Thinking about a version of Die Hard that doesn't star Alan Rickman as the slick and methodical terrorist Hans Gruber is like thinking about a version of life that sucks just that much more. Thankfully, the universe we currently occupy is the one that ensures our Blu-ray copy of the John McTiernan-directed action classic will allow us to keep watching the genuinely surprised look on the respected British actor's face as he drops to his doom. However, we almost didn't have the pleasure of enjoying this moment for posterity, as Alan Rickman almost didn't sign on to the film that would make his career.
The Hollywood Reporter recently ran an interview with Alan Rickman, conducted during a press event in the UK to promote his latest directorial effort. During this interview, Rickman recounted how he was offered the part of Gruber in Die Hard after being in Los Angeles for only two days. Even Rickman's agents knew that this wasn't the sort of deal that was given to just anyone, and they eventually persuaded him to take the role. Since we know how the story ends, it's even funnier to read Alan Rickman's unfavorable reaction to the script once he'd finished it.
I read it, and I said, 'What the hell is this? I’m not doing an action movie,'
After history took its course, and put Alan Rickman on the road to action movie history, he took to making the role of Hans Gruber his own. So much so, in fact, that it was his idea to have his character dressed as a civilian instead of the original "terrorist gear" that was originally scripted for Hans' look. This, of course, allowed for the classic subplot where Hans tricks John McClane into thinking he was a captive instead of a captor. Not bad for someone who originally didn't even want a part of the film at all.
A Die Hard without Alan Rickman seems like a difficult prospect to even imagine. You really can't envision anyone else making Bruce Willis' life a living hell at Nakatomi Plaza's Christmas party. Though if we think really, really hard, we could see a young Jonathan Pryce in the role of Hans. He could sell the accent, and his levels of menace and charm rival that of Alan Rickman's, so you know he wouldn't have been that bad of a substitute. Or, perhaps, the historical tables could have been turned and Jeremy Irons could have played Hans, while Rickman could have picked up the role of Simon in the best Die Hard sequel of them all, Die Hard With A Vengeance.
All hypotheticals aside, it's good to know that history is secure in the knowledge that Alan Rickman was, and will always be, one hell of a financial terrorist. Though directing seems to be his current field of play, as his film A Little Chaos will be released in the UK today.