The Cast of 'Die Hard,' Then and Now

7:30 AM 7/13/2018

by Omar Sanchez

The film starring Bruce Willis celebrates its 30th anniversary July 15.

'Die Hard'
'Die Hard'
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation/Photofest

Now an oft-considered Christmas movie, Die Hard actually came out 30 years ago in the middle of summer. The story of an office Christmas party gone south saw immediate success in 1988. The film grossed a then-$140 million worldwide at the box office on a reported $28 million budget. The movie spawned four sequels and in 2017 was put in the United States National Film Registry for its “importance to American cinema and the nation’s cultural and historical heritage.” 

The movie features Bruce Willis’ breakout role as an action star, playing NYPD Detective John McClane, but the heist thriller also was packed with notable actors that have gone on to appear in roles from the Harry Potter franchise to notable TV series.

With July 15 marking the 30th anniversary, The Hollywood Reporter went back to where it all started to detail where the Die Hard actors came from and what they have been up to since the release.

  • Bruce Willis

    NYPD detective John McClane

    Photofest; Paul Morigi/Getty

    Before Die Hard, Bruce Willis was more well known for his TV roles than in film. Hailing from small-town New Jersey, Willis appeared in the late '80s dramedy Moonlighting, for which he won a Golden Globe and a Primetime Emmy during its five-season run acting alongside actress Cybill Shepherd. In Die Hard, Willis assumed the role of John McClane, a detective who goes to his estranged wife’s office Christmas party to reconcile, only to be caught in the middle of a terrorist attempt by Germans. The Germans' game plan: extort money by using the people inside as leverage. McClane’s game plan: save everyone by any means necessary. After the success of Die Hard, Willis would star in its 1990 and 1995 sequels. Between roles, he appeared in films like Pulp Fiction and 12 Monkeys, where he played a character based on the famous 1960s French neo-noir short of the same name. The late '90s Willis hit with roles in the 1998 blockbuster Armageddon and the Academy award-nominated The Sixth Sense. Save a collaboration with Wes Anderson, Willis has returned to his action roots in films like 2010’s Red and 2018’s Death Wish.

  • Alan Rickman

    Hans Gruber

    Photofest; Mike Marsland/WireImage

    The late Alan Rickman played the part of the German villain in Die Hard. Rickman’s background prior to Die Hard was primarily in theater production. Rickman was a longtime member of the British-based Royale Shakespeare Company, winning a Tony Award in 1985 for his role in the French play Les Liasons Dangereuses. After his role in Die Hard he would play roles in 1991’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves — which won him a BAFTA for best actor in a supporting role — as well as playing Harry Potter’s Professor Severus Snape starting in 2001. That role would give him eight film credits in the 2000s until the franchise’s finale in 2011. Rickman’s final credit before his death in 2016 was a voice part in that year’s Alice Through the Looking Glass.

  • Bonnie Bedelia

    Holly Gennaro-McClane

    Photofest; Barry King/FilmMagic

    Playing the role of John’s estranged wife Holly in Die Hard, Bonnie got her start in the entertainment industry as a teen working on the 1960s CBS soap Love of Life. The Manhattan native and trained ballet dancer made her film debut on 1969’s The Gypsy Moths. She also made an appearance as Suzanne in the 1978 Richard Dreyfuss film The Big Fix. In total Bedalia has 84 film and TV acting credits to her name, including a star role in NBC’s Parenthood and most recently the ABC drama Designated Survivor.

  • Alexander Godunov

    Karl

    YouTube/ RezzzoLute; Tom Wargacki/WireImage

    Born during the era of Soviet Union Russia, Die Hard henchman Alexander Godunov began training in dance at age 9 in the eastern Russian island of Sakhalin. At age 20, Godunov got the role of Jose in the Russian musical Carmen Syuta, followed by the 1975 Russian musical Anna Karenina. He would star in his first U.S film after defecting from the Soviet Union in the 1985 Harrison Ford-led Witness. Godunov would only appear in a few more films in the '90s before dying in 1995 at age 45 due to natural causes.

  • Paul Gleason

    Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson

    Photofest; Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

    Famously known for his role as the no-fun The Breakfast Club teacher Mr. Vernon, Gleason played the part of Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson in Die Hard. Born in New Jersey in 1939, Gleason got his footing in the industry with various TV and film roles in the '60s and '70s. Gleason got a three-year run in the soap All My Children starting in 1970, but his career took off with the combination of 1983’s Trading Places, 1985’s The Breakfast Club and 1988’s Die Hard. He would go on to star in Miami Blues and appear in hit TV series like Murder, She Wrote, Melrose Place, Seinfeld and Friends.

  • Reginald VelJohnson

    Sgt. Al Powell

    Photofest; Leon Bennett/Getty

    Before Reginald VelJohnson played himself in a recent episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, VelJohnson played Die Hard’s Sgt. Al Powell, who has a notable heart-to-heart with McClane through their radios toward the end of the film. The Queens actor has been in films such as Crocodile Dundee, Turner & Hooch as well as Die Hard 2. In the '90s VelJohnson became known as the patriarchal figure in the TV series Family Matters, falling at times victim to the hijinks of neighbor Steve Urkel.

  • William Atherton

    Richard Thornburg

    YouTube/Cool Hand Luke; Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic

    William Atherton played reporter Richard Thornburg. Atherton is known for appearing in Steven Spielberg’s first major film The Sugarland Express at age 27. Like Gleason, Atherton also appeared in Murder, She Wrote, as well as a stint on Fox’s The Practice and various appearances on Law & Order in the early 2000s and 2010.