Alan Rickman’s iconic role as Hans Gruber in Die Hard ultimately catapulted him into Hollywood stardom. Believe it or not, Sam Neill played an unintentional but pivotal part in this chapter of cinematic history.
From initial rejections to last-minute decisions, there is a fascinating backstory of Rickman’s feature film debut. Here’s why Rickman owes Neill for the part that launched him into the spotlight.
Alan Rickman owes Sam Neill for his part in ‘Die Hard’
The creative team behind Die Hard initially wanted a big-name actor to play the main villain, Hans Gruber, in the action-packed blockbuster. After all, they had already secured Bruce Willis to play the main protagonist, John McClane.
Initially, producers contacted Sam Neill, a New Zealand actor with an expansive filmography. Neill was their ideal choice for the role of Gruber, but things didn’t turn out as planned.
After receiving the offer, Neill turned down the role. The rejection forced the filmmakers to get creative with their casting decisions.
Fortunately, shortly after Neill declined, director John McTiernan discovered Rickman performing in a British theater production. And, as the saying goes, the rest became cinematic history.
It’s difficult to imagine anyone else playing Hans Gruber. Although the movie launched Rickman’s career in Hollywood, he almost rejected the offer.
The ‘Die Hard’ star almost turned down the iconic role of Hans Gruber
The magic of Die Hard is not complete without its formidable villain, Hans Gruber. While Willis’ John McClane remains crucial, Rickman’s polished and unnerving performance truly captivates the audience.
Remarkably, this role marked Rickman’s debut in mainstream cinema. Despite being 41 at the time and having a rich background in stage acting, he nearly passed up the opportunity to become the iconic villain.
As Rickman was mulling over his entrance into Hollywood, he was selective about the roles he was willing to take on. Initially, he hesitated to make an action movie his film debut.
Thankfully, he reconsidered his stance. His portrayal of Hans Gruber has since become iconic, ranking him among the greatest movie villains ever.
But it took quite a bit of convincing before Rickman accepted the part in Die Hard.
This is what convinced Alan Rickman to accept the part opposite Bruce Willis
Rickman only spent a few days in the City of Angels before the Die Hard producers approached him about a part in the film.
At first, the script left Rickman unenthusiastic. As reported by Slash Film, the idea of starring as the bad guy in an action film didn’t appeal to him.
“I read it and I said ‘what the hell is this, I’m not doing an action movie,” Rickman recalled. “And agents and people said ‘Alan, you don’t understand this doesn’t happen, you’ve only been in LA two days and you’ve been asked to do this film.’”
Even though agents and acquaintances urged him to reconsider, it wasn’t solely their nudging that swayed him. Rickman saw some elements in the script that were groundbreaking for the era.
The actor was impressed by the positive and intelligent representation of black characters. Given that the film debuted nearly three decades ago, its portrayal was ahead of its time.
Characters like Sgt. Powell (Reginald VelJohnson) and limo driver Argyle (De’voreaux White) are consistently shown to be adept and quick-witted throughout the film.