It’s one of the most hotly contested issues of our times: is Die Hard actually a Christmas movie? Well, more than 30 years after its release, the film’s leading man Bruce Willis finally appears to have settled the debate once and for all. Yippee ki-yay!
Born in the German town of Idar-Oberstein in 1955, Bruce Willis moved to New Jersey with his family two years later. Upon finishing high school, he found employment as a security guard and private investigator before studying drama at Montclair State University. Willis then enjoyed his first credited screen role in a 1984 episode of Miami Vice.
Willis received his big break a year later when he beat thousands of hopefuls to the part of David Addison Jr. in Moonlighting. The star won both a Golden Globe and Emmy during his four-year stint on the romantic dramedy alongside Cybill Shepherd. And in 1987 he ventured on to the big screen to star opposite Kim Basinger in Blind Date.
Willis then portrayed an actor in Blake Edwards’ Sunset, played a Vietnam veteran in In Country and provided the baby’s voice in Look Who’s Talking. He also very nearly scored a U.K. number one single with a cover of The Drifters’ “Under the Boardwalk.” The track was taken from his debut album, The Return of Bruno.
Following a series of disappointing films in the early 1990s, Willis bounced back with a memorable performance as Butch Coolidge in cult classic Pulp Fiction. He then enjoyed success with sci-fi hits 12 Monkeys and The Fifth Element, as well as the Michael Bay blockbuster Armageddon. Willis also received some of the most glowing reviews of his career for his leading role in the 1999 supernatural horror The Sixth Sense.
Willis picked up another Emmy in the ’00s for his guest turn on Friends and also co-starred with that sitcom’s Matthew Perry in The Whole Nine Yards. He later appeared in neo-noir Sin City, grindhouse throwback Planet Terror and Hollywood satire What Just Happened, in addition to starring alongside his real-life daughter Rumer in the action movie Hostage.
During the following decade, Willis returned to his action roots by reuniting with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, his one-time Planet Hollywood business partners, in The Expendables series. He also appeared in comic-book adaptation RED and Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, before starring with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Looper. In 2015 he worked on the Broadway stage for the first time, in the Stephen King classic Misery.
Of course, it’s John McClane in the Die Hard franchise that remains Willis’ most iconic role. The star first portrayed the vest-clad NYC cop in 1988 and reprised the character in its 1990 sequel and 1995’s Die Hard with a Vengeance. After a 12-year break, the series returned for Live Free or Die Hard, while fifth installment A Good Day to Die Hard arrived in 2013.
Grossing more than $140 million across the globe on a budget of just under $30 million, the original Die Hard is widely considered to be the best. In fact, the United States National Film Registry even chose it for preservation in 2017. The movie also picked up four Oscar nominations including best film editing and best visual effects.
Adapted from Nothing Lasts Forever, the 1979 novel penned by Roderick Thorp, Die Hard very nearly had a different leading man. Indeed, the film was offered to both Frank Sinatra and Arnold Schwarzenegger before a wary 20th Century Fox eventually decided to take a chance on a relatively untested Willis. Of course, it proved to be an inspired choice.
Directed by John McTiernan, Die Hard sees John McClane come to the rescue when Alan Rickman’s German criminal mastermind Hans Gruber seizes control of a skyscraper in LA. So far so straightforward. But the film’s Christmas Eve setting opened up a debate that raged on for three decades: could Die Hard be classed as a festive film?
Indeed, Die Hard often places high in the all-time greatest Christmas film lists that pop up each December. But many fans argue that regardless of the Christmas Eve setting, the action thriller can’t be classed as a festive film. And in 2017 the results of an official poll conducted by YouGov appeared to support this viewpoint.
Only 31 percent of those asked classed pictures set during but not necessarily about the holiday as Christmas films. Half of the participants disagreed, with the remaining 19 percent sitting on the fence. There was a difference between generations on the subject, however, as 42 percent of 18-24 year-olds believed the likes of Die Hard could qualify as festive, but just 19 percent of over-65s felt the same way.
