What the Hell Happened to John McTiernan?

The 13th Warrior - 1999

The 13th Warrior – 1999

McTiernan returned to directing in 1999 with the mightily ambitious historical fiction epic, The 13th Warrior.

Based on the Michael Crichton novel Eaters of the Dead, the film starred Antonio Banderas as the Muslim explorer/sojourner Ahmad ibn Fadlan, sent to journey across Eastern lands to find Valhalla. He encounters many things before reaching a tribe tormented by mystic Nordic mythological werebears, essentially. Mysticism is a core theme of the film, as it sought to express the wonder of early mid-millenium exploration through magical realism.

The film’s production spiraled out of control after early test audiences reacted unfavorably. Crichton himself stepped in to direct reshoots, tussling with McTiernan over the film’s tone. Crichton wanted something more reflective and somber, while McTiernan wanted more rousing action. The uneasy mix of the two competing directions made for a generally muddled final product. While I confess to enjoying the film, this is mostly as I am a fan of the source novel, and a huge Antonion Banderas fan.

Critics, clearly not sharing in my predilections, saddled the movie with mostly negative reviews. Audiences steered clear, to where The 13th Warrior was at one point the most unprofitable film of all time, losing (with marketing) $135 million. Banderas, then playing Zorro, didn’t suffer a major blow, merely a ding, but McTiernan did. Even though he wasn’t in any position of power over the final cut. Luckily, he had one other 1999 release.

The Thomas Crown Affair - 1999

The Thomas Crown Affair – 1999

McTiernan once again turned to a previous collaborator, this time Pierce Brosnan, the then-reigning James Bond, for The Thomas Crown Affair. His star having exploded since Nomads, Brosnan starred alongside Rene Russo in the sleek, urbane heist film, a remake of a 1968 Steve McQueen-starring film. Brosnan played a very wealthy playboy art connoisseur, while Russo played an art insurance investigator.

The film was modestly budgeted at $48 million. This amount was nearly tripled, rendering the movie another nice success for McTierna, and a crucial success away from Bond for Brosnan. Critics thought highly of the film, for the most part.

Despite the success of The Thomas Crown Affair, the taste of the ill-fated The 13th Warrior was still on the tongues of Hollywood’s studios. McTiernan received another chance with Rollerball, but this was cleared a hired-gun posting for McTiernan, his trademark was nowhere to be found in the final product.

Rollerball - 2002

Rollerball – 2002

Starring Chris Klein from American Pie, Jean Reno, LL Cool J, and Rebecca Romijn, this action film was a remake of a 1970 sci-fi film. The remake and the original are both set in a mildly-dystopian future, where the sport of Rollerball is hugely popular. The game is a gorier version of hockey, in essence. As is often the case in such tales, a revolution is launched as the climax, and the frown of dystopia is turned upside-down.

The studio had zero faith in the film, dumping it in February like spoiled milk down the sink. At $70 million dollars budgeted, the movie had little chance of shocking the finance department and entering the black. Accountants were proven right when Rollerball barely made back a third of its production budget.

Critics weren’t kind: the film has a 3% on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert called it an “an incoherent mess, a jumble of footage in search of plot, meaning, rhythm and sense”, and Trevor Johnson of Time Out referred to it as “a checklist shaped by a 15-year-old”.

McTiernan wasn’t blamed for Rollerball and its dismal failure, which is of course positive but also indicated the state of his career. He was a gun-for-hire, no longer can pick and choose, much less develop projects of his own.

Basic - 2003

Basic – 2003

Next up for McTiernan, and, as of now, his epilogue, was Basic in 2003. It has been mentioned before on this site that Basic should actually be called Convoluted or Baffling given its constant shoveling of plot twists down audience throats. Re-teaming Pulp Fiction stars John Travolta and Samuel L Jackson seemed a good idea. Perhaps it would have been, given the right project. Basic wasn’t that project.

The movie underperformed at the box office, losing money. Critics weren’t kind, comparing the ending to a terrible shaggy-dog joke. Roger Ebert called Basic “not a film that could be understood”.

John McTiernan

Above is McTiernan, dressed proper in a suit. He was not headed to a movie studio or to a film shoot, he hasn’t done either since Basic. He was actually headed to a trial case, where he was convicted of perjury and sentenced to just-shy of one year in federal prison. His perjury conviction stems from his hiring of a PI to illegally wiretap one of his Rollerball producers. His legal troubles, coupled with his underhanded, shady actions taken against his employer, have greatly reduced his repute in Hollywood. Despite this, when McTiernan filed for bankruptcy in 2013 while incarcerated, he identified two upcoming film projects that were denoted as likely sources of future income.

So, what the hell happened?

By two films, McTiernan was a highly sought-after director. By three, he had transformed his primary genre decidedly. With his fourth, he solidified his status as a top-tier director. With his fifth, he stumbled trying to hem and haw between genres. On his sixth effort, McTiernan slipped and fell aways down the mountain. On seven, he returned to form by returning to the realm of a previous success. Number eight was a catastrophic bomb that knocked McTiernan off his pedestal. The ninth film was a much-needed success, but failed to outweigh the failure of number eight. His tenth attempt bombed horrifically. Number eleven had potential, but was another turkey. We are still awaiting number twelve.

