Jonathan Hensleigh was detained by the FBI after completing the script for the film because he knew extensive information about the Federal Gold Reserve in downtown Manhattan. Hensleigh stated that he got all the information from an article written in the New York Times.
The studio told screenwriter Jonathan Hensleigh to remove the scenes with McClane walking around Harlem wearing a sign that says, "I hate niggers". They allowed him to keep the scene when he threatened to take the script to another studio.
Originally titled "Simon Says" (where Zeus was scripted as a woman) and was considered by Joel Silver as the third sequel to Lethal Weapon (1987). Twentieth Century Fox, however, did not agree to sell the script to Joel Silver.
The sandwich board that Bruce Willis wore while filming in Harlem was originally blank, rather than text, to ensure no one was offended by the racist message. The "I Hate N*****s" was added with CGI in post-production. Some television broadcasts use an alternate version where the sign reads "I hate everybody", which is sometimes erroneously said to be the original version of the sign used for filming, but this too was added with CGI in post-production.
On the DVD commentary, screenwriter Jonathan Hensleigh says the idea for the film's plot came to him when he imagined what would happen if one of his childhood friends, who was injured after Hensleigh threw a rock at him, decided to seek revenge on him as an adult.
When Zeus Carver (Samuel L. Jackson) picks up the gold bar at the Federal Reserve, he says "Damn, this IS heavy". A standard gold bar kept at the Federal Reserve weighs approximately twenty-five pounds.
On April 19, 1995, exactly one month before the movie was scheduled to be released, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed by terrorists. Several sources later reported that last-minute editing was done to remove a few scenes depicting explosions, out of pity with the victims. This claim turned out to be false: there may have been confusion with the television shows All My Children (1970) and Melrose Place (1992), which indeed had such scenes edited out at the last minute. Director John McTiernan did at one point consider either editing out the opening bombing of the department store, or moving the release date back, as he felt that the American public might still be sensitive to bombing due to recent events. However, Fox studios decided to go with the original version and release date, stating that the film was a work of fiction, and was already completed long before the real-life events occurred. (source: articles.sun-sentinel.com/1995-05-04/lifestyle/9505030369_1_bombing-oklahoma-city-film)
In the DVD commentary, Jonathan Hensleigh says that the first hour of the film is his original "Simon Says" script word for word. He only changed the characters from the script, so that it would actually feel like a part of the "Die Hard" franchise.
As in Die Hard (1988), the German spoken in this movie is mostly grammatically incorrect. A few lines are so wrong, that they have to be considered gibberish (most notably the exchange of the fake cops, who are given the briefcase bomb by Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson)). In the German release, however, all of the lines that were German in the original movie are grammatically correct, fitting the context, and some of the terrorists even have an East German accent.
Director John McTiernan acknowledged the errors concerning the gold in the dump trucks and its respective weight. McTiernan and Samuel L. Jackson were permitted to lift a genuine bar of gold to get a feel of how heavy gold really was.
When McClane says "Cheer up. Things could be worse. I was working on a nice fat suspension, smoking cigarettes and watching Captain Kangaroo." In Pulp Fiction (1994), which featured Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson, the song "Flowers On the Wall", from where this quote comes, is playing on the radio in Willis' character's car, just before he runs it into Marsellus Wallace outside of his apartment.
Even though this is the third Die Hard film, it is the first that takes place in the same city in which John McClane is a police officer (New York City). In the first movie, he was in Los Angeles, California, and in the second, he was in Dullas, VA.
When McClane is dropped off in Harlem, he expected to be dead in four minutes. When the gang members across the street from Zeus' shop discover McClane wearing the "I Hate N*****s" sandwich board sign, four minutes have elapsed in real time.