That same year Die Hard screenwriter Steven de Souza waded into the debate by tweeting that the action thriller was indeed very much a Christmas movie. Answering someone who had tweeted a series of reasons why the film is festive, de Souza replied, “Plus a woman about to give birth features prominently.” He also later used the hashtag #DieHardIsAChristmasMovie.
However, the star of the movie wasn’t buying it. While appearing on stage at his own Comedy Central roast in July 2018, Bruce Willis appeared to settle the debate once and for all. He declared, “Die Hard is a not a Christmas movie. It’s a godd*m Bruce Willis movie!”
Willis also paid homage to the film that established him as a bona fide action star while promoting the roast. In a trailer for the Comedy Central special, the actor can be seen crawling through a narrow air vent just like John McClane did in the original Die Hard. This time around, though, the scene ends with him breaking wind.
Some Die Hard fans were happy that the star of the movie itself had confirmed what they’d believed all along. One tweeted, “If Bruce Willis says #DieHard is NOT a christmas movie… then it’s NOT a Christmas movie!” Another posted, “Thank You Bruce. DIE. HARD. IS. NOT. A. CHRISTMAS. MOVIE.”
But others still weren’t convinced. One disgruntled fan tweeted, “#DieHardIsAChristmasMovie #DieHard erm Bruce Willis has no clue what so ever. Every Christmas I watch all the (yes even 4) die hard movies with my daughter it’s a Christmas tradition.” Another also rejected the actor’s claims, writing, “Die Hard is a Christmas movie idgaf what the lead actor said 30+ years after the fact…….”
Of course, Die Hard isn’t the only film to have sparked such a debate. The Apartment, Batman Returns, Brazil and Gremlins have also had moviegoers arguing about which category their festive setting but non-festive subject matter should fall under. More recently, Disney phenomenon Frozen has been at the center of a similar dispute.
Willis is set to reprise his most iconic character once again with the upcoming McClane. The sixth film in the Die Hard franchise will focus on the heroic cop in his 60s and flash back to his time as a twentysomething. However, it’s not yet known at what time of year the film will be set.
Of course, Die Hard isn’t the only action movie to have sparked heated debate among its fans. The ending of Christopher Nolan’s mindbending thriller Inception, for example, is another hotly contested piece of cinema. But the film’s most experienced cast member has now revealed some new information that may completely alter your perception on the matter. Yes, Michael Caine appears to have settled the debate about the mystifying flick’s closing sequence once and for all.
Born in London in 1933, Michael Caine started on the stage before making his big-screen debut in 1956’s A Hill in Korea. However, his big break wouldn’t come until nearly a decade later, when he was cast in the 1964 epic war movie Zulu. Then, two years after that, Caine gave an Oscar-nominated performance as the leading man in Alfie.
Caine started to make waves in Hollywood, too, after he starred opposite Shirley MacLaine in 1966’s Gambit. And the star appeared in other iconic films throughout the decade, such as The Ipcress File and The Italian Job. The latter movie was responsible for arguably his most famous catchphrase, “You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off.”
Caine continued to enjoy success in the 1970s, fronting movies such as Get Carter and The Last Valley. He also picked up a second Oscar nomination for 1972’s Sleuth, in which he co-starred alongside Laurence Olivier. And by the end of the decade, the British actor had also added classics such as The Man Who Would Be King and A Bridge Too Far to his filmography.
The 1980s saw Caine enjoy his most critically acclaimed period, however. During that decade, he won the Best Actor honor at both the Golden Globes and BAFTAs for 1983’s Educating Rita. The star then finally got the chance to make an acceptance speech at the Academy Awards when he was crowned Best Supporting Actor in the Woody Allen-directed Hannah and Her Sisters.
But apart from the leading role in The Muppet Christmas Carol, Caine struggled to find parts worthy of his talents for much of the 1990s. Ultimately, though, he did enjoy something of a career rejuvenation towards the end of the decade thanks to his appearances in Little Voice and The Cider House Rules; the star even picked up the second Oscar of his career for his supporting turn in the latter movie.