John McTiernan, unlike many directors who have seen arching rises and falls in their careers, really isn’t an auteur. McTiernan was the top of a field of directors who, in a manner of speaking, didn’t really leave their signature at the bottom of the canvas. Sure, some themes are common in McTiernan’s oeuvre. But without a cinematic signature, a set of characteristics that identified a film as John McTiernan film, he was susceptible to misfires. Sure, responsibility is lessened this way, but authority is even more so, leaving you with little control over the development and final cut, but still much of the responsibility for the results. Now, suffering from legal troubles and financial woe, McTiernan seems unlikely to ascend to the top where he once rested.

What The Hell Happened Directory


Posted on May 8, 2015, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Director and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 48 Comments.

  1. First, let me formally welcome our newest contributor, oakleya77. He reached out and asked if he could take a crack at a WTHH article for the site. I think he’s done a fantastic job covering the rise and fall of director John McTiernan.

    When I agreed to run the article, I made sure to mention that I have become a little more protective of the series of late. That was my way of saying that I was going to utilize my editorial privilege. Which is another way of saying, “I’m sorry if I butchered your article”. Hopefully the changes I made are acceptable.

    There is one section of the article which I largely rewrote. If anyone has any complaints about the painfully detailed blow-by-blow on Last Action Hero, that’s entire my fault. On the one hand, I don’t want to dwell on one of McTiernan’s lowlights for too long. On the other, the details were just too delicious to leave out.

    So thanks again, oakleya77. I hope we’ll see more from you in the future! Welcome aboard.


    • I thought you did great job on the Last Action Hero summary part, I kind of skipped over that film. Other than that, not too many changes. Thanks for running the article!


      • Most of the changes were formatting. Last Action Hero was the only major addition. I threw in the parts about the TV movies he produced because I was wondering myself what he did between Die Hard 3 and 13th Warrior. Plus I think it shows that he’s still in the game, but not at the top of his powers. But you had put in a lot of good work, so I was able to get this up and published in an afternoon.

        I’m a little sheepish about playing the part of editor. But we had some incidents last year that made me rethink my stance. Specifically with regards to WTHH. I guess it’s understandable that at this point in the series, readers expect a certain amount of uniformity of tone, etc. Since then, I’ve set some pretty rigid stylistic choices for what I think readers expect from entries in the series. So most of what I am doing is just formatting articles to read the same way. Pictures of roughly the same size with captions indicating the subject, movie and year. Clip of trailer if it can be found. Maybe some other clip when appropriate. Brief plot summary, behind the scenes stories and/or trivia, critical consensus and box office report. Your article fit most of that already.

        I always feel the need to explain this stuff so the author doesn’t feel like I’m stepping on their toes too much. Anyway, good job. Judging from the comments you’re getting readers are really enjoying it. Speaking for myself, I always find that very rewarding. Keep up the great work!


      • The Nostalgia Critic’s Real Thoughts On: Last Action Hero:

        Never apologize! NEVER APOLOGIZE!


        • Last Action Hero:

          Post by eron on Sep 4, 2015 at 7:20pm
          The first two-thirds of the movie where the kid is in the movie world are absolutely brilliant. Brilliant, I say! I can’t say enough good things about that part of the movie…

          But then Arnold comes into the “real world” and it takes a serious nose dive. The pacing slows considerably. The Ripper character is introduced late in the picture and suddenly becomes the big bad, even though Charles Dance’s character had already been established as the big bad. The real world is established as operating under different rules than the movie world, but all that is forgotten during the final chase and fight scenes with the Ripper. Then Charles Dance comes back, but by this point we’re already spent after the fight with the Ripper and it’s like, “Oh yeah, I forgot about this guy.” And then they kinda sorta go back to “real world rules” which makes for an anti-climactic final showdown. By this point, we’re ready for the movie to finally end, but now the Grim Reaper shows up and the kid has to find the other half of the ticket so Arnold can get back into the movie world. Jeez, just hurry up and end already!

          I can’t think of another movie that I both love and hate as much as Last Action Hero.


        • Awesomely Crappy Movies: Last Action Hero

          Today it’s the 1993 Arnold Schwarzenegger flop, Last Action Hero! Released just a week after the mega-blockbuster Jurassic Park, LAH didn’t stand a chance at the box office and it predictably died a quick death. Last Action Hero tells the story of Danny Madigan, a 12-year-old boy obsessed with Schwarzenegger movies, specifically his fictitious Jack Slater series. Danny frequently cuts school to visit a nearby run-down theater, owned by his elderly friend Nick. One night Nick invites Danny to a private midnight screening of Jack Slater IV, and gives him an old-timey movie ticket which was supposedly a gift from Harry Houdini. Unbeknownst to both of them, the ticket has magical properties, and upon being torn in half, it opens a portal between the real world and the one on the screen. Danny unwittingly winds up inside the film and becomes Jack Slater’s sidekick, and eventually both of them pursue the film’s main villain Mr. Benedict back to the real world to save the real Arnold Schwarzenegger.

