The fact that Die Hard is a Christmas movie isn’t really up for debate anymore (hell, The A.V. Club even sells sweatshirts about it), but that doesn’t make director John McTiernan recent interview with the American Film Institute about “how Die Hard became a Christmas movie” any less worthwhile.
During the 12-minute clip, McTiernan reveals an unexpected inspiration for his shoot-em-up action film: the 1946 Christmas classic It’s A Wonderful Life. “Specifically, the Pottersville sequence,” McTiernan says in the interview. “Which is what happens when the evil banker gets to do what he wants in the community without George getting in the way to stop it. And it’s the clearest demonstration and criticism of runaway, unregulated cowboy capitalism that’s ever been done in an American movie.”
Of course, unlike Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey, Bruce Willis’ John McClane has a gun to help him deal with the evil banker in his life. But McTiernan says he was always clear with producer Joel Silver about making McClane in the image of George Bailey: “I said, ‘Okay, if you want me to make this terrorist movie, I want to make it where the hero in the first scene, when the limo driver apologizes that he’s never been in a limo before, the hero says, “It’s alright. I’ve never ridden in a limo before.”’ A working class hero.”
Though it was inspired by It’s A Wonderful Life, McTiernan (clearly lying) admits “we hadn’t intended [Die Hard] to be a Christmas movie. But the joy that came from it is what turned it into a Christmas movie. And that’s really the best I can tell you about it.”
Is it weird that this story, rather than moving us to watch Die Hard, has inspired us to watch Saturday Night Live’s Dana Carvey as George Bailey?