One of the most beloved action movies of all time is, of course, 1988’s Die Hard, which saw Bruce Willis take down terrorists in Nakatomi Plaza over the Christmas holiday. And although the movie is often thought of as a one-man show as John McClane sneaks his way out of the lockdown and fights back, how can we forget the standout role of Reginald VelJohnson, who played Sergeant Al Powell in the flick before returning for the 1990 sequel. Those cops on traffic ticket duty even love him.
Over 30 years after Reginald VelJohnson debuted the role in theaters, the actor calls it the “role of my life,” even between his other memorable projects like Family Matters, Ghostbusters and Turner & Hooch. The 68-year-old recently recalled the time being a Die Hard star got him out of a situation with police authorities. In his words:
I remember I was in a traffic situation and a cop stopped me and said, 'Can I see your license, please?' I showed him my license, and he said 'You’re the guy from Die Hard. I’ll tell you what. You send me a picture, and I won’t give you a ticket.' I sent that picture right away because I didn’t want the ticket.
That’s some kind of work perk. When speaking to the AV Club about playing Sgt. Al Powell, Reginald VelJohnson shared how the role has been memorable to real cops in particular due to the positive and dynamic portrayal the actor helped bring to life between John McClane’s antics. VelJohnson said that cops often come up to him to show appreciation for his Die Hard role.
Reginald VelJohnson’s Al Powell is a fun character to see play off John McClane, but he’s also dealing with some serious stuff in a sense that he’s been on desk duty since accidentally shooting a child while in the field for the past eleven years ahead of the events of Die Hard. His role all starts with him stopping to get some Twinkies for his pregnant wife when the events of the film play out as well.
VelJohnson’s role in Die Hard is a fan-favorite and the early Hollywood role, which he actually beat out Wesley Snipes for, and it led to him being cast in Family Matters also as a cop. More recently, the actor appeared in Brooklyn Nine-Nine following the comedy doing a running tribute to the action film since Andy Samberg’s Jake Peralta is obsessed with the movie.
The actor also originally had a cameo in one of the biggest movies ever, Avengers: Endgame as a tribute to the classic, but the scene was ultimately cut. Reginald VelJohnson most recently appeared in the Disney+ reboot of Turner & Hooch, where he is reprising his role as David Sutton. The next episode premieres on Wednesday, July 28.