IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Director John Moore Talks 'A Good Day to Die Hard'

Sunday, 17 February 2013 20:35 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Director John Moore Talks 'A Good Day to Die Hard'

A Good Day to Die Hard opened number one at the box office over President’s Day weekend proving that John McClane (Bruce Willis) and the long-running franchise is still beloved by movie audiences everywhere.

The film, which is the fifth installment in the action franchise following the original Die Hard, Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Die Hard with a Vengeance, and Live Free or Die Hard, is the first film in the series to take place on foreign soil. When McClane’s estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney), is arrested for murder, John must travel to Moscow to help save his boy. But all is not as it seems, as Jack is actually a CIA operative undercover tracking a dangerous group of terrorists trying to steal weapons of mass destruction. Now it is up to the father and son team to put their differences aside and do what McClanes do best … fight terrorists. Director John Moore, best known for helming action films like Behind Enemy Lines, Flight of the Phoenix, and Max Payne, takes over the series from former franchise directors John McTiernan (Die Hard, Die Hard with a Vengeance), Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2: Die Harder), and Len Wiseman (Live Free or Die Hard), respectively. 

I recently had a chance to sit down with John Moore to talk about his work on A Good Day to Die Hard, and the challenges of taking over the iconic franchise. The outspoken director discussed the new film, becoming a Die Hard director, collaborating with series star Bruce Willis, the daunting task of casting John McClane’s son, the big name actors who were considered for the role, the organic way he fit in McClane’s famous catch phrase, and if he would like to return to direct the inevitable Die Hard 6.

Here is what he had to say:

IAR: To begin with, as a director, can you talk about what it means to you to join the Die Hard franchise? Were you intimidated at all when you agreed to make this movie and how did you wrap your head around being part of such a beloved series?

John Moore: Without sounding arrogant, he said as he went on to say something arrogant, it's not intimidating, it's exciting. The excitement overrides the intimidation. Let's face it, if it was that intimidating you wouldn't do it. You'd stay at home and say, I'm intimidated! It's like joining a very big rock band tour. It's like being told, “Okay, you're going to shoot the Rolling Stones at Wembly on Thursday night.” A lot of the pieces are already there and Bruce is Mick Jagger. He's going to do his thing and he's got it down so you don't fuck with that. You organize everything else and you make the whole thing work. But know that this is here and this is there, and Keith's going do this and Mick’s going to do that. So it’s kind of exciting because you're joining a family and they know their shit well, and in many ways it’s equal measure. You have to come up with new shit, but the challenge of that and the pain of that can be offset a little bit by how much is already in the bank, and people like Die Hard. As much as you’re terrified they’ll hate your Die Hard there’s always the chance that people like Die Hard movies. So they might cut you a break and go because people like Die Hard movies, you know! So it’s challenging in all the right ways and in that it’s exciting more than intimidating.

After twenty-five years, obviously no one knows the Die Hard franchise or the character of John McClane better than Bruce Willis. What was he like to collaborate with on this project? 

Moore: Collaborating is what the French did with the Nazis. Again I come back to the music analogy. I respect Bruce’s total ownership of John McClane, and I don’t just respect it on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I respect it totally. So, if he’s doing something and he’s happy with it, than that’s McClane! I can’t imagine the scale of arrogance or ego you’d need to say to him, nah, that’s not McClane. Again, to go back to the Rolling Stones analogy, you’re walking up to Mick Jagger and saying, can you really get no satisfaction? I don’t know about that lyric. Maybe you can get some? You know that it’s insane. So I’ve got a lot of trust and faith in him, and the idea is that he has faith in me to capture that. It’s not as easy as it looks to capture. It’s like shooting Frank Sinatra You got to get it right. You got to get the right angles. You got to make sure the cameras are where they need to be when he’s on, and that he’s flowing and he’s in that rhythm, that’s the collaboration. The collaboration isn’t, I have this idea, and can I get your opinion on that? That’s fucking horseshit man. That does not happen. That does not occur! What occurs is jazzy and rock n’ roll It’s a lot more musical than some film school fantasy of standing around with a backwards Kangol hat talking about what happens. When Bruce comes out of the trailer, genuinely people go, booyah, its John McClane! So the crew’s your first audience. The collaboration is as a director you have to be fast enough to stay up with him. I’m not afraid to forget my position in all this. I have a position. I also have a strong enough ego that it’s not going to get wounded by saying the directors on Die Hard movies are pros. We’re pros. We’re like those great pit crew guys. We're making Die Hard and we're making it well.

