A Good Day to Die Hard Has Bruce Willis Comfortable with His “Yippee-ki-yay!” Action Role 25 Years Later

Photos by Margie Barron

Bruce Willis.

To celebrate the opening of the new film A Good Day to Die Hard, a huge mural was unveiled at 20th Century Fox Studios showing Bruce Willis as a larger-than-life action star. It’s the 25th anniversary of the Die Hard film franchise which has made more than $1.1 billion worldwide over the years, “but who’s counting? Actually, we are,” the chairman of Fox studios, Jim Gianopulos said with a smile. The head of the studio called it a cornerstone and “a wonderful legacy” for Fox. He also described the appeal of Willis’ John McClane character as an “everyman who has the uncanny ability to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but who never ever says die.”

Gianopulos noted that the mural covers the outside wall of historic Stage 8 which once hosted the productions Drums Along the Mohawk and The Sound of Music, and so many other great films. There was a big grin on Willis’ face when the mural was revealed with a very young likeness of the actor taken from the first Die Hard blockbuster in 1988.

At a press conference, Willis, 57, reflected on his journey in the role of McClane, who has been married and divorced, has had trouble with alcohol, kids, and so much more. It has been quite a ride according to Willis. “It’s a big stretch of time, hard to compress it into a few sentences. But I remember every film, and I remember everything we did and the way we were, and how playing that role for 25 years has turned into a life in itself. I have very great memories and I’ll always have a warm place in my heart for making these crazy films.” What’s different about doing the first Die Hard and the new one? Willis noted, “I get up a little slower from the ground after I’ve fallen into something. It’s okay. I’m doing alright. I’m here today.”

Photos by Margie Barron

Bruce Willis in front of the “Die Hard” mural.

A Good Day to Die Hard is the fifth in the film series which has featured Willis as a hard-hitting, two-fisted tough guy who saves the day. His Die Hard films have cemented his big screen stardom, which came on the heels of his television career, starring opposite Cybill Shepherd in Moonlighting from 1985 to 1989.

Willis said audiences keep coming back to see him as Die Hard’s John McClane “because I think that over the past 25 years there’s been a certain amount of good will that builds up, and people want to see you and root for you, because you know someone like me. You know somebody who thinks he’s too smart and has everything figured out, when in fact he doesn’t really have anything figured out.”

He thinks the appeal of the Die Hard movies is the same as “going to an amusement park and going on a roller coaster. You really know you’re not going to fall off the roller coaster but it sure seems like you’re going to go flying out of the car. And these films are kinda like big entertainment roller coasters. That’s my goal anyway. And director John Moore and his team have made it so harrowing, with the car chases, stunts, and the other things we did.”

The “complicated process” of getting the Die Hard films made, Willis said, is just “coming up with a good story, that’s the thing that triggers another film. This latest film was much more germane to the Die Hard franchise and that has to do with family conflict. In this case, I’m fighting with my son, played by Jai Courtney.”

Talking about his signature line — “Yippee-ki-yay!” — Willis revealed it was an adlib in the first Die Hard movie. “The bad guy was picking on me and I just happen to let that line slip out, and it became part of the fabric of the film. It always comes at a moment of high danger. It’s just amazing that the line has lasted this long. Kids say it to me on the street, and grandmas. Sometimes it’s a little awkward, but I’m still happy that they say it.”

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