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Die Hard (1988) Poster

(1988)

Trivia

Jump to: Director Trademark (1) | Spoilers (8)
Alan Rickman's feature film debut.
Special, extra loud blanks were made for use in the film to add to the "hyper-realism" director John McTiernan was looking for. Unfortunately for Bruce Willis, some of these blanks were used for the scene where he kills a terrorist by shooting him through the bottom of a table where the terrorist is standing. The proximity of the gun to Willis' ear during this scene caused permanent hearing loss for Willis.
The scene in which Gruber and McClane meet was inserted into the script after Alan Rickman (Hans Gruber) was found to be proficient at mimicking American accents. The filmmakers had been looking for a way to have the two characters meet prior to the climax and capitalized on Rickman's talent.
The Nakatomi tower is actually the headquarters of 20th Century Fox. The company charged itself rent for the use of the then unfinished building.
The scene where McClane falls down a shaft was a mistake by the stuntman, who was supposed to grab the first vent, as it originally was planned. He slipped and continued to fall, but the shot was used anyway; it was edited together with one where McClane grabs the next vent down as he falls.
Director John McTiernan found it necessary to smash cut away from Hans Gruber's face whenever he fired a gun, because of Alan Rickman's uncontrollable habit of flinching from the noise and muzzle flash. If you look at Rickman's face when he shoots Takagi, you can see him wincing.
John McTiernan was originally going to make Commando 2, but Arnold Schwarzenegger turned the role offer down. Commando 2 was transformed into this film; Schwarzenegger was the first actor offered the title role, but he again declined. Eventually Bruce Willis would get the part after it had been offered to Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson and Richard Gere.
Hart Bochner's line "Hans... Bubby!" was ad-libbed. Alan Rickman's quizzical reaction was genuine.
On Alan Rickman's first day of shooting he filmed the scene where Hans Gruber first runs into John McClane. He made a jump off the ledge about three feet high. He injured his knee when he landed and damaged some cartilage in his knee. He was told by his doctor not to put any weight on that leg and he had to use crutches for a week. For the rest of the scene where Hans Gruber is standing and talking to John McClane, Alan Rickman is standing on one leg for the entire time and has a leg brace on under his pants.
The German that the terrorists speak is sometimes grammatically incorrect and meaningless. In the German version of the film, the terrorists are not from Germany but from "Europe". This has been fixed for the Special Edition VHS and later home video releases. The only instances of incorrect use of German are Alan Rickman's (Hans Gruber) lines.
The line "Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker!" is used in all Five Die Hard movies (this one, Die Hard 2 (1990), Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995), Live Free or Die Hard (2007), {although a gunshot masks the 'fucker' part in the PG13 cut} and A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)). It also translates in Urdu to "here eat this." The line was voted as the #96 of "The 100 Greatest Movie Lines" by Premiere in 2007.
Only a couple of the actors who played the German terrorists were actually German and only a couple more could speak broken German. The actors were cast for their menacing appearances rather than their nationality. 9 of the 12 were over 6 feet tall.
The scene where Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman meet up was unrehearsed to create a greater feeling of spontaneity between the two actors.
Bruce Willis received a then unheard of $5 million, a fee that was OK'd by Fox President Rupert Murdoch.
Bruce Willis personally recommended Bonnie Bedelia for the role of his estranged wife.
When John McClane runs through the glass shards in his 'bare' feet after Hans has his men shoot out the glass partitions in the computer room, Bruce Willis is in fact wearing special 'rubber' shoes designed to look like his own bare feet. One can in fact see this if looking closely as his feet appear quite unnaturally large in some of these crucial 'barefoot' scenes.
In the "Making of" Featurette for Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995), Reginald VelJohnson said that after his appearances in the first two Die Hard films, he would be frequently teased and joked at by friends and people on the street for his character's obsession of Twinkies, with some people even going so far as to buy twinkies and throwing them into his car while he was inside, and saying things like "Oh we knew you wanted some of those".
When the bomb in the elevator shaft blows out the side of the building, the effect was accomplished by (a) collecting virtually every camera flashbulb of a particularly powerful type in the Los Angeles area and wiring them on the outside of the actual building to simulate the flash, and (b) by superimposing a shot of an actual explosive blowing a hole in the wall of an all-black miniature of the building at the appropriate location.
Much of the script was improvised due to the constant screenplay tweaks that were being made during filming.
In the spring of 1987, producer Joel Silver and director John McTiernan attended a performance of the play Dangerous Liaisons, in which Alan Rickman played the evil Vicomte de Valmont. Immediately, Silver and McTiernan realized they had found Hans Gruber.
