The world of the "Die Hard" films is a fascinating one because right up until the most recent "Die Hard" movie, none of the stories that made up the first four films originally began as stories about John McClane. In fact, the first four movies were all adaptations from novels or other screenplays. This sort of approach gets particularly convoluted when you have an instance like the third "Die Hard" film, "Die Hard With a Vengeance", which began life as one film and briefly became "Lethal Weapon 4" before ending up as "Die Hard 3".
Along those lines, did the initial "Die Hard" film, which was based on a novel that was a sequel to an earlier novel that had itself already been turned into a movie (Hollywood can get complicated), also use a story that was meant for another film? Specifically, was the story of "Die Hard" originally meant for a sequel to "Commando"? Let's find out!
"Commando" was a 1985 film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as a former Delta Force member who is pulled out of retirement by the bad guys after they kidnap his daughter to force him to go on a mission for them.
He turns the tables on them, of course, and ends up killing them all. The movie (based on a story idea by Jeph Loeb with a screenplay by Stephen de Souza) was a huge hit and, naturally, there was talk of a sequel.
Famously, the story goes that "Commando 2" was going to be the basic plot of "Die Hard," with John Matrix (Schwarzenegger's character) having to save his daughter again, only this time from inside a building. The film fell through, but 20th Century Fox liked the idea enough that they had Stephen de Souza adapt the idea into a brand-new film, and that film became 1988's smash hit, "Die Hard," with Bruce Willis as John McClane, saving his wife from terrorists inside a building (the book that this was all based on involved a cop trying to save his adult daughter from terrorists).
That story actually makes a lot of sense, but according to de Souza, it's full of malarkey.
Can you talk about how Commando 2 evolved into Die Hard?
None of that is true! That’s all bullshit! Die Hard is based on a novel called Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorpe, and it’s the sequel to a previous novel called The Detective which was made into a movie with Frank Sinatra. In that movie you can see he’s divorced from his wife and they’re trying to get back together...which is all very John McClane and Holly. The studio had bought the rights to the novel when they made the Sinatra movie in the late '60s, and they also bought the right of first refusal to any sequel.
The thing is, how this story got set that Die Hard was gonna be Commando 2, I just don’t know where the rumor came from. It was never going to be anything else. There was a sequel to Commando that I had worked on and Frank Darabont made some changes to, and in that script at the end, Arnold had to break into a building where the bad guys had holed up with his daughter (this was supposed to be about two years later), and Rae Dawn Chong.
I had written it so that when the media got wind of everything that Arnold had done in the first movie, he went on to become a security specialist who had been hired to make this building secure. Then he had to break into the building that he had designed. I think somehow the idea that he was a guy trying to break into a building got confused with the guy trapped in a building, but it’s exactly the opposite. If Commando 2 resembled anything, it was the one that just came out with Sly and Arnold, Escape Plan where you have to break out of a place you designed. Let’s put that rumor to bed right now, as there was no connection between those movies!
I'm willing to trust de Souza, so the legend apparently is....
Thanks to Mike Cecchini (of Den of Geek) and Stephen de Souza for the information!
Be sure to check out my archive of Movie Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the world of films.
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