Puts a whole different spin on “Welcome to the party, pal,” doesn’t it? Kidding! I kid, I kid. Having argued for years that Die Hard is not a Christmas movie, as most Christmas movies don’t usually have that much blood on the screen, I owe everyone a chance to see this rebuttal from director John McTiernan. He didn’t set out to make a Christmas movie, McTiernan explains in this lengthy monologue for the American Film Institute. He set out to make an anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian movie that just became infused with the Christmas spirit, or something.
I stand corrected (via the Daily Wire):
McTiernan initially refused to do the job after seeing its “authoritarian” response to the leftist terrorists in the source novel, Nothing Lasts Forever. Only after changes were made — in part by transforming the leftist “terrorists” into capitalist thieves — did McTiernan sign onto the project:
“Joel Silver sent me the script three, four times. And it was about these horrible leftist terrorists that come into the sort of Valhalla of capitalism, Los Angeles, and they bring their guns and their evil ways and they shoot up people just celebrating Christmas, terrible people, awful. And it was really about the stern face of authority stepping into put things right again, you know? And I kept saying to Joel, I don’t want to make that,” he said.
McTiernan said he used “It’s A Wonderful Life” as a source of inspiration for the direction he wanted the movie to go, primarily its critique on unfettered capitalism.
“I went to Joel. And 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,” he said. “The hero says it’s alright. I’ve never ridden in a limo before. Okay, working class hero.”
“And Joel understood what I meant. And he said okay. And so we started to work on it,” he continued. “And in fact, everybody, as they came to work on the movie began to get, as I said, this idea of this movie as an escapee. And there was a joy in it. Because we were, we’ve had changed the content. And that is how ‘Die Hard’ became, we hadn’t intended it 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.”
There’s not much doubt about that element in It’s a Wonderful Life, although there is at least a balancing element to it in the Baileys’ savings and loan and the shopkeepers of Bedford Falls. There’s really not much of a balancing element to McTiernan’s interpretation of Die Hard. Even Takagi comes across poorly right up to the point where Hans Gruber ruins his suit.
As for the argument that McTiernan is only against “unfettered capitalism” … meh. There isn’t any such thing as “unfettered capitalism,” except in Ayn Rand’s novels, and then only in Galt Gulch. Perhaps the closest we get to unfettered capitalism is in Hollywood itself, which looooooooves to lecture about capitalism’s evils while its stars pull down $20 million a picture, and their executives cooperate with totalitarian communist regimes to make their pictures.
Still, fair is fair. It’s McTiernan’s film, and he says Die Hard is indeed a Christmas movie. If you want his thoughts on Donald Trump, stick around to the 8-minute mark or so, but they’re just as surprising as his Hollywood take on “unfettered capitalism.” If AFI wants to perform a public service, however, maybe they can get McTiernan to explain what in the hell Basic was about.