In the German version the names and backgrounds of the German-born terrorists were changed into English forms (mostly into their British equivalents): Hans Gruber became Jack Gruber, Karl became Charlie, Heinrich turned into Henry etc... the new background depicted them as radical Irish activists having gone freelance and for profit rather than ideals. (This led to some odd plot holes in this movie and continuity problems with Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995) where Gruber is remembered as having been German.) This was because German terrorism, especially by the Rote Armee Fraktion (the Red Army Faction), was still considered a sensitive issue by the German government in the 1980s.
Bruce Willis was also shooting Moonlighting (1985) concurrently which accounts for why nearly all of McClane's scenes take place at night. Willis would shoot his TV series during the day and then come to the Fox lot in the evening to work on this film.
Deputy Chief Robinson says that John McClane (Bruce Willis) "could be a fucking bartender for all we know" (because of McClane's claim to be able to "spot a phony ID"). Prior to becoming a well-known actor, Willis was a bartender.
This was based on a book by Roderick Thorp entitled "Nothing Lasts Forever" - a sequel to another book entitled "The Detective", which in 1968 was made into a film starring Frank Sinatra. Because of a clause in Sinatra's contract for The Detective (1968) which gave him the right to reprise his role in a sequel, he was actually the first person offered the McClane role, even though he was 73 years old at the time. Also, Coincidentally, Bruce Willis made his movie debut in The First Deadly Sin (1980) walking out of a bar as Sinatra walks into it.
There are two references to the Japanese naval attack on Pearl Harbor on he 7th December 1941. The first occurs when John McClane questions whether the Japanese celebrate Christmas. Takagi replies "We're flexible, Pearl Harbor didn't work out so we got you with tape decks". The second is the breaking of the code key for the vault. The password "Akagi" (Red Castle in English) is the name of one of the Japanese aircraft carriers which carried out the strike on Pearl Harbor.
There are two FBI Agent Johnsons and a Harvey Johnson who were characters in the film. This is an in-joke aimed at co-star Reginald VelJohnson.
The firearms used in the film are, as in most action films, real firearms modified to function with blanks. Although modern small arms ammunition is intended to have minimum muzzle flash, director John McTiernan wanted vivid, "exaggerated realism" in the muzzle flashes. Weapons specialist Michael Papac hand fabricated some blanks that were so powerful that the standard firearms modifications weren't workable. Papac had to specially modify the firearms involved. Special effects coordinator Al Di Sarro said of these blanks that 'in the world of blanks, there are loads that are not so loud and loads that are deafening', and these were deafening. These blanks did cause some cast members, notably Alan Rickman, to flinch. Furthermore, normally most sound effects come from a studio library of sound effects. Sound designer Richard Shorr didn't want to use these clips as modern sound equipment would show their age, as some of them were recorded in the 1950s. To resolve this and further the "exaggerated realism", the sound crew took the appropriate firearms to a firing range in Texas and recorded them being fired with live ammunition.
At the suggestion of director John McTiernan, Ludwig van Beethoven's Ode to Joy (Ninth Symphony, Fourth Movement) is the musical theme of the terrorists. Hans Gruber, the terrorist leader, even hums it at one point in the movie (while he is on the elevator with Mr. Takagi). Film composer Michael Kamen at first thought it was a "sacrilege" to use Beethoven in an action movie, telling McTiernan: "I will make mincemeat out of Wagner or Strauss for you, but why Beethoven?" McTiernan replied that Ode to Joy had been the theme of the ultra-violence in Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (1971). Kamen, a Kubrick fan, then agreed.
The fireball in the elevator shaft was shot with real pyrotechnics using a miniature shaft; the camera speed had to vary over the length of the shot because otherwise the fireball would appear to change speed as it moved up the forced-perspective model. The effects people weren't sure exactly at what rate to vary the speed, so they rigged a manual variable-speed control and did several takes changing the speed at different rates and then picked the one that looked best.
Each film in the Die Hard series contains a key scene involving an elevator.
Ironically, Bruce Willis, sneered at for being an all-American hero by the head German terrorist, is actually more German than most of the villains; Alan Rickman is English and Alexander Godunov was Russian. Bruce Willis was born on March 19th 1955 in West Germany to an American father and a German mother.
The LAPD officer who gives medical attention to Sgt. Powell following the terrorists shooting up his car is actor Anthony Peck, who also plays NYPD Detective Ricky Walsh in Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995).
