The scenes with Bruce Willis running through tunnels under the airport were filmed at a water treatment facility near Los Angeles. The facility has miles of underground tunnels, and was also used in Live Free or Die Hard (2007), doubling as the Woodlawn Social Security Administration building.
According to John Leguizamo in his autobiography, his role was intended to be much larger until the filmmakers realized how short he was. His part was cut down to one line which was dubbed by someone else. However, he got his way years later in Executive Decision (1996), another picture produced by Joel Silver and often described as 'Die Hard on a Plane'.
Black & Decker paid to have its cordless drill featured in a scene with Bruce Willis. When the scene was cut, the company sued 20th Century Fox in the first-ever product placement lawsuit for a film. The $150,000 claim was settled out of court.
In the original Die Hard (1988), John McClane only had a few scripted one-liners. However, Bruce Willis ad-libbed so many one liners and audiences liked them so much that in this sequel (and the next one), more gags were added and Willis was told he could ad-lib as many more as he saw fit.
Renny Harlin made sure that the scene where Major Grant says to McClane that he is "the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time", with McClane responding "Yeah, story of my life", ended up in the movie's trailer, because it perfectly summed up McClane's character.
The scene where McClane climbs the ladder from the service tunnels up onto the runway and then nearly gets run over by Esperanza's plane was filmed from eight different locations: - Granada Hills, California (McClain in the tunnel and climbing up the ladder) - Los Angeles, California (Close-ups of Esperanza inside the plane's cockpit) - Mojave Desert, California (Head-on view of plane in the sky on approach) - Alpena, Michigan (Exterior shot of the grating door on the runway) - San Francisco, California (Rear shot of plane on approach with runway lights in the background) - Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan (Plane after just landed rushing towards the screen) - Lake Tahoe, California (Plane rushing towards McClane in the foreground) - Denver, Colorado (Plane rushing towards McClane as seen from behind the front landing gear).
Major Grant's commando team is referred to as 'Blue Light'. This was the name of a real life US military anti-terrorist team formed within the US Special Forces in the 1970s. It was eventually replaced by the Delta Force who recruited personnel from the entire army rather than just Green Berets.
The confrontation between Bruce Willis and William Sadler on the airplane's wing took several nights to shoot. Huge fans were used to blow in the fake snow in the background because of lack of real snow.
All the airplane landing equipment used by the mercenaries in the church is close to the real equipment used in actual air traffic control towers, but simplified for the film's dramatic and action effects.
Actors Dennis Franz and Robert Costanzo, who played Carmine and Vito Lorenzo, would work together again in 1993, during the first season of ABC's NYPD Blue (1993), when Costanzo would play mobster Alphonse Giardella, with whom Franz's Sipowicz had an ongoing feud that would end in the detective's near-execution in the pilot episode.
It was Renny Harlin's idea that William Sadler, the film's main villain be introduced naked doing martial arts exercises during the film's opening sequence. He would later say that it was "an effective, but unusual way to introduce a character".
In the "Making of" Featurette for Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995), actor William Sadler (Col. Stuart) said that for this movie, his favorite part pertaining to his character was when Col. Stuart crashes the Windsor Air plane by pretending to be someone from the tower.
Some of the shots of the airport (interior and exterior) were filmed at the old Stapleton Airport in Denver, Colorado. Also, the external shots of the church were filmed in Highland Lake, just north of Denver.
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 with Twinkies, with some people even going so far as to buy Twinkies and throw them into his car while he was inside, and saying things like, "Oh we knew you wanted some of those".
The 747 plane that General Esperanza, Colonel Stuart, and the other terrorists use to try to escape in bears the livery colors of Evergreen International Air Cargo Lines, but with the company name whited out.
The subplot involving Esperanza being turned over to the US government is a reference to the real-life Panamanian general, Manuel Noriega, who was overthrown for brutality and drug trafficking in Panama in the 1980s.
Although the movie was filmed using a fictitious airport and/or other airports with stood in for Dulles Int'l Airport, the movie posters along with the VHS and DVD covers for the movie show a picture of the actual Dulles Airport itself.
The aircraft that General Esperanza arrives on is a Fairchild C-123K Provider. This is a twin engine propeller airplane modified to appear with four jet engines for the film. The pods for the J-85 jet booster engines are still visible under the wings between the mock-up jet engines.
EASTER EGG: On Disc 2 of the 2-Disc DVD (the Special Features disc), push right on the remote control from the last menu selection, and the "stair rail" will light up. Select it to display credits for the creators of the Special Features disc.
The first time Holly McClane is seen on the plane, the woman sitting next to her is reading a magazine advertising the VHS release of Lethal Weapon. Both the first two Die Hard movies and the Lethal Weapon franchise were produced by producer Joel Silver.
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 second one, the director, Renny Harlin, is from Finland, and the musical piece "Finlandia" by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius is featured twice during the film.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Several scenes were filmed but cut from the final release of the film: An extended version of the scene when McClane enters the terminal, featuring shots of a children's choir singing Christmas carols (the audio of the choir singing still remains in the final cut, but only heard in the background), A scene of two of the terrorists killing off two painters and stealing their truck as well as their uniforms (to pose as painters later in the Skywalk SWAT team ambush scene). An extended version of the scene where McClane first meets up with Marvin the janitor, and finally an extended scene of Marvin showing McClane the best way to access the tunnels to get to the runways, which includes a scene where McClane has to walk carefully across a narrow beam over a hot boiler. All of these cut scenes can be viewed in the Deleted Scenes section of the Special Features disc.
Local transmission of The Simpsons (1989) shown on the plane to "calm the passengers" is the episode [The Simpsons: There's No Disgrace Like Home (1990)] where Dr. Monroe allows each family member to use shock therapy on other family members. Later, Holly McClane shocks Richard Thornburg in the lavatory.