Die Hard with a Vengeance

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Die Hard with a Vengeance
Die Hard With A Vengance.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn McTiernan
Screenplay byJonathan Hensleigh
Based on
Produced by
CinematographyPeter Menzies Jr.
Edited byJohn Wright
Music byMichael Kamen
Distributed by20th Century Fox (North America/Japan)[1]
Cinergi Productions (International)[a]
Release date
  • May 19, 1995 (1995-05-19) (United States)
Running time
128 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$90 million[5]
Box office$366.1 million[5]

Die Hard with a Vengeance is a 1995 American action thriller film directed by John McTiernan (who directed the first installment). It was written by Jonathan Hensleigh, based on the screenplay Simon Says by Hensleigh and on the characters created by Roderick Thorp for his 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever. Die Hard with a Vengeance is the third film in the Die Hard film series, after Die Hard 2 (1990). It is followed by Live Free or Die Hard (2007) and A Good Day to Die Hard (2013).

The film stars Bruce Willis as NYPD Lieutenant John McClane and Samuel L. Jackson as McClane's reluctant partner Zeus Carver, who team up to stop bomb threats across New York City carried out by "Simon" (Jeremy Irons). It was released on May 19, 1995 to mixed reviews and became the highest-grossing film of the year. The film later gained a cult following and has been considered by many critics and fans as the best sequel of the franchise.[6][7][8][9]


The Bonwit Teller department store in New York City is blown up by a bomb during the morning commute. A man identifying himself as "Simon" telephones the New York City Police Department (NYPD), claiming responsibility and threatens to detonate another bomb unless policeman, John McClane, is sent to Harlem wearing a sandwich board with a racist slur on it. The NYPD comply and send McClane to Harlem, where he is confronted by an electrician and shop owner named Zeus Carver. McClane explains his situation before a nearby crowd also confronts McClane over his sign. Carver intervenes and saves McClane, and they escape in a car. They arrive at 1 Police Plaza, where Simon demands that the pair follow a timed challenge or he will set off more bombs. They agree and McClane eventually boards the 3 train heading towards the Wall Street station in order to defuse a bomb that Simon planted on it. Carver arrives at the station before McClane finds the bomb and throws it on the tracks just as it explodes.

McClane and Carver regroup with the NYPD and meet some FBI and CIA agents, who initially inform the pair that Simon is "Peter Krieg", a mercenary and former colonel in the National People's Army before revealing to them that Krieg is Simon Peter Gruber, the brother of Hans Gruber, who McClane killed years earlier in Los Angeles. Simon then places another call to the NYPD, informing them that he has planted an explosive in one of the city's elementary schools which is set to explode once class ends and can be triggered by the same radio frequencies utilised by law enforcement. Simon offers to give the authorities the school's location if McClane and Carver follow another timed challenge, warning that he will detonate the explosive if any evacuation attempts are carried out. While the pair solve Simon's next challenge, the NYPD begin to search all elementary schools in the city.

McClane realizes that Simon is attempting to distract the NYPD away from Wall Street, which has no schools, and travels to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York Building and discovers that Simon's men have stolen $140 billion of gold bullion from there using dump trucks. He follows the trucks into a water tunnel while Carver continues Simon's challenges. Simon blows up a cofferdam and floods the tunnel, but McClane escapes and reunites with Carver. Surviving a car chase with Simon's men, the pair find that they were carrying enough money to pay for a bridge toll. The pair sneak aboard a tanker docked in the Long Island Sound, but Simon's associates capture them and tie them up next to a bomb. Simon explains that his school threat was fake and broadcasts a message claiming that he is planning on destroying the tanker to destabilize the Western world's economy. After he leaves, Carver and McClane free themselves and escape the tanker just before the bomb detonates.

As McClane and Carver are debriefed by the NYPD, McClane informs them that none of the bullion Simon's men stole was on the tanker's cargo hold, having deduced that Simon had intended to keep all of it for himself using his knowledge of the Gruber family's modus operandi. While attempting to place a call to his estranged wife Holly, McClane glances at a bottle of aspirin given to him by Simon onboard the tanker and notices that it was purchased at a truck stop in the Canadian province of Quebec on the Canada–United States border. McClane informs the NYPD of his discovery, and joins them and Carver as they rush towards a warehouse near the truck stop where Simon and his men are redistributing the bullion and planning their escape. The rest of Simon's men are quickly apprehended by law enforcement personnel, though Simon and his girlfriend Katya attempt to escape via a helicopter. McClane catches up to them and shoots at an overhead power line, which falls onto the helicopter, causing it to crash into the ground and explode. While they are celebrating their triumph, Carver persuades McClane to place another call to Holly again.