Bruce Willis was the sixth choice for the main character. It originally went to Arnold Schwarzenegger, then Sylvester Stallone, then Burt Reynolds, then Richard Gere, then Harrison Ford, then Mel Gibson before Willis got it.
It is often said that Bruce Willis's lines during the scene when he pulls the glass out of his feet were ad-libbed. Indeed, it is said that upon learning this, Terry Gilliam cast Willis as the lead in Twelve Monkeys (1995). However when comparing the original script, it appears that Willis only veered very slightly from the original written dialog.
Clint Eastwood originally owned the rights to the novel "Nothing Lasts Forever" on which the film is based, and planned to star in the film around the early 1980s.
In the making-of featurette, director John McTiernan revealed that a vast majority of the exterior shots of the building showing explosions were real, full-scale explosions set off in and around the actual building.
EASTER EGG: On Disc 2 of the 2-Disc DVD (the Special Features Disc), from the first selection of the menu, push right on the remote control, and a dot on the top of the menu (which resembles the rooftop of the Nakatomi building) will light up. Select it, and the menu will "explode" and the words "THERE GOES FOX HOME ENTERTAINMENT!" will appear when the explosion clears.
Hans Gruber was also the name of an adversary in Our Man Flint (1966) with James Coburn.
The office interiors were designed to resemble Fallingwater, a house designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
The character of John McClane had not been fully realized until almost half way through production when John McTiernan and Bruce Willis decided that he was a man who did not like himself very much, but was doing the best he could in a bad situation.
When they first meet Takagi tells John McClane that 'Pearl Harbour didn't work out so we hit you with stereos'. James Shigeta who played Takagi also played Vice Admiral Chiuichi Nagumo, one of the architects of the attack on Pearl Harbour in the film The Battle of Midway (1976).
The original release poster for the film did not feature Bruce Willis' likeness, just the building (pre-release promo posters did show Willis). The producers originally thought it might deter non-Willis fans from seeing the movie. Posters were later altered after the early box office success.
The addresses and phone numbers depicted on the LAPD dispatch's computer for the Nakatomi plaza management are the actual numbers for management of Fox Plaza, where the film was shot.
The character of Hans Gruber is rumored to be based on author Roderick Thorp's father, a known tyrant amongst friends and family.
When talking to Powell on CB, McClane tells him, "They have missiles, automatic weapons and enough plastic explosives to orbit Arnold Schwarzenegger." Arnold Schwarzenegger was originally considered for the role of McClane. Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis, who are now both known as for making action movies with a dark humor, later became good friends.
The building used in the movie was designed by William L. Pereira, and was one of his last projects before his death in 1985.
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In the original script, the action took place over three days, but John McTiernan was inspired to have it take place over a single night by Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.
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The Hungarian title is "Give your life expensive", the title of the sequel is "Your life is more expensive", and the third part is "The life is always expensive"
Bruce Willis took the role of John McClane after it had been turned down by Robert De Niro. Willis had just been turned down to play the Charles Grodin role opposite De Niro in Midnight Run (1988). Ironically both films eventually opened the same weekend.
Sam Neill turned down the role of Hans Gruber.
Bruce Willis' exhaustion from his schedule (he was also shooting Moonlighting (1985) forced Steven E. de Souza to beef up the roles of the other characters, giving characters like Al Powell, Ellis, Argyle, and Richard Thornburg more personality and screen time.
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On the Blu-ray Disc commentary, Production Designer Jackson De Govia notes the company name on the truck in which the "raiders" (as he calls them) arrive. It says, "Pacific Courier" - a joke, since it means "Messenger of Peace". DeGovia used the same name and graphic on the truck that gets blown up at the start of Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995).
John McTiernan turned the script down several times. He felt it was a nasty piece of work. When he was finally persuaded to take on the assignment, he was able to lighten some of the film's darker edges.
The odd looking gun that Karl uses in the film is a Steyr AUG, an Austrian made assault rifle.
In Spain, the title was translated into "Crystal Jungle." In Poland it became "The Glass Trap," which sounds and fits very well in that country. The original title is hard to translate correctly, as it would sound like: "It is hard to kill him" or "He dies slowly." The same titles are used for the sequels even though they do not relate well to the sequels.
Michael Madsen was considered for the role of John McClane.
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The film's ending had not been finalized by the time filming had begun. One result is that the truck depicted as transporting the terrorists to the building is too small to house the ambulance that was later revealed to be inside it. Other scenes also lacked context: the building's computer room was built before anyone knew what it would be used for.
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The bridge shown in Takagi's office is a work of Frank Lloyd Wright for the Bay Area in 1949.
