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
There have been some famous and controversial guest stars in the Home Alone movies, but this one takes the cake.
We know it came out a long time ago (1990, to be exact), but perhaps you’ve seen the original Home Alone movie recently. And if you have, you likely remember the scene when bad-guy Marv, played by Daniel Stern, gets caught up in Kevin McAllister’s (Macauley Caulkin) set of booby traps. In one particularly cringe-worthy scene, he ends up with a tarantula on his face.
Now, tarantulas are venomous, but that venom doesn’t do humans any real harm. The worst that can happen is that they bite you and it hurts. Still, most of us want to avoid that.
Normally, a life-like tarantula would be created by a props department for use in a movie. And Home Alone’s propmasters did, indeed, make a spider for the scene. It’s just not the one that ended up on David Stern’s face. That one was real. And his name was Barry.
“I’ve talked about the stunt guys doing crazy things, I’ve talked about my love of doing physical comedy, but one of the most surreal moments of the film was the scene with the tarantula crawling across my face. People who meet me are always curious if the tarantula was real, if my scream was real, and if I was scared, crazy or both. The answer to all three of those questions is “Yes.”
My memory might be off and I will happily stand corrected if anybody has better info but here is how I remember it:
When I first read the script and talked to Chris Columbus, I thought the tarantula in the scene was going to be a mechanical one and when I showed up on set, sure enough the incredible crew in the prop department had made a very life-like spider replica which could move a bit, as well as a version that didn’t move. I told them I thought I could help sell it, with my great acting abilities and all… They were polite but not convinced. To insure that the “gag” was going to work, they brought in a different crew member, this one from the animal wrangling department. He had a cage and in this cage was an exact replica of the replica that the prop department had made. But you could definitely see by the way it moved that this was no fake, but a creature of royalty in the natural world. I was a little intimidated for the first time in the movie. The wrangler introduced me to “Barry the Tarantula” (possibly mis-remembering his name, apologies). They had Barry crawl around on my hand and head. I asked if Barry was trained and was told they had been working with him for a few days but tarantulas are kind of tough to train. I asked if his poison had been removed, and was told that if the poison was removed, Barry would die. I said, “Right, but if the poison isn’t removed, then I’m gonna die. See where I’m going here?!” “Just don’t make any sudden, threatening moves and you’ll be fine.” “But I’m going to be screaming in Barry’s face. Do you think he’ll feel threatened by that?!” “Barry doesn’t have ears. He can’t hear. Relax. “
I think I made one last feeble attempt to honor the hard work of the prop department and use the replica, but once the director saw Barry in action, the Barry Action Figure was put on the sidelines. I remember Barry crawling around my face. I remember trying not to piss off Barry. Once I got used to him and what he was doing, he turned out to be a great scene partner. I think I felt comfortable enough to have let out that scream right at him in the scene, but there’s another legend that says I only mimed it and added in the scream later. (I would love for the powers-that-be at 20th Century Fox to release the original footage to see if I screamed or mimed, so we can settle this “controversy” once and for all – and the world can finally be at peace.) Either way, the scream came out pretty good and was an homage to the shower scene in “Psycho”. I then had to beat Joe Pesci with a crowbar. And we all know that even though it was pretend and funny and a fake crowbar, it’s a thousand times more dangerous pissing off Joe Pesci than pissing off a venomous spider that’s crawling on your face.
Here’s to Barry! The greatest tarantula I have ever acted with!”
Want to revisit the scene now that you know that’s a real spider? Here you go:
When Donnie Dunagan joined the Marines, he was eager to keep his past a secret. And he managed to do it for his entire 25-year military career.
That secret? As a child, he had a brief stint as an actor, and one of his roles was a voiceover for Disney’s Bambi! The film was released in 1942.
Drafted in 1952 during the Korean War, over the course of his career, Dunagan was promoted 13 times in 21 years (a Marine Corps record). He was also awarded two awards for Valor in Combat as well as the Purple Heart.
When interviewed by his wife, Donna Dunagan, for a Story Corps podcast, he described how closely he held the secret:
“I never said a word to anybody about Bambi, even to you. When we first met I never said a word about it. Most of the image in people’s minds of Bambi was a little frail deer, not doing very well, sliding around on the ice on his belly.”
