Nakatomi Plaza

Saga Die Hard
Movie Die Hard John McTiernan (1988)
The first part of the Die Hard saga has a special status in pop culture. Celebrated for its dialogue and virtuoso direction, it allowed Bruce Willis to become a world star.
Foxy Plaza
Foxy Plaza - Credit: public domain

“Come out the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs.”

John McClane (Bruce Willis)

The action of Die Hard takes place almost exclusively in one place, namely the Nakatomi Tower in Los Angeles. To find the ideal place to shoot, 20th Century Fox will not look far. Still under construction and therefore relatively flexible to represent the building where the action takes place, the production company chose Fox Plaza, its headquarters. A choice that also offers the studio a certain financial security. For the scenes taking place on the upper floors, director John McTiernan can count on a gigantic painted backdrop, giving the illusion of a breathtaking view of the city. This fresco has the particularity of being animated to give the impression that in the distance, lights flicker and cars circulate. A painting of more than 115 meters long preciously preserved by the studio and used since by other films. At the same time, the technical team builds a scale model of Fox Plaza for the last part, during which the roof explodes. The first part of Die Hard is thus shot in a vase-clos, in the middle of the construction site of a tower that will hold a very special place in the Los Angeles skyline.

It’s often said that Die Hard was first envisioned as a sequel to Commando, the cult action film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger released in 1985. Steven E. de Souza, the co-writer of the first Die Hard, has indeed been working on a potential Commando 2. However, from the beginning, and even if both films were based on a script taking place entirely inside a building, Die Hard was from the start considered as a separate project. Commando 2, finally, was never produced.

The screenplay for Die Hard is based on the novel Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp. In this, since he had played in the previous adaptation of the book, Frank Sinatra is the first actor to be offered the role of John McClane. Too old, the crooner refused, but the studio wanted to give him the honour. Later, Sylvester Stallone, Richard Gere, Burt Reynolds, Al Pacino and Mel Gibson were approached, before their successive refusals encouraged the production to turn to television actors such as Don Johnson and Richard Dean Anderson, but above all the lead Bruce Willis, then star of the comedy series Moonlighting. To play Hans Gruber, the big bad, the studio hired Alan Rickman after seeing him play Valmont in a stage adaptation of Liaisons dangereuses. This is his first film contract. The villains of the film, by the way, are German. Fun fact: most of their dialogue turns out to be incomprehensible gibberish.

Unveiled to American audiences on July 22, 1988, Die Hard became one of the biggest hits of the year. In France, it is especially when it is released on video that the public makes it a cult film. Four suites were produced between 1990 and 2013


Bruce Willis was paid 5 million for the film. A rather large sum for the time.

Scene at Nakatomi Plaza in Die Hard
Nakatomi Plaza scene in Die Hard – Credit: 20th Century Fox
Scene at Nakatomi Plaza in Die Hard
Nakatomi Plaza scene in Die Hard – Credit: 20th Century Fox
Scene at Nakatomi Plaza in Die Hard
Nakatomi Plaza scene in Die Hard – Credit: 20th Century Fox
Scène à la Nakatomi Plaza dans Piège de Cristal
Nakatomi Plaza scene in Die Hard – Credit: 20th Century Fox

Fox Plaza

Completed in 1987, Fox Plaza is one of the landmark buildings on the Los Angeles skyline. A giant of post-modern style inscribed in the great history of cinema.

If its image remains attached to Die Hard, this building of thirty-five floors for one hundred and fifty meters high has appeared in the credits of several films like Speed and Fight Club. It also appears in the series Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It also houses the offices of 20th Century Fox and Fox Studios is also located there. Fox Plaza is also popular for its unique design, including a large fireplace that ventilates all floors.

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By Gilles Rolland

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Passionné de cinéma, de rock and roll, de séries TV et de littérature. Rédacteur de presse et auteur des livres Le Heavy Metal au cinéma, Paroles de fans Guns N' Roses, Paroles de fans Rammstein et Welcome to my Jungle : 100 albums rock et autres anecdotes dépareillées. Adore également voyager à la recherche des lieux les plus emblématiques de la pop culture.

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