Alan Rickman Has Almost Refused To His Role in ‘Die Hard’!


In a Bafta celebration of Alan Rickman’s body of work, the actor and director (known for A Little Chaos) reflects on his initial reluctance to accept the blockbuster movie role that ultimately defined his career. While his portrayal of the criminal mastermind Hans Gruber in Die Hard secured his status as one of Hollywood’s most iconic villains, Alan Rickman has disclosed that he almost rejected the role.

During a Bafta tribute to his career, Rickman confessed that “having a film career at all is a bit of a surprise.” The British actor, initially rooted in stage performances, recounted his initial skepticism when offered his inaugural film role in Die Hard, just two days after arriving in Los Angeles in 1987.

“I didn’t know anything about LA. I didn’t know anything about the film business … I’d never made a film before, but I was extremely cheap,” he stated. After perusing the script, he found himself thinking, “What the hell is this? I’m not doing an action movie.”

In the late 1980s, Die Hard producer Joel Silver and director John McTiernan were searching for their lead villain. At that time, Alan Rickman was already a seasoned stage performer. Graduating from London’s esteemed Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1974, he subsequently joined the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company.

After a transition from London to Broadway, his role as the sinister Vicomte de Valmont in the play Les Liaisons Dangereuses earned him a Tony Award nomination in 1987. Fate intervened when Joel Silver noticed Rickman’s performance in Les Liaisons Dangereuses.

Following Silver’s attendance at a production, he offered Rickman, then an unknown figure in Los Angeles, the pivotal role of Hans Gruber. While the world saw a star operating in a league of his own after Die Hard premiered in 1988, Rickman had reservations. At a BAFTA Life in Pictures event in 2015, he shared his initial reaction to the Die Hard script: “I read it and I said, ‘What the hell is this? I’m not doing an action movie.’”

Alan Rickman’s bias against a script that might seem like a standard, graphically violent action film aligns with his background in William Shakespeare. The Bard’s tragedies contain gruesome deaths, but Shakespeare didn’t blend soliloquies with profanity, machine guns, and Christmas-themed puns.

While Die Hard promised an “extremely cheap” paycheck, Rickman was aware that this Hollywood popcorn flick could shape the audience’s first impression of him. At 40 years old and relatively new to Hollywood, Rickman expressed feeling like a kid, stating in a 2015 interview with Empire,

“I never expected to have any kind of film career, to be honest. It was all a bit of a surprise.… I was coming from a very cerebral, dark, difficult, layered play by Christopher Hampton and doing an action movie in Hollywood (Die Hard) with explosions, and I was holding a gun.”

Despite his initial reservations, Rickman ultimately withdrew his near-rejection after receiving advice from multiple individuals who emphasized the rarity of such opportunities in Hollywood. “You don’t understand,” they insisted, “this doesn’t happen. You’ve only been in [Los Angeles] two days, and you’ve been asked to do this film.” Heeding their counsel, Rickman signed on, and the rest, as they say, is history—diabolical, sophisticated, and undeniably charming history.

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