It’s hard to imagine anyone but Bruce Willis playing the lead character in Die Hard. But believe it or not, Frank Sinatra was offered Die Hard role John McClane.
Frank Sinatra offered Die Hard role but turned it down
Had Sinatra starred in Die Hard, it would have been a very different movie.
The film is based on a book by Roderick Thorpe called Nothing Lasts Forever. It was published in 1979 and was a sequel to Thorpe’s 1966 novel The Detective.
Now, The Detective WAS made into a movie. And this one did star Frank Sinatra as the main character, Detective Joe Leland. Is it starting to become clear why Frank Sinatra was offered the later Die Hard role?
The Die Hard we know and love
The sequel to The Detective, which we now know as Die Hard didn’t get a green light for production until the late 1980s. That was a good decade after the book was published. And by then, Sinatra was 73 years old.
However, since the movie was technically a sequel, the production company was obligated to offer the role to Sinatra first. As we all now know, he turned it down. (But can you imagine Sinatra as John McClane? We can’t!)
And believe it or not, Bruce Willis wasn’t the second choice. The role was then offered to Arnold Schwarzenegger. According to Business Insider (cited below), “the movie was pitched as a sequel to the actor’s 1985 film Commando rather than a sequel to The Detective. Schwarzenegger also turned down the offer…”
It wasn’t until after the second strike and miss that producers offered the role to Bruce Willis and the leading role was tweaked a bit, with the character renamed John McClane instead of Joe Leland.
At the time, Bruce Willis was known for his comedy roles, so the producers were taking a risk casting him in an action film. — WTF fun facts