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Die Hard


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John McClane NYPD Badge (Die Hard)

John McClane’s Zippo Lighter (Die Hard)

John McClane’s Stunt HK MP5L Machine Gun (Die Hard)

Hans Gruber’s Radio (Die Hard)

Hero Beretta Pistol (Die Hard With A Vengeance)

Note: Most images throughout the article can be clicked on for higher resolution versions; images of the badge credentials have been blurred to discourage replication

Background: Die Hard

Die Hard was released in 1988 as an action film starring Bruce Willis as John McClane, a New York cop visiting his estranged wife in Los Angeles on Christmas Eve.  While at the Nakatomi Plaza, the party is interrupted by thief/terrorists and McClane attempts to disrupt their plans and save the hostages.

The film, which starred a then untested television star, propelled Willis to stardom and the film was a commercial and box office success, inspiring a new kind of action film.

John McTiernan’s direction, the excellent script by Jeb Stuart, and fantastic performances all around made for a classic genre film.  One notable contribution was Alan Rickman’s portrayal of Hans Gruber as McClane’s nemesis in the movie.

The original film spawned a number of sequels, all starring Willis:  Die Hard II, Die Hard with a Vengeance, and Die Hard 4.0.

John McClane’s NYPD Badge & Credentials made for the production (Die Hard)

The first piece in the collection is John McClane’s New York Police Department detective badge and credentials.  This is one of two sets made for the production, however, it is never seen on screen.

Drafts of the screenplay call for McClane flashing his badge at the start of the film to the neighboring passenger on the plane.  In the filmed scene, he instead flashes his Beretta in shoulder holster under his jacket.

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Images of badge intentionally blurred to prevent exact replica duplication

This is one of a set of original props that were built by the famous “Hand Prop Room” and were on display and archived in a shadow box with other pieces.  This collection was acquired directly from Die Hard property master Tommy Tomlinson by Simon Lee of DieHardProps.com.

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The accompanying letter of authenticity from Tommy Tomlinson states, in part:

NYPD I.D. badge number ‘881’ in leather holder created for the character John McClane (Bruce Willis).  It is one of two created for the film.  This one was the one used in filming, the other was sent to the studio in case later inserts were needed.  The I.D. and badge were used in a scene near the beginning of the movie when John McClane shows it to a passenger on the plane.  The scene was later cut from the film.

The second of two badges was sold at Christie’s “Film and Entertainment Collectibles” Sale at New York in June 1996 for approximately $10,000.

John McClane’s Zippo Lighter used by Bruce Willis as John McClane (Die Hard)

The second piece in the collection is John McClane’s Zippo lighter used in many scenes in the film.  This is one of two zZppo lighters supplied to the production.

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The most memorable scene in which the Zippo is used is when McClane is crawling through the ventilation shafts and (quoting Holly) says, “Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs…

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This is one of a set of original props that were built by the famous “Hand Prop Room” and were on display and archived in a shadow box with other pieces.  This collection was acquired directly from Die Hard property master Tommy Tomlinson by Simon Lee of DieHardProps.com.

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The accompanying letter of authenticity from Tommy Tomlinson states, in part:

Silver Zippo lighter used on screen by John McClane (Bruce Willis).  This is one of two identical lighters purchased by the prop department to be used in the film.  This particular lighter was the only one used on screen by John McClane (Bruce Willis).  The other one went to the studio in case later inserts were needed.

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John McClane’s Stunt HK MP5L Machine Gun (Die Hard)

This is one of several stunt HK/MP5L machine guns made for and used in Die Hard by both Bruce Willis as John McClane as well as a number of the terrorists.  This version of the machine gun is non-functional and made of molded rubber pieces for stunt scenes.

This piece was acquired from The Golden Closet, who made the piece available from Michael Papac, the Weapons Specialist on Die Hard and Assistant Property Master on Lethal Weapon and Lethal Weapon 2.

