He is the vest-wearing New York cop who made his name fending off a skyscraper full of bad guys in Die Hard.
Arguments rage over whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie but there’s no debating the character of John McClane remains an iconic action hero.
Die Hard turned Bruce Willis into a movie star but what many fans do not know is that his character McClane’s roots can be traced back to Scotland.
The Scottish ancestry of John McClane is unlikely to surprise those who remember Scotland’s response to a terrorist attack in 2007 at Glasgow Airport, when a baggage handler kicked a would-be suicide bomber in the groin while the terrorist was still on fire.
McClane was named John Ford initially, but 20th Century Fox felt this was disrespectful to the deceased director of the same name.
Screenwriter Jeb Stuart chose McClane as a “good strong Scottish name”, which was based on his own Celtic heritage.
The film was a massive financial and critical success, spawning four sequels and being considered one of the most influential action films of all time.
McClane’s fashion sense in Die Hard 2 appeared to champion his Scots heritage.
Willis appears in the 1990 sequel in a brushed flannel shirt patterned in a navy-and-green Black Watch tartan plaid.
Heritage of Scotland traced this tartan to 18th Century watch companies in the Scottish Highlands, specifically Clan Campbell and one from each of Clan Munro, Clan Fraser of Lovat, and Clan Grant.
The Black Watch tartan remains popular with its blue, green, and black check, though McClane’s shirt was coloured only in navy and green.
Willis was perfect casting for McClane but was far from the first choice.
The producers originally had to offer the role to Frank Sinatra, who was 72 at the time!
That’s because the early origins of Die Hard date back to a 1968 film titled The Detective, from the novel of the same name by author Roderick Thorp.
The movie saw Sinatra play New York detective Joe Leland and was a box-office hit.
Thorp wrote a sequel, Nothing Lasts Forever, which sees Leland take on some terrorists in the Klaxon Oil Corporation skyscraper on Christmas Eve.
Twenty years later a loose adaptation of Nothing Lasts Forever would become Die Hard.
Because of a clause in Sinatra’s contract for The Detective, which gave him the right to reprise his role in a sequel, he was offered the role of John McClane.
Sinatra was among eight actors who turned it down, including Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Clint Eastwood, Robert De Niro and Harrison Ford.
Bruce Willis was mainly known for playing a comedic role on TV’s Moonlighting at the time but he landed the part and a $5 million salary for the project.
He was mostly known for TV at the time, although he did make his movie debut in The First Deadly Sin in 1980, alongside the aforementioned Sinatra.
Willis spoke about the acting process while promoting Die Hard in 1988.
He said the movie was “the closest I’ve come to showing what is in my heart on screen”.
“David Addison is a character I play on Moonlighting,” said Willis.
“In Die Hard, even though I’m acting, a lot of what is in me came through.
“I really wanted to play a vulnerable guy.
“I didn’t want to be a superhero who’s a larger-than-life guy that nobody really knows.
“I don’t know any superheroes.
“I know guys who are afraid and have anxiety, and I think you know people like that, too.
“That’s what I wanted to play.
“I really wanted to be honest about the moment you go through when you think your life is about to end.
“I wanted to play somebody who was afraid to die.”
Die Hard in Dundee?
Dundee actor Gordon Morris, who played John Weekes in The Terror, says he is now dreaming of one day pulling on McClane’s blood-smeared vest!
Could we see McClane battling bad guys in a Hilltown multi?
“It’s brilliant to know that John McClane is Scottish, as it means I have a wee chance of playing him in any future Die Hard movies!” he said.
“If any casting directors are reading this, I drink too much, I’m a bit of a loudmouth, I own a vest and I’m comfortable handling firearms – well, I owned a spud gun when I was in primary two!.
“I’m basically John McClane!
“This really is excellent news for the Scottish acting community.”
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