The story of the first time I watched Die Hard is not a spectacular one. I was a literal baby when the film first hit theaters, so instead of the cineplex I had the living room of a neighbors' house during a babysitting gig. It was a December night, I had put the kid to bed, and I just happened to stumble on to the film as it began on some premium cable channel. I was all by myself; there was no ceremony to it; and the television I watched it on was actually fairly crappy. It was a completely unmemorable, unexceptional experience... with the exception of the fact that it was my first time watching Die Hard.
I remember that night distinctly, as I have a special reserved section in my memory for first screenings of my favorite films. With recognition of the adjective's full weight, John McTiernan's Die Hard is perfection through and through, with the ultimate blend of humor, action, drama, and suspense coalescing with some of the most iconic moments and one-liners in blockbuster history. It's as simple and high-concept as they come -- one man versus armed terrorists in a high-rise -- and all three elements in their own way have left an indelible mark on pop culture: the wise-cracking hero John McClane; the hyper-intelligent über-thief Hans Gruber; and the majestic, wonderfully-labyrinthine Nakatomi Plaza.
But while plenty know about Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman, fewer know the history of the legendary building. In real life, Nakatomi Plaza is actually Fox Plaza, and it's located directly next to the 20th Century Fox studio lot in Los Angeles, California. The kismet history is that it was in construction the same year that Die Hard was in production, and as a result the movie was given freedom to go hog wild inside and around it. Today it's a functioning complex with 35 occupied floors, and under normal circumstances it's closed off from the public. This past weekend, however, offered up some very abnormal circumstances, and I was insanely lucky to be able to take full advantage.
By abnormal circumstances, I am referring to the fact that July 2018 marks Die Hard's 30th anniversary -- a milestone deserving recognition. A big celebration plan was put in place by the studio, including a public screening on the rooftop of an adjacent parking lot in the shadow of Fox Plaza... but as a member of the press I was invited to do something a bit extra. Specifically, over the course of an hour on Saturday I took a guided tour exploring the spectacular skyscraper, and visited the various legendary shooting locations of many of the most movie's most popular scenes.
The expedition traversed the entirety of Nakatomi Plaza, from the deep basement to the rooftop, but it started outside the building with a fun bit of Die Hard trivia. In the stitched images you see below, you'll notice four railings on the staircase that leads to the entrance -- but prior the movie production it actually had five, with an extra positioned right in the middle of those pictured. That railing, however, got totally obliterated by an armored truck (the one operated by the LAPD that the terrorists hit with a grenade launcher), and it was never restored after filming was completed.
This detail very much speaks to the special relationship that existed between the Die Hard production and the in-construction skyscraper. One could make a strong argument that it's the largest practical prop in cinematic history, as, within reason, the film was able to utilize the entirety of it. With some exceptions, such as the Nakatomi Corporation Christmas Party, all of the scenes set in the building were shot in and around it. Because of the movie's presence there are facilities that are completely unnecessary -- from its ridiculously oversized loading dock, to its large assortment of industrial water chillers -- but it lends a sense of the fantastical to the place. In many respects it's an unrealistic, Hollywood-esque blockbuster depiction of what a high-rise should be... but all the same it just sits there every day on Avenue Of The Stars between Pico and Olympic Boulevards.
Even after 30 years much of Fox Plaza still very much looks like Nakatomi Plaza, from the design in the elevators to the helipad on the roof, but the tour was accented with some giggle-inducing references and Easter Eggs throughout -- including the opportunity to see my name listed right next to famous slimeball Harry Ellis on the digital welcome service (upgraded quite a bit since 1988):