The paperwork provided by The Golden Closet and Michael Papac states, in part:

This non-firing prop machine gun has the rare distinction of being used by principle characters in two of the most iconic action film franchises of all time, “Die Hard” and “Lethal Weapon”.  The prop weapon is constructed of dense rubber and was molded from an actual live firing Heckler Koch MP5L 9mm machine gun and is attached to an adjustable shoulder strap.

The prop was also used in the first two Lethal Weapons films, by character Martin Riggs (portrayed by Mel Gibson) in Lethal Weapon 2.

This style of weapon was used throughout Die Hard, as McClane carried one during most of the film, following his having obtained one from one of the terrorists early in the film.  After dispatching the villain, McClane sends him down the elevator to send a message to Hans Gruber and the others, writing, “NOW I HAVE A MACHINE GUN, HO HO HO!” on the terrorists sweater.

Below are a few screencaptures from the movie:

Kenwood Radio (“Walkie Talkie”) used by Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber (Die Hard)

The third piece in the collection is Hans Gruber’s Kenwood radio prominently used throughout the film.  The use of these radios, allowing McClane to communicate with both Gruber and Powell, were an important part of the film, and allowed the isolated McClane to “share scenes” with the other characters in the movie.

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NOTE:  The following information with regards to this specific pieces is speculative, based on personal research and authentication.  It has not been traced back to the production nor status affirmed by any principals from the production, and therefore is subject to error.

This piece can be tracked back to a Sotheby’s auction in 1997.  It remained in a private collection until October 2008 in which it was offered at auction along with other pieces originally sold into the marketplace through the 1997 Sotheby’s event.  I have also determined that the antenna is not original to the production, but a replacement.

While it does not include any studio paperwork, the 1997 date is important due to the research tools available at the time.  Given the limitations of video resolution in the mid-late 90s, very little details could be found by examining the film and reviewing still images.

In late 2007, the Die Hard films were released on Blu-Ray Disc, with high definition, 1080×1920 resolution.  As such, a study of the film revealed much more detail about the radios used by John McClane, Hans Gruber, and other characters throughout the film.

In my review, I discovered that two different and distinct Kenwood radios used by McClane and Gruber.

As seen in the following compilations, the McClane radio has a distinct black “KENWOOD” on a white background bar, which the Gruber radio has no such label across the back.

McClane Kenwood Radio (BACK):

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Gruber Kenwood Radio (BACK):

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The radio that is part of this collection matches the Gruber-style back.  There are a number of other discrepancies between the two styles of radio, and this example matches the Gruber stills in each case.

In the one extreme close-up shot of the Gruber radio, on his desk, there is a distinct, deep cut into the metalic face of the front can be screen-matched to this piece.  This is critical evidene to place the radio in the film, given the “off the shelf” nature of the piece and the lack of provenance leading directly back to the production.

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As seen in this comparison – the same still from a Blu-Ray Disc vs. DVD – the capability was simply not previously available to find and affirm the distinct scratch into the metal face:

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There are a few other “possible” screen-matches, but I would have to characterize them as inconclusive at this time.

As Harry Ellis uses Gruber’s radio in a critical scene, this radio also matches the style handled by that actor (Hart Bockner) in the scene.

Below are screencaptures from the film:

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Hero Beretta 92FS used by Bruce Willis as John McClane (Die Hard With A Vengeance)

In the first three films in the franchise (Die Hard, Die Hard 2, Die Hard With A Vengeance), John McClane’s trademark firearm was the Beretta.

This piece is one of four blank fire Beretta 92FS pistols rented to the Die Hard With A Vengeance production (“Simon Says Productions”).  The armorer for the film was Weapons Specialists LTD in New York.

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Provenance for this piece is very substantive.  Included are copies of all applicable rental agreements between Weapons Specialists LTD and “Simon Says Productions”, a letter of authenticity from Weapons Specialist President Rick Washburn, and copies of an assortment of related paperwork from property master Tommy Tomlinson.

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Below are some still screencaptures from scenes in the film in which the pistol was featured:

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Note:  The actual property depicted on this page ARE NOT assets of Original Prop Blog, LLC

Note:  All original photos and descriptions are copyright Original Prop Blog, LLC – please contact me for permission to use

 

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