hard" franchise: Aldis Hodge, now known for "The Invisible Man" and "Black Adam," and Anthony Peck. Peck played two roles in the franchise: an unnamed cop in "Die Hard" who is among the many police officials at Nakatomi Plaza, and detective Ricky Walsh in "Die Hard with a Vengeance," whose death helps John realize that some police he encounters later are decoys. One of the fakers wears Walsh's badge, which had sparked a bit of banter between John and Ricky earlier in the film.

It's worth noting that both of Peck's "Die Hard" films were directed by John McTiernan, with whom the actor also collaborated on "The Hunt for Red October" and "The Last Action Hero." In his DVD commentary for "Die Hard," McTiernan explained how he was impressed with Peck's ability to breathe life into the small non-speaking role he played in the first "Die Hard." McTiernan later offered the actor a bigger role in "The Hunt for Red October" as a naval commander, which helped lead to Peck's roles as law enforcement characters in "The Last Action Hero," "In the Line of Fire," and "Die Hard with a Vengeance."

Peck also appeared in TV shows like "Knight Rider," "Beauty and the Beast," and "Quantum Leap" before passing away in 1996 at the age of 49.

Mischa Hausserman

Mischa Hausserman played Mischa, one of Simon Gruber's henchmen in "Die Hard with a Vengeance" who's assigned to take out John McClane and Zeus Carver at Yankee Stadium. Their encounter leads to a car chase on a crowded highway, with Mischa chasing the two protagonists in a truck. Despite his skilled maneuvers, he's ultimately outsmarted and killed by John. Mischa proves to be another minor antagonist whose death leads John closer to figuring out Simon's plans, as he finds some curious loose coins in Mischa's pocket.

Born in Austria, Hausserman moved to the United States in 1965. The following year, he appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's spy thriller "Torn Curtain" in an uncredited minor role. While he worked as an actor in lesser-known films, television shows, and theatrical plays in subsequent decades, Hausserman's career also included work as an aerial coordinator and second unit director on films like "Die Hard with a Vengeance," "The Thomas Crown Affair," "Rollerball," and "Eraser." Hausserman died in 2021 at the age of 79.