There are two solutions to the water jug riddle in the park, at the elephant fountain. To place exactly 4 gallons of water on the scales when you only have two jugs which hold 3 and 5 gallons respectively, you must do either of the following. 1. Fill the 5 gallon jug and decant the water into the 3 gallon jug. This leaves two gallons in the big jug. 2. Empty the 3 gallon jug and pour in the two gallons from the 5 gallon jug, leaving space for one gallon in the small jug. 3. Refill the 5 gallon jug and pour water from it into the 3 gallon jug until the small jug's full. 4. That leaves exactly four gallons in the big jug; put it on the scale and the bomb is disarmed. The second method is: 1. Fill the 3 gallon jug and pour the water into the 5 gallon jug. 2. Refill the 3 gallon jug, and pour into the 5 gallon jug until the big jug is full, leaving one gallon in the small jug. 3. Empty the big jug, and transfer the one gallon from the small jug to the big jug. 4. Refill the small jug and pour all three gallons into the 5 gallon jug, resulting in four gallons in the big jug. Place the big jug on the scale and the bomb is disarmed.
McClane only has two bullets at his disposal to kill Simon in the finale of the film. He also only had two bullets in the first Die Hard to kill Simon's brother, Hans, and his last remaining associate.
Even though the film's domestic box-office was only about $100 million, its massive international box-office (about $266 million) made it the highest grossing film of 1995 worldwide. It is one of the few movies that could manage to become the highest grossing film of the year when its domestic box-office was not even in the top five (it finished tenth). Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014) also achieved this same feat.
The producers planned to blow up the Hutchinson River Parkway tollbooth structure for a scene in the movie. The tolls were to be eliminated anyway, and then-Governor Mario Cuomo volunteered to push the switch. But opposition from local residents, in close proximity, and from other officials, nixed the idea.
Despite not being set at Christmas, it still references Die Hard (1988) and Die Hard 2 (1990) (which were set at Christmas) with sarcastic comments regarding Santa Claus. The shoplifting kids also say "It's Christmas, you could steal city hall!" While in the aqueduct, McClane further mentions "We got a report of some guy coming through here with eight reindeer", then shoots the terrorist and continues, "They said he was a jolly old fat guy, with a snowy white beard, and a cute little red-and-white suit. I'm surprised you guys didn't see him."
When the bomb goes off in the Bonwit Teller department store, there is an "Atlantic Courier" truck parked in front of the store that gets flipped over. In Die Hard (1988), Hans Gruber and the other terrorists arrive at Nakatomi Plaza in a "Pacific Courier" truck.
When posing as a city engineer, Simon Gruber (Jeremy Irons) uses a heavy American accent to fool his adversaries. The same trick was used by his brother Hans (Alan Rickman) in Die Hard (1988). Like his brother, Simon also uses a hostage situation as a front for a big heist, and despite extensive communication between him and McClane, they do not meet in person until the end.
The 2003 R1 DVD version includes the original ending showing McClane and Simon playing a game of "chicken" with a rocket launcher. In this original version, Simon Gruber and his crew get away with the gold and months later, McClane tracks Simon down in Europe (where in Europe is debated: McClane mentions Germany, but people in the background are heard speaking Hungarian) The number on the bottom of the aspirin bottle (at the phone booth) leads McClane to Gruber. The gold was turned into small miniatures of the Empire State building and smuggled out of the country. McClane is thrown off the force, with the police thinking that he may actually be involved in the heist. The "game" that McClane and Simon play is about riddles that McClane tells Simon, and he is supposed to figure out the answer, or McClane will force him to fire a rocket launcher with its directional arrows removed, so neither will know which direction it will fire in until it is actually fired. The scene climaxes with McClane forcing Simon at gunpoint to fire the rocket launcher, which kills Simon, and McClane is revealed to be wearing a flak-jacket, which would have saved his life if the rocket launcher had fired at him instead of Simon. The studio objected to the ending, saying that it made McClane too cruel and heartless, whereas Screenwriter Jonathan Hensleigh stated that that was exactly the point: to show that McClane had been pushed over the edge by the events of that day, and then subsequently losing everything as a result of Simon.
When McClane boards the elevator at the Federal Reserve with Karl and the rest of Simon's men, during the casual conversation Karl is having with McClane, Karl refers to the elevator as the "lift". This would potentially betray Karl, who is trained in infiltration, and disguised as a Federal Reserve guard, as being European, and therefore a potential imposter, since "lift" is the European term for elevator.
In the scene where Zeus is trying to get out of going with McClane on the trip across the city, he (Zeus) gets up, exclaiming, "I'm not jumping through hoops for some psycho! That's a white man, with white problems, you deal with him! Call me when he crosses 110th street." 110th St. is the border between Central Park and Harlem.
