While there are many who still feel compelled to refute this (including its star, even), I still believe that Die Hard does count as a Christmas movie. It is set at the right time of year, features a soundtrack of wonderful holiday tunes, and it has a happy ending that reminds you it is also a love story. In fact, no matter what persecution I may face for it, I consider it my favorite Christmas movie of all time.
What makes the 1988 critical and commercial hit about a New York cop (Bruce Willis) forced to singlehandedly stop deadly thieves who have taken corporate Christmas party guests hostage in an LA high-rise such a timeless holiday classic is that it does not necessarily need to be watched during the holidays. As a result, the Die Hard cast is one of the most beloved and recognizable ensembles in an action movie. What better time than now to take a look at what they have been up to lately?
Bruce Willis (John McClane)
Bruce Willis would return to play John McClane in four more Die Hard movies (as recently as 2013) and a DieHard batteries ad that aired in October 2020. The role of an average cop turned reluctant hero would launch the former Moonlighting star into a stunning action movie career that seems far from over.
The star released seven titles in 2021 alone (such as Midnight in the Switchgrass, also starring Megan Fox) and there are even more upcoming Bruce Willis movies in the pipeline. For instance, a sequel to one of his latter 2021 films, Fortress, already has a sequel in the works, and he is set to reunite with with Cosmic Sin co-star, Frank Grillo, for A Good Day to Die (which has nothing to do with A Good Day to Die Hard, thankfully).
Bonnie Bedelia (Holly Gennaro McClane)
John McClane’s estranged wife, Holly - who has been going by her maiden name since she moved to Los Angeles to work at Nakatomi Plaza - was played in Die Hard and 1990’s Die Hard 2 by Bonnie Bedelia. Her biggest role prior to playing the female lead of the action movie was, arguably, the female lead of Salem’s Lot - the cult favorite horror miniseries based on the novel by Stephen King.
Some of Bedelia’s best-known work since Die Hard is joining the Parenthood cast as Camille Braverman, and later playing the mother-in-law of action star Kiefer Sutherland on Designated Survivor. Following her role on the Amazon Prime series Panic, she has a new Christmas movie in the works (Netflix’s The Noel Diary) and will star opposite Dennis Quaid and Scott Glenn in the baseball biopic The Hill.
Reginald VelJohnson (Sgt. Al Powell)
The only person on the ground and with a badge who is on John McClane’s side during the whole ordeal in Die Hard is Al Powell. This beloved fan favorite character, whom Reginald VelJohnson would play again in Die Hard 2 and in a Christmas episode of Chuck, is just one of many cops he has notably played throughout his career, starting with 1984’s Ghostbusters, as a jail guard.
In 1989, VelJohnson became the lead of the Family Matters cast, Carl Winslow, and in Turner & Hooch he played David Sutton - whom he reprised on the Disney+ series remake, starring Josh Peck, in 2021. That same year, the actor returned as the voice of God on Adult Swim’s Lazor Wulf and also lent his voice to the Invincible cast as the principal of Reginald VelJohnson High School. How fitting.
De’voreaux White (Argyle)
Of course, there is one other person on the ground who has John McClane’s back (but does not have a badge) in Die Hard, and that is his friendly limo driver Argyle. De’voreaux White would return to this role (his most iconic cinematic character) when reuniting with Bruce Willis for the aforementioned DieHard batteries ad.
The action-packed commercial is actually the most recent credit for the actor, who had also appeared in the Carl Weathers-led thriller, Action Jackson, the same year as Die Hard and supposedly poked fun at the Argyle role previously, on a 2014 episode of Workaholics, in which he played an Uber driver. White is also known for debuting on an episode of The Jeffersons at 12, trying to rob Ray Charles’ music shop in 1980’s The Blues Brothers, for his recurring role on Little House on the Prairie, and playing Aristotle McKenzie on the original Head of Class, which was rebooted for HBO Max in 2021.
William Atherton (Richard Thornburg)
Among the many people on the ground who do prove to be a real thorn in John McClane’s side, we have TV reporter Richard Thornburg, whom William Atherton would also reprise to no less redemptive effect in Die Hard 2. In fact, the actor essentially made his living playing memorable movie jerks in the ‘80s, including Walter Peck in the original Ghostbusters, and Professor Jerry Hathaway in Real Genius, opposite Val Kilmer.
