Alan Rickman on 'Die Hard' Role: "It’s Shocking How Thrilling It Is to Shoot a Machine Gun"

Alan Rickman

At a BAFTA event, the British actor discussed his debut film role as the iconic baddie Hans Gruber.

Almost 3 decades after his foiled attempt to rob the Nakatomi Plaza in 1988's Die Hard, the sneering, intellectual and Time magazine-referencing Hans Gruber still is hailed as one of cinema’s most iconic baddies.

But, as Alan Rickman’s first film role, the part was not initially to the stage-trained thespian’s liking.

"I read it, and I said, 'What the hell is this? I’m not doing an action movie,' " the actor — whose second effort as director, A Little Chaos, is being released in the U.K. on Friday — revealed onstage at a BAFTA Life in Pictures event on Wednesday that celebrated his career.

"Agents and people said: ‘Alan, you don’t understand, this doesn’t happen. You’ve only been in L.A. two days, and you’ve been asked to do this film.' "

Having agreed to take on Gruber, Rickman — who said he was "extremely cheap" — went on to add his own flavor to the character, who initially was to appear wearing terrorist attire.

"I was just thinking: If I was wearing a suit and not all of this terrorist gear, then maybe there could be a scene where I put on an American accent, and he thinks I’m one of the hostages," he said, admitting to leaving a note suggesting as much on producer Joel Silver’s table.

"Then I went back to England, and I kind of got the Joel Silver: 'Get the hell out of here, you’ll wear what you’re told,' and I said, 'OK, fine.' And then I came back and they handed me the new script. So, you know, it just pays to occasionally use a little bit of theater training when you’re doing a movie."

Although Rickman admitted that he was nervous in the scenes involving guns — "If you look carefully, you’ll see me blinking" — he did claim to have settled into the character of a psychotic, cold-blooded murderer.

"It is shocking how thrilling it is to shoot a machine gun, that I discovered."

Earning more than $140 million at the box office and sparking a five-film franchise, the original Die Hard has been celebrated since as one of the finest action films ever made. But Rickman pointed out another factor worthy of applause.

"Not to get a sledgehammer out to it, but every single black character in that film is positive and highly intelligent," he said. "So, 28 years ago, that’s actually quite revolutionary and quietly so."