Jack McClane has been a part of the mythology of the series since the first film; can you talk about casting Jai Courtney in the role? He’s a great choice because he practically looks like he could be Bruce Willis’ son!

Moore: Yes, isn't that funny? Well let me tell you this. I knew I didn't want to go with someone famous. If Captain Kirk … if Chris Pine had appeared on screen, I mean he's a wonderful guy and a great actor, but he's not John McClane's son. There would've been that weird breaking the fourth wall thing about it so it needed to be somebody relatively unknown. No offense to Jai, it just needed to be someone fresh, not someone that was carrying that swagger. So the Chris Pines and the Chris Hemsworths and so on and so forth, are all great fucking guys, but wouldn’t have worked.

Were Chris Pine and Chris Hemsworth some of the names that were tossed around during the casting process?

Moore: Yes, of course. Absolutely. Look, if you're running a studio and you spend $100 million on a movie, you're going to want to hedge your bets. You don't want some asshole director casting an unknown. 

Was it a hard fight with the studio to cast Jai in the role?

Moore: Not the fight for him, but the concept of casting an unknown was a moment. They had a moment. It was like, really? I mean because it's a big idea. Having John McClane's son is a big idea. You could get equally excited about the idea that Chris Hemsworth was going to play that part, or a Pine, but we won that battle and it wasn't a long battle. Then the hard part starts. So, “Well done asshole, you've convinced us to go with an unknown, now go find an unknown.” That was not easy. That was scarily hard because at one point it was like, what if he doesn't walk in the door? Seriously like what if? I mean we're all assuming we're going to find him, but what if we don't? But he did, thank Jesus, and he turns out to be great and a great guy. Don't underestimate the second one. You've cast a movie and you've cast your mind. 

Was there a lot of discussion about where the "Yippee Ki-Yay Mother Fucker" would be in the movie? Obviously everyone's waiting for it, was it always going to fall at the end of the film?

Moore: No. Neither Bruce nor anybody with any ounce of self-respect who's intimate with the project sits down and goes, “Oh there!” Bruce would throw you off the fucking balcony. He just doesn't stand for any cutesy crap like that. If it works, it works. By the way, it wasn't meant to be where it is. We're rolling, he's in the truck, and he's supposed to start truck and drive it off. He starts the truck and says, "Yippee Ki-Yay Mother Fucker!" I didn't even know if we sound recording on him because there was so much noise, fans and things going. So we didn't even know if he was wired. I was like, was he wired? Please tell me he was fucking wired! I'm looking up at the sound guy and he's like, “Yeah, we got it!” “So that's how spontaneous it is.

Finally, with Die Hard 6, Bruce has said publically that he would like to do it, and Jai told me that he is up for it as well. Is that something you would like to come back and do as well? You’d be the second director in the franchise’s history, along with original Die Hard director John McTiernan, to helm two films in the series. 

Moore: I'd do it in a heartbeat. I don't think anyone could touch McTiernan. This is John's franchise. We should never forget that. It's John's series. It's the image that John McTiernan created that's on that mural at Fox. He put Bruce in that elevator shaft and gave him that Zippo. I think people should take a moment actually to respect John

But you would be up for the challenge of directing another Die Hard, correct?

Moore: I would, but I think they'd be smart to come at it sideways again. Just come at it sideways and get an energetic twenty-two year-old director. 

So for the sake of the franchise you would actually step aside?

Moore: Oh yeah, I'm a fan first!

A Good Day to Die Hard is currently playing in theaters. 

To watch our exclusive video interview with Jai Courtney about A Good Day to Die Hard, please click here

To read our interview with Bruce Willis about A Good Day to Die Hard, please click here

To watch our exclusive video interview with Mary Elizabeth Winstead about Smashed and A Good Day to Die Hard, please click here

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