Atherton’s penchant for villainy continued to follow him into the 21st Century, such as with his recurring role as Viceroy Berto Mercado on Syfy’s Defiance, but he did get to playing one of the few meritorious characters of the Netflix original thriller, Clinical, in 2017. His most recent acting credit, released the following year, was another film about average people reluctantly embroiled into a violent situation, called Bad Company (not to be confused with the 2002 Michael Bay film.
Hart Bochner (Harry Ellis)
Another despicable Die Hard character who does not make things any easier for John (or anyone else) while being a hostage himself, is Holly’s co-worker, Ellis. Absolutely nailing this role is Hart Bochner, who had previously appeared in 1984’s Supergirl movie as the titular hero’s human love interest.
He would go on to also make a name for himself as a filmmaker, directing feature-length comedies in the 1990s like PCU and High School High and, later, episodes of NCIS: New Orleans - which, surprisingly, is not one of the many hit TV shows he has guest starred on in recent years. Bochner was recently cast on a thriller series led by scream queen Lin Shaye called Ellen, and will portray real-life entrepreneur Larry Ellison on The Dropout - Hulu’s miniseries biopic about Elizabeth Holmes - in 2022.
Clarence Gilyard Jr. (Theo)
Another Die Hard cast veteran who would return for the aforementioned DieHard batteries ad was Clarence Gilyard as Hans Gruber’s most tech-savvy henchman, Theo. Of course, the actor is even better known as Chuck Norris’ onscreen partner, James Trivette, on Walker, Texas Ranger - which is actually one of a few cop shows the actor has starred on, including CHiPs and Matlock.
Since that action-packed battery commercial, Gilyard starred in another short thriller called The Legacy of a Spy, which is expected to come out in 2021. He is currently filming a made-for-TV drama called Eleanor’s Bench and has a film called The Driver in the works.
Alexander Godunov (Karl Vreski)
Hans Gruber’s toughest and most vengeful henchman was easily Karl, played Alexander Godunov, who was a Russian ballet dancer before becoming an actor. His first non-balletic screen credit is the 1985 Harrison Ford film, Witness (a role he poked fun at in the 1994 Bruce Willis comedy North), followed by the hilarious 1986 cult classic The Money Pit starring Tom Hanks and Shelley Long. He would also star alongside fellow Die Hard cast member Robert Davi (Big Johnson) in the 1995 action thriller, The Zone, before his untimely death at the age of 45, which a physician ruled as “natural causes.”
James Shigeta (Joseph Takagi)
Another Die Hard cast member who is, unfortunately, no longer with us is James Shigeta, who led an impressive career in film and TV before playing Nakatomi President Joe Tagaki. His notable credits afterward include the voice of General Li in 1999’s Mulan (one of the best '90s movies on Disney+), and “Old Wanderer” on 2005 episodes of Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender. His final acting credit was in the 2012 sex comedy, The People I’ve Slept With, before he passed away at the age of 85 due to pulmonary failure.
Paul Gleason (Dwayne T. Robinson)
Another Die Hard cast member famous for playing antagonistic characters in the 1980s is Paul Gleason, who was best known as the cunning Clarence Beaks in one of the best Eddie Murphy movies, Trading Places, and the ruthless Principal Vernon in 1985’s The Breakfast Club, before he was cast as the stubborn, absent-minded Deputy Chief Dwayne T. Robinson.
His performance as Vernon would actually be what defined many of his latter career highlights, including National Lampoon’s Van Wilder starring Ryan Reynolds and Not Another Teen Movie, in which he appeared as Vernon again. However, Gleason did get to play a cop in his final acting credit - 2011’s The Passing, which came out five years after his death, which was due to mesothelioma, at the age of 67.
Alan Rickman (Hans Gruber)
Last, but certainly not least, we have Alan Rickman, who actually made his feature film debut as Hans Gruber - one of the best ‘80s movies' villains (or all-time best villains, even) - in Die Hard. The Golden Globe-winner would channel that same ominous energy into one of his more (otherwise) sympathetic, iconic, and widely beloved roles: Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies. Fans of the magical franchise were especially mournful when Rickman died from pancreatic cancer at the age of 69 in 2016.
Last we heard, a planned prequel to Die Hard, called McClane, was cancelled following Disney’s merger with Fox. I don’t know about you, but I am very thankful for this, because I am pretty sure we already saw John McClane’s origin story as a reluctant hero in the first Die Hard.
Besides, there is no better way to revisit Bruce Willis in action than by rewatching him and the rest of the Die Hard cast in the original film with your family around the holidays. At least, that’s my tradition.
Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.
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