Later this week, January 14, 2023, will be the seventh anniversary of Alan Rickman’s death. The British actor died of pancreatic cancer in 2016 at the age of 69. He was perhaps best known for playing Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series, but his first film role was opposite Bruce Willis in Die Hard as the villainous Hans Gruber. However, upon first reading the film’s script, he furiously turned down the role.
Rickman spent years working as a stage actor in theaters, but when he moved to the big screen, he wasn’t sure what direction he wanted his career to take.
When his agent first handed him the Die Hard script, he was struck by its simplicity.
He raged: “What the hell is this? I’m not making an action movie!”
Decades later, in 2015, he recalled how naive he was during those early days of his acting career. Rickman said, “I didn’t know anything about Los Angeles. I didn’t know anything about the movie business… I’d never made a movie before, but it was extremely cheap.”
Eventually, after giving some more thought to Die Hard and talking to his agent, he came up with the idea. Ultimately, it came down to how innovative the Die Hard script was at the time.
“Every black character in that movie is positive and very smart,” he recalled of the 1988 prog film. “So 28 years ago, that’s pretty revolutionary. And quiet.”
However, Rickman had many changes he wanted to make to his character, Hans Gruber. He noted that Hans should have looked completely different from his henchwoman. Instead of wearing overalls, he should wear a suit to make him stand out.
He also wanted to include a scene in which Bruce Willis’s character, John McClane, found Hans pretending to be a hostage.
Rickman wrote all of these changes and alterations before leaving the handwritten note on producer Joel Silver’s desk. But when he found the letter, Silver was furious.
Rickman recalled, “I’ve got Joel saying, ‘Get the hell out of here, you’ll wear what they tell you!'”
The star took the whoops on the chin and went back to work the next day. To her surprise, she discovered that a lot had changed.
“When I came back,” he recalled. “They handed me a new script. It proved that it pays to have a little theater training.”
After working on theater stages for years, Rickman felt invincible on the big screen.
“I like to feel a little insecure,” he explained. “And theater, of course, is deadly. The good thing about starting late in this career is that you say, ‘Well, what’s the worst that could happen?'”
Rickman’s suggestions, of course, ended up being some of the most memorable parts of Die Hard.
The film grossed a staggering $141 million at the box office, not bad considering it had a meager $25 million budget.
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