Development and writing[edit]

As with most of the films in the series, the premise of this film was repurposed from a stand-alone project. Producer Joel Silver and 20th Century Fox wanted the third Die Hard film to take place on a ship; to that effect, between 1991 and 1992 they hired screenwriter W. Peter Iliff to write a script for Die Hard 3 which would take place on a cruise ship in the Caribbean, where John McClane and his wife are when it gets taken over by terrorists who threaten the passengers' lives with a bomb. Iliff had recently written Point Break (1991), which turned into a huge hit and was a principle factor in his hiring. The initial version of Die Hard 3 would have been based on a spec script titled Troubleshooter by James Haggin, who wrote it in late 1989 and sold it to Largo Entertainment in March 1990, before Fox bought it from them in 1991, as they considered it ideal for the next Die Hard sequel. The original script required a number of rewrites to bring it in line with the series; however, the addition of several action sequences inflated the expected budget considerably.

Iliff's second re-write of the script was in progress when a similar film, titled Dreadnought and starring Steven Seagal, went into production at Warner Bros. By the time Iliff completed his third re-write to remove or reduce similarities, the Seagal film was re-titled, first to Last To Surrender (because producers wanted three word title like Seagal's previous films had), and then to Under Siege (1992). Fox then decided it was pointless to keep trying to make this version of the third Die Hard film due to the perceived similarities. Ironically enough, before it was bought by Warner Bros for $1 million, J.F. Lawton's original 1990 spec script for Under Siege (titled Dreadnought) had been offered to Joel Silver to be possibly re-written into Die Hard 3, but Silver had refused. During script development, Warner Bros. offered Iliff a job of re-writing Dreadnought, not knowing he was already working on Die Hard 3. Silver and Fox even bought another similar spec titled Supertanker in order to prevent it from being produced before Die Hard 3.[10][11][12][13][14][15][16]

After the Iliff script was nixed, Largo Entertainment returned to the Troubleshooter script and tried to produce it as a feature film around 1994, without success. It was rumored that the script was later adapted and used for Speed 2: Cruise Control. Jan De Bont, the director of Speed and Twister conceived the story for Speed 2 independently from what was developed for the "cruise ship" version of Die Hard 3, though certain elements were re-used in a minor capacity. Following all the issues during early development and previous problems he and Bruce Willis had with one another following the very troubled production of The Last Boy Scout (1991), Silver left the Die Hard 3 production and never worked on any other Die Hard film or with Willis again, and John McTiernan, who was going to return to direct this version of the third film, also quit the project. McTiernan disliked the concept of the entire film taking place on a ship. Director Danny Cannon was then involved to direct the film for some time, possibly when later different scripts were in development.

Between 1993 and 1994 at least three more versions of Die Hard 3 were written, each one very different from the others. The first was written by John Milius and it took place in a jungle, and after his version was rejected, two more were written at the same time by two different writers. One by Doug Richardson which took place in Los Angeles subways taken over by terrorists who are actually planning to rob the federal reserve of the city, and second by John Fasano which took place across an entire city (New York or L.A.) as McClane chases kidnappers who took his teenage daughter, thinking she was the daughter of some rich industrialist. Both scripts were rejected by Willis, who felt they were more like Die Hard rip-offs, although the ending of Richardson's script was used for the ending of Speed, which Richardson confirmed in interviews. Interestingly, the "Die Hard in the jungle" storyline was also at one point going to be used for the fourth Die Hard film which was in development around 1997, based on the original script by Alan B. McElroy titled Tears of the Sun, about a group of people who go to the Amazon to set up a radio relay station only to end up encountering drug dealers and then having to escape through the jungle from them. Bruce Willis really liked McElroy's script, which was also considered to be re-written into a new modern Tarzan film before Willis had it changed into Die Hard 4, and when the version of Die Hard 4 based on it wasn't made, he requested for the title of his 2002 action war film Man of War to be renamed to Tears of the Sun, which is why the film is occasionally erroneously cited as being based on the same script as the unproduced Die Hard 4.[17][18][19][20][21][16]

