Bruce Willis in Die Hard
Movies - TV
Die Hard Only Cast Bruce Willis Out Of Sheer Desperation
Pitched as "Rambo in an office building,” Fox had to find a lead for "Die Hard" in 1987. Sylvester Stallone was the obvious first ask, but he declined.
The list of rejections was long and included Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds, and Mel Gibson, but it became less distinguished the longer the casting process went on.
After asking Paul Newman, Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, and Nick Nolte, the studio went to TV's MacGyver, Richard Dean Anderson. Fox was desperate, and every agent knew it.
Bruce Willis was well-known from the TV series "Moonlighting," but was more goofy than action hero. Fox was on the clock, so they bet a staggering $5 million on his potential.
MGM honcho Alan Ladd Jr. fumed, "Like everybody else in town, I was stunned." Fox's gamble looked even more dire when the "Die Hard" trailer provoked laughter in theaters.
The studio was so wary of Willis’ appeal that it replaced him in the poster with an exploding Nakatomi Plaza, but they had a hit, as "Die Hard" was testing through the roof.