Before reporter Richard Thornburg hears Sgt Powell's call for backup over the radio he is discussing dinner reservations with a woman, saying "of course I can get a table, Wolfgang is a close personal friend of mine". This refers to Wolfgang Puck and his Sunset Strip restaurant "Spago", which opened in 1982.
A full 18 minutes elapse before the movie's first gunshot.
Bruce Willis and Demi Moore tied the knot at the Golden Nugget hotel in Las Vegas during this shoot, Moore having recently broken her engagement to actor Emilio Estevez. Little Richard presided over the ceremony and former brat packer Ally Sheedy was a bridesmaid.
Each of the first 3 'Die Hard' films has a connection and/or reference to at least 1 of the 3 countries of Northern Europe: Norway, Sweden, and Finland. Here, in the first one, it is during the news broadcast when the psychologist mentions "Helsinki Syndrome" (which is actually "Stockholm Syndrome") and the subsequent mentions of Sweden (whose capital is Stockholm) and Finland (whose capital is Helsinki).
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When the police dispatcher tells Sergeant Powell to investigate the Nakatomi building, she tells him it is a "Code 2". This refers to an urgent incident where sirens are not to be used.
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The Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian translation of the title is "Umri Muski" ("Die Like A True Man"; literary: "Die Manly" ). The pirated VHS translation back in 1988 was "Skupo Prodaj Svoju Kozu" ("Sell Your Skin At High Price").
The centerfold that John McClane sees and ultimately uses as a point of reference while navigating his way from the elevator shaft to the air vent is that of Playboy Playmate Pamela Stein (November 1987). Another Playboy Playmate, May 1982 star Kym Malin, has a small role in the picture as the hostage who is originally discovered by the terrorists having sex with another party goer, and a third, July 1988 Playmate of the Month Terri Lynn Doss, plays the woman at the airport who runs past McClane to hug another arriving passenger.
Due to the tourist interest in the Fox Plaza building in L.A., people are now forbidden from taking photos outside the building.
Charles Bronson was considered for the role of John McClane but he was under contract with Cannon Films at the time.
The music being played at the corporate gathering at the beginning of the film is from the first movement of Johann Sebastian Bach's Third Brandenberg Concerto.
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John McTiernan did not want the villains to be terrorists, considering them too mean. He chose to avoid the terrorists' politics in favour of making them thieves in pursuit of monetary gain, believing it would make the film more suitable for summer entertainment.
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Don Johnson and Richard Dean Anderson, both established action stars in television, were considered for the role of John McClane.
Though Heinrich is supposedly German, the cigarettes John McClane picks up in his pockets are French-made Gauloises. Fittingly, these used to be army-issue and are known for their strong, harsh taste.
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In Nakatomi building's caveau is supposed to be kept, amongst other pieces of art, the Edgar Degas' painting "Ecole de dance" (1873) (as shown when the "terrorists" finally break the last lock). Actually, it's in Corcoran Museum of Arts in Washington DC.
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The entire Nakatomi building was supposed to be managed by a supercomputer and the scenes where McClane is trapped in an office and Gruber orders the windows to be shot out are supposed to be the computer room. The large dark object is the computer, modeled after an ETA-10 supercomputer. It is a model and a bit larger than the actual computer which was thought to look too small. The fiberglass model was later used by ETA as part of the marketing for the ETA range of supercomputers.
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Richard Gere was considered for the role of John McClane.
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In this film you can see that John McCane has a tattoo but in all the other die hard films this tattoo is not present
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This movie, set during Christmas time in Los Angeles, has the lead terrorist named Hans Gruber. The Christmas Carol "Silent Night" was composed in Salzburg, Austria by Franz Gruber, a school teacher and church organist. He wrote the melody for a guitar arrangement at the request of the 6-stanza poem's author Fr. Joseph Mohr, a Roman Catholic priest and assistant pastor at St. Nicholas Church, who wrote it in 1816. Mohr and Gruber first sang the song "Stille Nacht" at midnight mass on December 24, 1818, while Mohr played his guitar.
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When Powell circles the Nakatomi parking lot, McClane looks on, saying "Who's driving this car, Stevie Wonder?" As Argyle waits in the limo parked in the garage, "Skeletons" by Stevie Wonder plays on the stereo.
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Nick Nolte was the first one to turn down the lead.
The terrorists arrive in a truck that is green with a white top with "Pacific Courier" on the side. Ironically, "Pacific Courier" translates to mean "Bringer of Peace".
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Al Pacino was considered for the role of John McClane but turned it down.