Finally, after Brandon Lee's death on set of The Crow, Fox took another spec script titled Simon Says by Jonathan Hensleigh, which was offered as Lee's next film and considered as a sequel to Lee's Rapid Fire, and decided to adapt it into what eventually became Die Hard With a Vengeance. Hensleigh's original script was about a mad bomber who wants revenge against a police detective who is forced by the bomber to find and stop his bombs from exploding, and the only help he has is a shop owner who becomes involved by accident. Originally in early 1993 Joel Silver and Warner Bros. tried to buy Simon Says to have it re-written into Lethal Weapon 4, but 20th Century Fox bought it instead. The script then went through dozens of different re-writes by writers such as Hensleigh, Dan Bronson, Lorenzo Semple Jr, David Shaber, and others. At some point during re-writes Zeus was changed into a female character which Angela Bassett was in talks to play. Even after the movie was completed, a new ending had to be written and filmed to replace the darker original ending, in which McClane is blamed for everything that's happened and loses his job, but still manages to track down Simon months later and makes Simon kill himself by accident after playing a game called "McClane Says".[16]

Andy Vajna replaced Joel Silver and Larry Gordon as the producer on the film due to a fall-out with Willis.[11] As a result, Vajna's company, Cinergi, acquired foreign rights to the film. Through their international distribution subsidiary - Cinergi Productions N.V. Inc., they pre-sold the movie to Disney and Summit Entertainment, while Fox retained North American and Japanese rights.[1] In July 1997, Cinergi sold its 50% stake in the film to Fox for $11.25 million.[22]


Laurence Fishburne was originally offered the co-starring role of Zeus Carver, a part also written for him, but wanted a higher fee. Producer Andy Vajna held out on the deal. Fishburne had earlier turned down the role of Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction, which was eventually played by Samuel L. Jackson. Fishburne was talked out of playing Jules by his representatives who wanted him to only accept leading parts, otherwise he would be stuck career-wise as a supporting actor. Subsequently, Pulp Fiction premiered at the Cannes Film Festival during the same time as Fishburne's pay negotiations. Vajna also attended the event to support Willis who was appearing in the Quentin Tarantino film. Tarantino recalled that Vajna was so impressed by Jackson's performance that he offered him the part of Carver instead. Fishburne later filed a lawsuit against Vajna's company Cinergi for reneging on a verbal agreement.[23][24] The lawsuit took two years and Fishburne received a settlement.[25]



RCA Victor album[edit]

Michael Kamen returned to score the third film, again incorporating other material into his score (most notably "When Johnny Comes Marching Home", not included on the soundtrack album). Excerpts from his scores for Die Hard and Die Hard 2 were also included in the new film. The soundtrack was released by RCA Victor.

  1. Summer in the CityThe Lovin' Spoonful (2:44)
  2. Goodbye Bonwits (6:28)
  3. Got It Covered – Fu-Schnickens (4:13)
  4. John and Zeus (3:19)
  5. In Front of Kids – Extra Prolific (2:44)
  6. Papaya King (5:20)
  7. Take A-nother Train (2:55)
  8. The Iron Foundry – Alexander Mosolov (3:08)
  9. Waltz of the Bankers (4:13)
  10. Gold Vault (3:45)
  11. Surfing in the Aqueduct (2:30)
  12. Symphony No. 1Johannes Brahms (15:00)
  13. Symphony No. 9Ludwig van Beethoven (9:46)

La-La Land album[edit]

In 2012, La-La Land Records released a limited edition two-disc soundtrack containing the Kamen score.[26]

All tracks composed by Michael Kamen except where noted.