As a boot camp commander, he was responsible for overseeing hundreds of recruits as well as the drill instructors. He recalled: “I just thought to myself, ‘I don’t think I want all these young Marines to start calling me Major Bambi.’ And I kept my mouth shut.”
The first military colleague to find out was a fellow Marine he had worked and fought for. The secret was uncovered after a personnel audit. Dunagan explained:
“He called me in at five-thirty in the morning, I will never forget it. I go in his office and he says, ‘Dunagan! I want you to audit the auditors.’ I never said a disrespectful word to this man in twenty years, I said, ‘General, when do you think I’m going to have time to do that?’ Then he looked at me, pulled his glasses down like some kind of college professor. And there’s a big, red, top-secret folder that he got out of some safe somewhere that had my name on it. He pats this folder, looks me in the eye, and says, ‘You will audit the auditors. Won’t you…Major Bambi?’”
It turns out Dunagan was right – that’s exactly what he would have been called had he let it slip during his fighting career! – WTF fun facts
It’s no secret that the late comedian Robin Williams’ had a good heart. But fewer people know the stories that gave him that reputation – stories like Lisa Jakub’s.
In 1993, she was a young actress playing Williams’ daughter in the comedy Mrs. Doubtfire. As most of us know, child actors often get tutored on set since they miss a lot of school days. But Jakub was still enrolled in her Toronto-area school at the time. That is until she hit the absence threshold.
“I was upset and Robin asked me about it,” Jakub told TODAY.com months after Williams’ untimely death in 2014. “The next day he showed up at my trailer with a letter he’d written to the principal asking him to reconsider and let me come back to high school. In an industry where people are only in it for themselves, Robin was not like that. Robin had my back and that will always be precious to me.”
The letter read, in part:
“I have spent the past three months working on ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ with Lisa Jakub. I found Lisa to be a bright, inquisitive and an eager to learn young lady. She is charming and a delight. … I respectfully request that you reconsider your policy and allow Lisa the opportunity to work and attend school. She is an asset to any classroom.”
Unfortunately, the letter impressed the school but did not change their decision. In fact, they framed the letter and hung it on the wall in their main office but did not allow Jakub back in.
The letter went viral on Reddit in 2015 and Jakub herself updated fans. Her message read:
“Hi there – just wanted to say thanks for sharing this, and maybe answer a few questions I’m seeing. I was being tutored on set for the required three hours a day and mailing back work to my school. However, my absence required that my teachers put together special work for me and my school wasn’t willing to do that. I had told them in advance that I would be away (I had been an actor since I was four, so this wasn’t really news) but during the long shoot it became too much of an issue for them. I don’t really blame them – it was very unusual, especially in the Canadian suburbs, in the early 90s. As for the legality of it all, I really don’t know. I was embarrassed and didn’t want to be somewhere I wasn’t wanted – so we didn’t fight it. I ended up attending a private school after that, for a short time. They also struggled with accommodating my strange work schedule. I was told that wasn’t a good fit, either. So, I never graduated from high school. When I was in my twenties, after I left LA and retired from acting, I got my GED. When I was thirty-one, I graduated from the University of Virginia. I still live in VA, and I’m a writer now. (I tell this whole story in my book, if you’re interested – You Look Like That Girl http://www.amazon.com/You-Look-Like-That-Girl/dp/0825307465 ) So, it all turned out ok in the end! But of course the point of all of this is really that Robin was a spectacular individual, who took the time to fight for a kid going through a personal problem. And I’m just glad that people are hearing that story – because that’s who he truly was. That’s how I like to remember him.”
Brad Pitt tried to buy himself out of the movie “Interview with the Vampire”. After hearing there was a $40 million exit clause, he was forced to shoot the rest of the movie. It went on to receive 2 Oscar nominations. – WTF Fun Facts
The 2018 movie Christopher Robin was banned from China as a result of a recent crackdown on Winnie The Pooh, who has become a symbol of resistance against the country’s ruling Communist Party and its leader, Xi Jinping. – WTF Fun Facts