When McClane enters the Federal Reserve, and encounters Karl disguised as a security guard, Karl tries to have a casual conversation with McClane. There are two instances during this exchange in which his dialogue would potentially blow his cover as an American. Before he and McClane enter the elevator, he asks McClane what he thought about the weather and says "it feels like it's...gonna rain like...dogs and cats later." Not only does he misquote a fairly standard English expression, but he also has to think a bit as he is trying to sound more American. He then calls the elevator a "lift", another mistake that would give away that he is not actually American.
The bridge from which McClane and Zeus jump to the container ship in the harbor is the Cooper River Bridge that connects Charleston and Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. A new bridge opened in July 2005, and the two pre-existing bridges that have long been a symbol of Charleston were removed. Much of the film was shot in the Charleston area, including the subway station which was built on a stage in Mount Pleasant. The Cooper River Bridge scenes were set on an unnamed bridge near Bridgeport, Connecticut, on Long Island Sound.
During a press conference to promote the film's release, Bruce Willis pre-emptively told reporters that he would not discuss the April 1995 Oklahoma City bombing in any way because he did not want to trivialize that real-world tragedy by comparing it in any way to a fictional movie.
The subway scene, when Zeus is held at gunpoint by the police officer, is more or less the same scene that Samuel L. Jackson re-played later as "Frozone" in The Incredibles (2004). In both scenes, Jackson had to reach for something while a nervous police officer told him to "freeze".
This is the second film in which Samuel L. Jackson's character steals a kid's bike for "police business". The first film was National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1 (1993). Bruce Willis had a cameo in that film as John McClane.
Each of the Gruber brothers, Simon and Hans, have a man named "Karl" on his team. Karl in Die Hard (1988) is the thief shot by Sergeant Powell at the end. In this film, Karl is stationed at the Federal Reserve bank, and is killed by McClane in the elevator sequence.
The main theme for this movie is "Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye", an Irish song from 250 years ago. This was later adapted into "When Johnny comes Marching Home", an Irish song made famous in America by Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore, a.k.a. Louis Lambert, in 1863.
During the scene when the FBI mentions Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), Inspector Walter Cobb (Larry Bryggman) asks what they are talking about; Ricky Walsh (Anthony Peck) replies directly to him and says "that thing in the building in L.A." In fact, Anthony Peck also played a cop with the LAPD in Die Hard (1988). He appeared in scenes mainly with Sergeant Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson) outside of the Nakatomi building. Whether or not he is supposed to be the same character in this movie is unclear.
First version of the screenplay was based on a speculative script by James Haggin called "Troubleshooter", which involved terrorists seizing control of a Caribbean cruise ship while John and Holly are on a honeymoon cruise. The idea was abandoned after Under Siege (1992) went into production. (This script later became Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997)) In 1992 John Milius was hired to write another version of the story. In 1993 Doug Richardson and John Fasano simultaneously worked on two separate Die Hard 3 scripts, which were both rejected by Bruce Willis. This time the plot was concerned with terrorists taking control of the Los Angeles subway system.
It was calculated that the value of the gold in this movie was worth approximately $100 billion. In 2015, this value has been adjusted for inflation so that 100 billion of 1995 dollars would be worth $157,232,704,402 dollars in 2015.
During its Pay-Per-View run in 1996, a bonus featurette followed the presentation of the movie, which included footage of some scenes with additional dialogue, such as the scene in the Federal Reserve Bank where Felix Little asks "You're in the flower business, Mr. Vanderflug?" and added is Simon replying "It's Vanderfluge, it rhymes with tulip." explaining why Felix pronounces the name correctly from that point on. This featurette is not included in the Special Edition DVD.
WILHELM SCREAM: As they are driving through Central Park, Zeus asks McClane if he is aiming for the people, to which McClane replies, "No. Maybe that mime." An abbreviated Wilhelm Scream can be heard immediately following the "No".
In the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, Twentieth Century Fox took out trade press ads defending their decision to continue with the imminent release of a film about a terrorist planting bombs in public places.