  1. Summer in the CityThe Lovin' Spoonful (2:45) (by John Sebastian, Mark Sebastian & Steve Boone)
  2. Main Title (0:16) (cue deleted from final film)
  3. Goodbye Bonwits (6:28)
  4. John and Zeus (3:20)
  5. Taxi (1:51)
  6. Neat Bomb (2:11)
  7. Papaya King (5:19)
  8. 72nd Street Phone (3:18)
  9. Taxi Chase (5:08)
  10. The Subway, Pt. 1 (4:24) (final film version)
  11. The Subway, Pt. 2 (2:15) (final film version)
  12. Take a-nother Train (2:54)
  13. Feds (4:42)
  14. Rings a Bell (8:28) (features music from Ode to Joy by Ludwig van Beethoven)
  15. Infiltration (5:33) (features music from Ride of the Valkyries by Wagner & When Johnny Comes Marching Home by Louis Lambert (Patrick Gilmore))
  16. Bank Invasion (4:15)
  17. Back to Wall Street (2:55)
  18. Fake Cops (1:42)
  19. The Federal Reserve (2:18) (features music from Daisy Bell by Harry Dacre & When Johnny Comes Marching Home)
  20. Bank Elevevator (2:54) (features music from When Johnny Comes Marching Home)
  21. Gold Room Aftermath (1:36)
  22. Panic (2:04)
  23. Aqueduct (2:10)
  24. Santa Claus (2:36)
  25. Yankee Stadium & School and Tunnel (3:42) (features music from When Johnny Comes Marching Home)
  26. Refrigerator Bomb (0:40)
  27. Surfing in the Aqueduct (2:29)
  28. Ticking Refrigerator (0:50)
  29. Mercedes Chase & School Assembly (3:14)
  30. Aftermath & Waiting and Falling (2:00)
  31. Hooking the Boat (5:45) (final film version)
  32. Bunny & Fire Drill (2:39)
  33. Running in the Halls (1:42)
  34. Bomb Goes into Hold (5:42)
  35. John Makes it Mad (1:39)
  36. Holly & Celebration (3:17) (features music from When Johnny Comes Marching Home)
  37. Oh, Canada! (Showdown with a Vengeance) (3:23) (features music from O Canada by Calixa Lavallée & Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier)
  38. Johnny Comes Marching Home (End Credits) (1:45) (features music from When Johnny Comes Marching Home)
  39. Regret (1:50)
  40. Hooking the Boat (4:23) (version from earlier cut of the film)
  41. On the Freighter & John Makes it Mad (3:33)
  42. Wall Street Station (1:29)
  43. The Subway, Pt. 1 (1:30) (segment deleted from final film version)
  44. The Subway, Pt. 2 (0:47) (segment deleted from final film version)
  45. Ode to Johnny (3:13) (features music from Ode to Joy and When Johnny Comes Marching Home)
  46. No Rush (1:20)
  47. Escape (2:04)
  48. The Foundry (Iron Foundry) – Alexander Mosolov (3:09)
  49. Waltz of the Bankers (4:17) (track original to the first soundtrack album)
  50. Gold Vault (3:50) (track original to the first soundtrack album)
  51. Somebody Had Fun (Wild Snare) (1:14)
  52. Johnny Comes Marching Home (Wild Vamps) (1:28) (features music from When Johnny Comes Marching Home)



Unlike its predecessors, Die Hard with a Vengeance did not take place during Christmas. It opened in theaters on May 19, 1995, five years after Die Hard 2. Despite concerns about the film portraying bomb threats and terrorism with the Oklahoma City bombing having occurred the previous month, the film was released as originally scheduled.[27]

Home media[edit]

Die Hard with a Vengeance was released on VHS on December 19, 1995 along with a THX certified version.[28] It was then released on LaserDisc on January 17, 1996, and on DVD on March 9, 1999. A special edition was released on DVD on July 10, 2001 and then re-released in February 2005 and 2007.[29] The film was released on Blu-ray in 2007 and 2013.[30]

Alternative ending[edit]

An alternative ending to the one shown in the final movie was filmed with Jeremy Irons and Bruce Willis, set some time after the events in New York. It can be found on the Special Edition DVD. In this version, it is presumed that the robbery succeeds, and that McClane was used as the scapegoat for everything that went wrong. He is fired from the NYPD after more than 20 years on the force and the FBI has even taken away his pension. Nevertheless, he still manages to track Simon using the batch number on the bottle of aspirins and they meet in a bar in Hungary. In this version, Simon has double-crossed most of his accomplices, gotten the loot to a safe hiding place somewhere in Hungary, and has the gold turned into statuettes of the Empire State Building in order to smuggle it out of the country; but he is still tracked down to his foreign hideaway. McClane is keen to take his problems out on Simon, who he invites to play a game called "McClane Says". This involves a form of Russian roulette with a small Chinese rocket launcher that has had the sights removed, meaning it is impossible to determine which end is which. McClane then asks Simon some riddles similar to the ones he played in New York. When Simon gets a riddle wrong, McClane forces him at gunpoint to fire the launcher, which fires the rocket through Simon, killing him.[31][32]

In the DVD audio commentary, screenwriter Jonathan Hensleigh claims that this version was dropped because the studio thought it showed a more cruel and menacing side to McClane, a man who killed for revenge rather than in self-defense. The studio was also displeased with the lack of action in the scene, feeling that it did not fit as a "climax" and therefore chose to reshoot the finale as an action sequence at a significant monetary cost. Hensleigh's intention was to show that the events in New York and the subsequent repercussions had tilted McClane psychologically. This alternative ending, set some time after the film's main events, would have marked a serious break from the Die Hard formula, in which the plot unfolds over a period of roughly 12 hours.[32]

