ByKit Simpson Browne, writer at
Writer-at-large. Bad jokes aplenty. Can be gently prodded on Twitter at @kitsb1
Kit Simpson Browne

It's been 26 years since Die Hard burst onto the big screen back in 1988 - and in that time, we've watched as the whole action world was changed by it - with its influence still visible pretty much everywhere there's an action movie playing.

Except in the actual Die Hard movies, inexplicably.
Except in the actual Die Hard movies, inexplicably.

But, no matter the impact a film has, 26 years is still a long time. Times have changed, and with them, so has the cast of the movie.

Some more than others:

Bruce Willis WAS John McClane

Who? At the time best known as a romantic sitcom actor from Moonlighting, Bruce Willis's role as John McClane - the put-upon cop just trying to make it through the night - catapulted him to super-stardom, and influenced a generation of movie-goers, and their action movies.

So? He was John Freakin' McClane. He's who Channing Tatum is spending a lifetime trying to be.

And Now? He's still making Die Hard movies, with gradually decreasing levels of interest. Also, now he's not so much with the hair.

Bonnie Bedelia WAS Holly Gennaro-McClane

Who? A Golden Globe-winner for 1983's Heart Like a Wheel, Bedelia's revisited her role as McClane's estranged wife Holly in Die Hard 2, once again having to hold down the fort while in distinct peril.

So? She plays a more subtle bad-ass perfectly - and doesn't get out-acted by Alan Rickman. No mean feat. Also, she's Macaulay Culkin's aunt...

And Now? There weren't too many leading roles in the 90's and 00's, but Bedelia's been starring as Camille Braverman in NBC's Parenthood since 2010.

Alan Rickman WAS Hans Gruber

Who? Rickman was fresh off a Tony nomination when he took the part of Hans Gruber - and it proved a good bet. A string of hits followed, including Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Love Actually and the Harry Potter series.

So? He's arguably the greatest villain of all time - and a big reason most bad guys in Hollywood cinema are still invariably European.

And Now? To an entire generation, he is Severus Snape. He's also returned to the theater, and played Ronald Reagan in The Butler.

Reginald VelJohnson WAS Sgt. Al Powell

Who? Another Sitcom star, this time from Family Matters, VelJohnson also returned for Die Hard 2 - not too surprising considering how fondly remembered his role as Al has remained in the hearts of fans.

So? Without Al, the whole movie could easily fall apart - he's a completely necessary foil for McClane. Also, he was the only one restraining Urkel from taking over the world.

And Now? VelJohnson has recently had recurring roles in Hart of Dixie, Mike & Molly and Tron: Uprising.

De'voreaux White WAS Argyle

Who? White had already featured in Blues Brothers and Max Dugan Returns before taking on the small but memorable part of Argyle - John McClane's limo driver and comic relief - as well as a few episodes of Diff'rent Strokes.

So? Aside from providing most of the film's comic relief, Argyle totally saves the day. I mean, not as much as McClane, but still.

And Now? After two seasons on Head of the Class between 1989 and 1991, White's career went pretty quiet. His role as Second Transvestite in 2000's Shadow Hours didn't exactly light up the box office - though he recently recorded a part in Workaholics. As an Uber driver.

Hart Bochner WAS Harry Ellis

Who? Bochner brought the slimy executive Harry Ellis - the one Hans Gruber proved less than fond of - to life with worrying ease. If you can't remember him, he's the one you definitely wanted to punch.

So? He was magnificently sleazy. What more could you want?

And Now? After a quiet 90's, Bochner has found himself more in demand in recent years, with guest starring roles in Grey's Anatomy and Franklin & Bash, as well as a starring role in Debra Messing's 2008 series The Starter Wife.

William Atherton WAS Richard Thornburg

Who? Atherton played the other character you definitely wanted to punch - hack journalist Richard Thornburg. Which most likely wasn't a huge stretch for him, having already played the - strikingly similar - part of Walter Peck in 1984's Ghostbusters.

So? Thornburg was the ultimate greasy journalist - and earned Atherton a part in Die Hard 2.

And Now? Atherton reprised the role of Thornburg in Die Hard 2, with the character remaining as irritating as ever, before working consistently throughout the 90's, and recently appearing in pretty much every drama series of the past decade, including Lost, Monk, Castle, Boston Legal and Desperate Housewives.

Sadly, though, not all of the cast are still with us:

Paul Gleason WAS Dwayne T. Robinson

Who? Gleason was Principal Vernon in The Breakfast Club. That alone is enough to ensure his place in the highest pantheon of movie awesomeness. Add in Deputy Police Chief Robinson in Die Hard, as well as roles in both Trading Places and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor, and you're talking some serious 80's movie cred.

So? He was Principal Vernon. I cannot reiterate that enough.

And Now? After reprising his legendary role as Vernon in 2001's Not Another Teen Movie, to hilarious effect, Gleason sadly passed away in May 2006 at the age of 67.

Alexander Godunov WAS Karl

Who? A legendary Russian ballet dancer and actor, Godunov controversially defected to the US in 1979. A notable role in Witness followed, alongside a tabloid-friendly romance with Jacqueline Bisset.

So? He was Karl! Who, in turn, was awesome.

And Now? Godunov tried to stay away from roles that typecast him as a dancer or a villain after Die Hard, and found work hard to come by. He sadly passed away in May 1995 at the age of 45.

James Shigeta WAS Joseph Yoshinobu Takagi

Who? Shigeta had a long and starry career before Die Hard, originally as a successful singer in Japan - despite originally being from Hawaii, and serving in the US Marine Corps in Korea. Moving back to the US, and into acting, his role as Joe Kojaku in The Crimson Kimono was groundbreaking, in that he played the part at all. At the time, an Asian actor with regular speech patterns was a much less common sight than a white one in 'yellowface'.

So? Remember how Takagi stood up to Gruber? That's basically what Shigeta did to entrenched racism in the studio system. Without the bloody outcome.

And Now? After Die Hard, Shigeta made several appearances on assorted 90's sitcoms and soaps - as well as voicing General Li in Mulan. Sadly, he passed away a few weeks ago in July 2014, aged 85.

So, three of the Die Hard legends are tragically no longer with us, but of the remaining seven, there's been a pretty wide range of degrees of success. The question then is: who do you guys think has changed the most?

Want more rampant movie nostalgia? Check out more articles touching on just how much Time Flies right here.


So, who do you guys reckon has changed the most?


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