Movie Legends: Why Did Black & Decker Sue the Producers of Die Hard 2?

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Die Hard 2 was sued by Black and Decker over a product placement scene getting cut from the film.

Reader Ray B. suggested this one.

I figured with Christmas being past but it still being the holiday season, we can look at a movie that no one seems to ever count as a Christmas movie despite its predescessor causing all sorts of issues over whether IT is a Christmas movie. Yes, we're talking Die Hard 2, which also takes place during Christmas, although it rarely actually plays a role in the plot of the film.

The movie is about John McClane going to the airport to meet his wife on Christmas Eve, but mercenaries take control of the airport so that they can take control of a prison plane that is secretly landing at the airport since the prison transport has a powerful drug lord on it and the mercenaries plan to escape with him. While they are escaping, they plan to cover their escape by forcing the various planes above the airport to crash (including the plane that McClane's wife is on). John, of course, must fight them throughout the airport to stop them and save the lives of as many people on the planes above as he can (annoyingly, the bad guys actually succeed in crashing one plane, so McClane "saves the day" with 200 innocent people dead. That part always annoyed me).

Now, as you know, movies often have what you would call "product placement." That is where a company will pay the filmmakers money to use their products in the movie. This is typically not a big deal, in the sense that let's say that the people in the movie are having a beer. Would it hurt to make it, say, a Stella Artois? But to see their product in a big movie, the makers of Stella Artois would then pay the movie producers some money and that would help pay for the movie.

Product placement is not always a matter of getting paid for the usage. Sometimes it is just for verisimilitude. FedEx, for instance, did not pay for the use of their products in the film, Cast Away, the filmmakers just wanted their stranded lead to work for a delivery company (to explain why he had some random modern products with him on the island - they were in the packages that ended up on the beach along with him, including his beloved volleyball friend, Wilson).

Similarly, Josie and the Pussycats also technically did not receive any money for the loads of product placement in that movie, because the product placement was meant ironically (although, that's a slightly different subject than Cast Away, I think, as I wrote in this Movie Legends Revealed).

In any event, Black and Decker, the tool company, agreed to pay $20,000 to have John McClane use one of their Univolt cordless drills to open up an airport duct grill.

They had not actually paid the money yet when they discovered that the scene had been cut from the final film.

So you'd think that that would have been the end of it, right? They just didn't have to pay. But Black and Decker, you see, had spent almost $200,000 on a big ad campaign that would run in stores in the lead up to Father's Day (which would tie in with Die Hard 2's June 1990 release date) and they learned only three days before the movie opened that the scene was cut, so they were out the money they spent on the ads and as well as their hurt reputation, as they had planned events like a movie screening that they had to also cancel at the last moment.

Eventually, Fox (and the advertisement firm that had set the deal up) agreed to pay Black and Decker an undisclosed amount.

Product placement gone wrong!

The legend is...


Be sure to check out my archive of Movie Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the world of film.

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

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