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Bruce Willis worked with some of the actors who were considered for his role as John McClane later on like Don Johnson in a Miami vice episode, richard gere in the Jackal, michael Madsen in Sin city, Arnold and sly in the expendables films?
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Tom Berenger turned down the role of John McClane.
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Hart Bochner, who plays Harry Ellis, is the son of actor Lloyd Bochner, who co-starred with 'Frank Sinatra' (QV) in The Detective (1968), based on the novel by author Roderick Thorp. Die Hard (1988) is based on Thorp's novel "Nothing Lasts Forever", the sequel to "The Detective."
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When John is looking up his wife's location on the computer in the lobby, he finds her name listed as "GENNARO, HOLLY". If you watch the scene in slow motion, you will see her last name change to "GENNERO, HOLLY" after John touches her name on the screen.
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The Fox Plaza is represented three-dimensionally in Google Earth in 3d buildings mode.
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The scene which McClain embraces Holly, when Hans Gruber is killed had to be re-shot 4 times because Bruce Willis kept making Bonnie Bedelia crack up with laughter. The 1st take he made his co-star unintentionally laugh when he says "Didn't want to do this" and said "Ye!" in a funny voice. In the 2nd take, Willis made Bedelia laugh again when he did an impression of a monkey and in the 3rd take, he broke into song by singing "Paris in Spring" by Mary Ellis, which the whole crew laughed.
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In the first scene where the two helicopter gunships appear, the lighted building letters in the background reads: Agfa-Gevaert.
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Director Trademark 

John McTiernan:  [teddy bear]  McClane has a teddy bear for his family. The same bear is seen at the end of The Hunt for Red October (1990).

Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

For the shot where Hans Gruber falls from the top of the building, Alan Rickman was actually falling from a 21-foot high model. He was holding on to a stunt man and falling on to an air bag. To get the right reaction, the stunt man dropped Rickman on the count of two, not three.
The original script called for terrorists to hijack the building, and for a super-hero cop to stop them. Director John McTiernan modified the script to change the bad guys into robbers pretending to be terrorists so that the audience could enjoy their intention of grabbing a load of money. He felt having terrorists as the villains would make the movie less enjoyable and give it a political angle, which he wanted to avoid. McTiernan also changed the hero, John McClane, into an everyday, flawed man that rises to the occasion in dire circumstances. He felt the audience would identify more with him than with a "super-cop".
Hans Gruber's fall was filmed at 300 frames per second.
The Roderick Thorp book "Nothing Lasts Forever," which serves as the basis for this movie, was actually a sequel to the book and film The Detective (1968), with Frank Sinatra as Joe Leland. Surprisingly, few of the book's details are changed. Originally, a much older Leland (changed to McClane) was visiting his daughter, Steffie Leland Gennaro, who worked for the Klaxxon oil company. Takagi was originally a VP of sales named Rivers. Harry Ellis, Al Powell, and Dwayne Robinson were essentially the same, but the FBI was not involved. Hans Gruber was originally Anton "Little Tony" Gruber, while Hans was the name of Karl's brother. The purpose of the terrorist takeover was to allow the West German radical group to uncover an illegal arms shipment Klaxxon was making to a Chilean dictatorship. Finally, in the end scene (which was Christmas morning at 10 AM), Anton Gruber is shot by Leland and falls out the window, also catching a finger on Gennaro's watch, but in this case he pulls her out the window to her death.
The music cue when Powell shoots Karl at the end of the film was actually an unused track from James Horner's Academy Award-nominated score for Aliens (1986), another Fox film. Specifically, the music was originally intended for a scene near the end of the film, in which Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) battles with the alien queen on board the Sulaco. Instead, an earlier music cue was reused, leaving the cue available for this film. A second music cue, scored by John Scott for the film Man on Fire (1987), was also used. The music can be heard when McClane and Holly meet Powell at the end of the movie.
On-screen body count: 21. These include (in order) both Nakatomi security guards, Takagi, Tony, Heinrich, Marco, James and Alexander (both blown up at the same time), Ellis, Franco, Fritz, Uli, both agent Johnsons and the 4 other guys on the chopper, Eddie, Hans and Karl.
Powell shoots Karl a total of five times during the final scene outside the building.
Even though Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone were considered for John McClane in die hard and it went to their pal Bruce Willis, who they later worked with in the expendables movies. There is a reference to Die Hard in Expendables 2 where Arnold says Bruce's line "yippie Kai yay" after Bruce says Arnold's line from Terminator, "I'll be back."
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