According to the DVD audio commentary, a second alternative ending had McClane and Carver floating back to shore on a makeshift raft after the explosion at sea. Carver says it is a shame the bad guys are going to get away; McClane tells him not to be so sure. The scene then shifts to the plane where the terrorists find the briefcase bomb they left in the park and which Carver gave back to them (in this version it was not used to blow up the dam). The film would end on a darkly comic note as Simon asks if anyone has a four-gallon jug. This draft of the script was rejected early on – possibly due to the similarity of the ending to Die Hard 2, where all the villains board a plane that later explodes – so it was never actually filmed. The rocket-launcher sequence was the only alternative ending to be filmed.[32]


Box office[edit]

Die Hard with a Vengeance opened in the United States on May 19, 1995 and earned $22,162,245 in its opening weekend.[33] In Japan, it set a record opening for 20th Century Fox with a five-day gross of $13.5 million, beating Return of the Jedi and ranking number one for five consecutive weeks, grossing over $81 million.[34][35][36][5] Its opening in France set a summer record with a gross of $8.8 million in its first 8 days.[35] The film went on to gross $100,012,499 in the United States and Canada, and $266,089,167 in other markets, giving it a total worldwide gross of $366,101,666 and making it the highest-grossing film of 1995.[5][37]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 59% based on 76 reviews, with an average rating of 6.10/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Die Hard with a Vengeance gets off to a fast start and benefits from Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson's barbed interplay, but clatters to a bombastic finish in a vain effort to cover for an overall lack of fresh ideas."[38] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 58 out of 100, based on 19 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[39] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.[40]

Roger Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three stars out of four, praising the action sequences and the performances of Willis, Jackson, and Irons, concluding: "Die Hard with a Vengeance is basically a wind-up action toy, cleverly made, and delivered with high energy. It delivers just what it advertises, with a vengeance."[41] Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman disliked the film, stating that while "[John] McTiernan stages individual sequences with great finesse... they don't add up to a taut, dread-ridden whole".[42] James Berardinelli thought that the explosions and fights were "filmed with consummate skill, and are thrilling in their own right".[43] Samuel L. Jackson's performance in the film was also praised by critics. Desson Howe of The Washington Post thought that "the best thing about the movie is the relationship between McClane and Zeus," saying that Jackson was "almost as good as he was in Pulp Fiction."[44] For Variety, Brian Lowry wrote the film was the "least accomplished" of the Die Hard series, but "even a subpar adventure won't kill this series, as the pic's built-in audience will make it a major summer attraction, if perhaps one lacking quite the stamina of the first two movies".[45]

Empire magazine's Ian Nathan gave the film a three out of five stars review, stating that "Die Hard with a Vengeance is better than Die Hard 2, but not as good as the peerless original. Though it's breathless fun, the film runs out of steam in the last act. And Jeremy Irons' villain isn't fit to tie Alan Rickman's shoelaces."[46] In the Crime Time Filmbook, which archives various UK film reviews, the film was given a 5/5 star review citing it as "...simply the best Action film of the decade, leaving imitators like Bad Boys, Executive Decision, The Rock and Chain Reaction in varying depths of shadow.[47]

Empire considered it to be one of the 50 greatest film sequels in 2009.[48] Ben Sherlock of Screen Rant regarded it as the best sequel of the franchise.[49] Johnny Hoffman from Movieweb considered it a step up from the previous film and praised Willis and Jackson's chemistry and the action scenes.[9]


A novelization by Deborah Chiel was first published on May 28, 1995. The novel is written in third person omniscient and has a somewhat darker tone in comparison to the final film.

The novel provides a deeper exploration into McClane's psyche and shows how angry and broken he has become since leaving Holly and becoming an alcoholic. McClane's introduction is also different. In the film, McClane is first seen in the police van to Harlem while being briefed on what is going on. The novel includes a scene before this where Connie and Joe find McClane in his messy apartment.

Simon's henchwoman Katya appears much later into the story than she does in the film. She is not involved in the Federal Reserve robbery and instead appears just before Simon and Targo take off in one of the dump trucks. Like the final film, she ends up killing Targo for Simon.

The original placement of the "Yippee-Ki-Yay" line is included. Instead of being used at the end, McClane uses the line when talking to Simon over the radios while in the aqueducts. This was meant to be in the same vein as the original use of the line in the first movie.

Zeus' original backstory is presented in the novel, explaining why he is looking after his nephews and why he hates white people. During the car chase, Zeus explains that his brother was killed during a drug raid. When McClane suggests that it was his brother's own fault, Zeus explains that his brother was never involved in drugs and the only reason he was there was to bring Zeus home.

The novel also uses the "McClane Says" ending rather than the film's version of the finale.


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  1. ^ Cinergi pre-sold the worldwide distribution rights except for Japan to Buena Vista International in some regions[2][3] and assigned Summit Entertainment as sales agent for other regions.[1]

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