The weird, complicated story behind the making of Die Hard 4.0
Somewhat unbelievably, it began life as a modern retelling of Tarzan...
Released in cinemas on 27 June 2007, a full twelve years after Die Hard With A Vengeance arrived, Die Hard 4.0 (or Live Free Or Die Hard, depending on what part of the world you live in) was a seen as a return to form for the franchise.
Directed by Len Wiseman, who was "hot" off the back of Underworld and, uhm, Underworld: Evolution, the $110 million production is the highest grossing movie of the series ($388 million) not accounting for inflation, and has the second-highest review score of the bunch (82% on Rotten Tomatoes, only behind the original's 92%).
Just like the three previous entries, it began life as a completely different project...
The first movie is an adaptation of book titled Nothing Lasts Forever, which itself was a sequel to a book titled The Detective, which was adapted into a movie in 1968 starring Frank Sinatra.
Die Hard 2 was also adapted from a book, this one titled 58 Minutes, which was originally written as its own action-thriller about a cop trying to stop terrorists at an airport, as his daughter is stuck on a plane flying above them all, with only 58 minutes of fuel remaining.
Die With A Vengeance was originally a script titled Simon Says, which was intended for Brandon Lee before he passed away during the making of The Crow. It involved a bomber with a specific vendetta against a police detective.
Clip via TrailersPlayground
As early as 1997, just two short years after the third Die Hard, 20th Century Fox and Bruce Willis picked up a script titled Tears of the Sun, which was set entirely in the Amazon jungle, focusing on a group of kidnap victims on the run from a violent drug cartel.
At one point, it was due to be directed by John Woo (Broken Arrow, Face/Off), and was also almost reworked into a modern retelling of Tarzan.
Eventually, both Fox and Willis decided that putting John McClane in the jungle just wouldn't be very Die Hard, so they ditched this route. However, Willis enjoyed the title of the project so much, that he had his 2003 movie Man Of War renamed as Tears of the Sun. The means-nothing title is actually considered to be one of the reasons why that movie absolutely tanked at the box office.
Jump forward to 2005, a script titled WW3.com - from the same writer of Will Smith's 1998 techno-thriller Enemy Of The State - was resurrected, after being buried several years earlier in light of the 9/11 attacks.
The script was based on an article in Wired Magazine, which predicted an attack procedure known as a "fire sale", in which a co-ordinated cyber-terrorist attack on a country's transportation, telecommunications, financial, and utilities infrastructure systems would essentially bring the nation to its knees.
This initial script passed to several stages of rewrites, with writers Doug Richardson (Die Hard 2, Bad Boys) and Mark Bomback (Unstoppable, The Wolverine), with all of these different drafts resulting in many false titles being spread around Hollywood. For the longest time, it was believed the movie's official title was Die Hard: Reset, before Willis confirmed it was actually called Die Hard 4.0, only for 20th Century Fox to then rename the movie again, to Live Free or Die Hard, but only for audiences in North America.
One of the changes during the many rewrites was the removal of John McClane's son, who was originally to be the hacker that he had to deliver to the FBI (this becomes the hacker character played by Justin Long). The inclusion of McClane's son (played by Jai Courtney) was eventually carried over to the fifth movie.
2013's A Good Day To Die Hard was the very first movie to begin its life as a Die Hard movie. Having broken the good luck charm of adapting non-Die Hard scripts into big Die Hard movies, it might be why it is the worst of the lot by a wide margin.
Die Hard 4.0/Live Free Or Die Hard is available to watch right now on Disney+.