And Caine enjoyed some of his biggest box-office hits in the 21st century, including Austin Powers in Goldmember, Children of Men and Cars 2. He also developed an enduring working relationship with Christopher Nolan, starting with his role as Alfred Pennyworth in Batman Begins. Caine went on to work with the acclaimed director in The Prestige, Interstellar and, of course, Inception.
Thanks to his decades-long career, Caine is now among the top 20 highest-grossing film stars of all time; his movies have raked in excess of $7.8 billion across the globe. Alongside Jack Nicholson, Caine is also among the only actors to have picked up Oscar nominations in every decade from the 1960s onwards. And to top it all off, the star received a knighthood for his contributions to the film industry in 2000.
But it’s Inception that remains perhaps the most talked-about movie of Caine’s recent career. The twisty sci-fi thriller sees Leonardo DiCaprio play Dom Cobb, a seasoned crook who intrudes into people’s subconscious states in order to access certain information. Caine, meanwhile, portrays Cobb’s father-in-law and confidante, Professor Stephen Miles.
Caine also appears in the film’s famously ambiguous ending, in which Cobb joins up again with his family. In fact, ever since Inception’s debut in theaters, there’s been a debate over whether that closing scene is based in reality or in Cobb’s dreamland. And that’s largely due to a spinning top.
The top in question had previously been used to signify whether the action on screen is pure fantasy – if so, it spins continuously – or entirely real – in which case it eventually falls over. However, the shot of the top at the end cuts to black before revealing whether the object falls or not.
And Nolan has been vague when asked to confirm the spinning top’s fate. Speaking at a Princeton University graduation ceremony in 2015, the director said, “The way the end of that film worked, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Cobb – he was off with his kids, he was in his own subjective reality. He didn’t really care anymore, and that makes a statement.”
Nolan then added, “The point is, objectively, it matters to the audience in absolute terms. Even though when I’m watching, it’s fiction, a sort of virtual reality. But the question of whether [the ending is part of] a dream or whether it’s real is the question I’ve been asked most about any of the films I’ve made. It matters to people because that’s the point about reality. Reality matters.”
But while Inception’s director may want to keep things open to interpretation, one of the movie’s cast members doesn’t appear to have got the memo. In fact, Michael Caine appeared to settle an eight-year-old debate while chatting at a special screening of Inception at London’s Somerset House in 2018.
At the event, the Oscar winner revealed that he’d been told by Nolan as to which scenes were a dream; initially, Caine had been left bamboozled by Inception’s script. The veteran actor went on to tell the crowd, “I said [to Nolan], ‘I don’t understand where the dream is.’”
Caine continued, “I said, ‘When is it the dream, and when is it reality?’ [Nolan] said, ‘Well, when you’re in the scene it’s reality.’ So, get that – if I’m in it, it’s reality. If I’m not in it, it’s a dream.” This therefore appears to confirm that Cobb’s family reunion was actually real.
It should be known, though, that Caine isn’t the only Inception cast member to have sought clarification on the movie’s script. Leonardo DiCaprio once admitted that he had struggled to understand its complexities, too, telling The Hollywood Reporter, “I needed to know implicitly where we were. It got incredibly confusing at certain points in the beginning, but the more we talked, the more I understood.”
As for the response to Caine’s explanation? Well, it was mixed, to say the least. One fan commented on Twitter that she was “weirdly relieved to finally know.” Another was even happier, posting, “Michael Caine confirming that Leo and his kids got the happy ending in Inception has just removed an eight-year-old stress knot in my back.”
But not everyone was so won over. As one individual wrote on Twitter, “Michael Caine did not write, direct or edit Inception. His comment on the ending is not a definitive answer. The ending is, and always will be, up to interpretation. That is what makes it brilliant and memorable.”
Nevertheless, Inception’s ambiguous ending certainly didn’t harm the film’s box-office appeal; it raked in nearly $830 million across the world to become the fourth most successful movie of 2010. The feature also picked up four Oscars – for Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects – and received a nomination for Best Picture.