Some of the violent and bloody scenes from the film had to be cut down for an R rating after John McTiernan's original cut got an NC-17 rating. For example, cuts were made on some of the death scenes, and the fight scene between McClane and Targo was heavily cut. If you look closely during the scene where McClane beats Targo with a chain, one moment he is hitting him with it, and in next shot, when Targo is on the ground, he has the chain around his face. The on-set "Making of" documentary shows some clips of deleted and alternative scenes, including one which shows the uncut death of the guy that McClane shoots on the boat.
A novelization by Deborah Chiel was first published on May 28, 1995. The novel is written in Third Person Omniscient and has a somewhat darker tone in comparison to the final film. The novel provides a deeper exploration into McClane's psyche, and sees how angry and broken he has become, since leaving Holly and becoming an alcoholic. McClane's introduction is also different. In the film, McClane is first seen in the police van to Harlem, while being briefed on what is going on. The novel includes a scene before this, where Connie and Joe find McClane in his messy apartment. Simon's henchwoman Katya appears much later into the story, than she does in the film. She isn't involved in the Federal Reserve robbery, and instead appears just before Simon and Targo take off in one of the dump trucks. Like the final film, she ends up killing Targo for Simon. The original placement of the "Yippee-Ki-Yay" line is included. Instead of being used at the end, McClane uses the line when talking to Simon over the radios while in the aqueducts. This was meant to be in the same vein, as the original use of the line, in the first movie. Zeus' original backstory is presented in the novel, explaining why he's looking after his nephews and why he hates white people. During the car chase, Zeus explains that his brother was killed during a drug raid. When McClane suggests that it was his brother's own fault, Zeus explains that his brother was never involved in drugs, and the only reason he was there was to bring Zeus home. The novel also uses the "McClane Says" ending rather than the film's version of the finale.
Interestingly, Mathias Targo (Nick Wyman) is furious to discover that the containers are filled with scrap, rather than the gold which is supposed to be blown up, levelling the economic "playing field" of the world. This may mean that he, unlike Simon, Katya, and seemingly all the other terrorists believe that there was a genuine ideological motivation behind the plot. He would perhaps be the first terrorist in the franchise to be truly acting for such reasons rather than for simple financial gain.
According to John McTiernan, "It's very dangerous to have an actor drive a car. Accidents happen every year." A stuntman drove the cab from a rig built on the back while Bruce Willis pretended to drive in the front.
The original casting of Simon's terrorist crew was with a mix of Soviet and Warsaw Pact baddies, and not East Germans. Only one Polish character (Otto) was retained from initial casting, and he became the butt of the East German's demeaning jokes.
Similarities between the first screenplay and Under Siege (1992) were not the only holdup for the five-year gap between Die Hard 2 (1990) and this entry. Personal and financial tensions during the making of Die Hard 2 (1990), as well as The Adventures of Ford Fairlane (1990) and Predator 2 (1990), led to Twentieth Century Fox severing ties with Producer Joel Silver. In the interim between the two films, Lawrence Gordon founded his own production company, Largo Entertainment. Gordon and Silver had a rift when Silver wrangled Bruce Willis to star in The Last Boy Scout (1991) instead of the Largo production The Ticking Man, which was never filmed. Willis and Silver had a falling out over the course of making Hudson Hawk (1991) and The Last Boy Scout (1991). This prompted Andrew G. Vajna's Cinergi to produce this movie alongside Twentieth Century Fox and Hollywood Pictures. Gordon and Silver each received seven hundred fifty thousand dollar buy-outs from the Cinergi deal.
Sam Phillips said that the sequence where Katya uses a knife to slice up a security guard until he is dead was hard for her to film, but she also admitted that it became easier when she noticed the actor playing the guard looked sort of like a real person she despised: Rush Limbaugh.
On the Die Hard (1988) Blu-ray commentary, production designer Jackson De Govia notes the company name on the truck in which the "raiders" (as he calls them) arrive in the first movie. It says "Pacific Courier", a joke, because it means "Messenger of Peace". DeGovia used a similar name (Atlantic Courier) and graphic on the truck that gets blown up at the start of this movie.
There is a mathematical formula that can be applied to the St. Ives problem, called the Geometric Progression Formula, which is a(r^n - 1)/(r-1), "a" being the first term, "r" being the common ratio, and "n" being the number of terms of the geometric series. The 7 wives would be "a". The following 7s would be the common ratio. "N" would be 4 (i.e. kittens, cats, sacks, and wives). This translates to 7(7^4 - 1)/(7-1) = 7(2401-1)/6 = 7(2400)/6 = 16800/6 = 2800. This is all assuming the narrator going to St. Ives. and the man with seven wives are excluded.
When Simon, posing as the city engineer, meets Ricky Walsh, you can see a blurry, but visible red sign on the building in the background. This is the Home Insurance Company building, and that company purchased the red cover so that it would be seen in the movie as they felt that the original bronze signage would not be visible.
Simon Gruber is revealed as formerly being a part of a special crack English speaking German military unit like in the "Battle of the Bulge" by the FBI. He flaunts this by correctly using idioms (phrases that do not translate into other languages easily) such as "Holy Toledo". This is in stark contrast to Karl, Simon's flunkie, who gives himself away when he thinks Indian summer means it will rain "dogs and cats" instead of being unseasonably warm.
In the later part of the movie, McClane ridicules Targo (played by Nick Wyman), for his size, by calling him "Lurch", making specific reference to The Addams Family (1964). The scene immediately cuts to bomb expert Charlie Weiss (Kevin Chamberlin), who, years later, was cast as Uncle Fester, in Addams Family the Musical, on Broadway.
While the highway scenes are supposed to take place on the Saw Mill Parkway in Westchester County, New York, they were filmed on the Merritt Parkway in Fairfield County, Connecticut, and on the Taconic Parkway in Putnam County, New York.
On the DVD commentary, director John McTiernan mentions that Dick Cheney appears in a scene. He actually says "here he is", but Dick Cheney is not in the film. The person shown in the scene has a slight physical resemblance, but is not Dick Cheney. McTiernan made an error.
After surviving the boat explosion, John McClane calls his wife Holly from a payphone on the advice of Zeus. While calling collect, he tells someone - presumably a relative - named Carmine to "accept the charges". Carmine Zozzora was a top-billed co-producer in Die Hard, and Die Hard with a Vengeance.
Each of the first three "Die Hard" movies has a connection and/or reference to at least one of the three countries of Scandinavia: Norway, Sweden, and Finland. Here, in the third one, it is during the scene when Walsh mentions Oslo, and Cobb asks, "Norway?"
This film was released six years before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on New York City, but has a few eery coincidences with that real-life incident. The World Trade Center is seen in the film and its previous 1993 bombing is mentioned. Also, the film appears to take place in September - kids are in school, but it's an "Indian summer" (hot weather late in the year).
This is the first Die Hard movie in which John McClane is a police officer for the actual city in which the movie takes place. In the first one, he works for the NYPD, but was in Los Angeles. In the second one, he works for the LAPD (in the movie he said he transferred there due to his wife's job) but was in Washington, D.C.
Zeus' helicopter is a SUD Aviation Aerospatiele SA341G Gazelle. This is the first helicopter to feature the Fenestron enclosed tail rotor system. This make and model was also the Blue Thunder helicopter.
In the original Die Hard (1988), the villains are assumed to be terrorists, but turn out to be thieves. In Die hard 2 (1990), the villains are assumed to be (luggage) thieves, but turn out to be terrorists. Here, the villains turn out to be terrorists AND thieves. The subsequent sequels do not follow this formula.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
To both compare and contrast the Gruber brothers, McTiernan employs several parallels to express the similarities and differences of the criminal kin; Hans Gruber is introduced exiting a truck with his entourage in tow, establishing himself as the boss. Simon as well, is walking down Wall Street with his disguised thugs exiting a vehicle and joining him. While Hans has Ode to Joy as his main theme, representing his classical and theatrical nature, Simon's theme is When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again, to symbolize his perspective as a soldier with purpose. Both brothers have henchmen that carry unique traits that make them distinctive, and both use a fictional motivations to cast shadow on their true intentions. On a more superficial note; both are portrayed by English born actors utilizing German accents; the late Alan Rickman and Jeremy Irons.