          This is an unabashedly silly premise that had already been much more skillfully explored in Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo, where Mia Farrow’s character goes to see a film so many times one of the characters begins interacting with her and escapes the confines of the screen. You won’t find Purple Rose in an ASM column, as there isn’t anything shitty about it – it’s a very smart, well-made film, unlike this one. Still, despite being a dumbed down echo of Purple Rose, Last Action Hero is not without its charm; it has some entertaining action scenes sprinkled with satire, plus some fun comedy elements. But yeah, there’s a lot wrong with it too.

          The Awesome


          Going into this movie I was pleasantly surprised by how much the filmmakers satirized the concept of the summer blockbuster. Last Action Hero pokes fun at the action movie genre at almost every turn (not unlike the way Scream picks apart horror films – RIP Wes Craven), which for a movie nerd like me made for quite a lark. Arnold seems right at home dissecting the very type of film that made him an international megastar, and it’s refreshing to see a mainstream commercial movie actor not take himself too seriously. Inside the Jack Slater movie Danny is able to consistently predict what’s about to happen because everything in the movie is an action film cliche. And of course being an action movie cliche himself, Jack has no idea; on the contrary, he keeps insisting his world is real. This all made for an amusing, self-aware tone at a time when the action film genre was in desperate need of a shakeup.

          Little Details

          This movie is full of fun little moments and in-jokes, like when Danny takes Jack to a video store to prove he’s a fictional character played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the Terminator 2 standee they find depicts the T-800 played by Sylvester Stallone instead. I also found Danny’s action movie daydream version of Hamlet as played by Arnold pretty damn funny (“To be, or not to be….not to be,” Cue explosion). There are numerous cameos as well, like Robert Patrick as a T-1000, Sharon Stone as Catherine Trammel (from Basic Instinct), Danny Devito as an animated police cat, Ian McKellan as Death (from The Seventh Seal), and others. LAH is full of little sight gags and Easter eggs.

          Reality vs. Movie

          The film has a lot of fun comparing what happens in movies to what would happen in the real world. Like for example Jack Slater gets shot multiple times in his movies but escapes with barely a flesh wound, yet near the end of the film his real-world gunshot wound is actually life-threatening. There’s another moment whereupon arriving in the real world, the bad guy Mr. Benedict kills someone and then announces it for all to hear, but no one in real-world New York City cares. In the real world evil often goes unpunished, and good guys don’t always win. It’s ham-fisted but it’s a nice touch.


          The soundtrack album was comprised almost entirely of metal songs, a rare thing in early 90s mainstream movies. The fact that bands like Megadeth, Anthrax, Alice in Chains and Queensryche were all represented in a major Hollywood movie was so friggin’ cool.

          Charles Dance

          The cold-blooded assassin Mr. Benedict is played by accomplished English actor Charles Dance, whose performance was one of the few things I liked about Alien 3. Dance is totally compelling to watch in this film, adding both sinister believability and dry comic wit to an otherwise ridiculous bit of storytelling. It’s a shame this character wasn’t in a better quality film.

          Mercedes Ruehl

          It’s hard to go wrong with Mercedes Ruehl, and she improves the film in some small way with what little screen time she has. Ruehl is completely credible and likable as Danny’s street-tough single mom, and again it’s too bad she didn’t reside in a better movie.


          I said this in my Running Man piece, but regardless how one-note his performances or how intellectually devoid most of his movies were, in the late 80s/early 90s there were few actors as reliably capable of carrying a popcorn film as Arnold. Despite an over-the-top accent and superhero build, Arnold has always been very adept at playing an everyman hero we can relate to, and thus we’re emotionally invested in the story. For the better part of a decade, Schwarzenegger movies were must-see summer fun.
          The Crappy

          Austin O’Brien

          Holy shit this kid’s awful. Like embarrassingly bad. Like every time he opens his mouth I wanna crawl into a hole and die. I’m embarrassed for him, for his fellow actors, for the crew, everyone. I imagine that when casting this role the filmmakers must’ve sifted through a mountain of child actors, and seriously, this was the best they could find?? O’Brien makes Jake Lloyd’s Episode I performance look transcendent by comparison. He’s evidently still working today, so I hope to Jeebus he took some acting classes in the past 20 years.


          The plot device of a glowing magic ticket is pretty hokey, even for a movie like this. I’m not sure what would’ve worked better, but the gimmick plays out like a dumb children’s film instead of a PG-13 action movie. That said, once the premise is established the movie raises some interesting possibilities but sadly doesn’t flesh any of them out. The Jack Slater film doesn’t seem to have much of a story for Danny to participate in, other than one of Jack’s relatives gets killed and he’s out for revenge. We also don’t get much of a sense of how Danny’s presence changes the narrative. Presumably the Jack Slater IV story ends with Jack killing or arresting the bad guys, so Danny’s being there wouldn’t really affect that outcome. Once the characters arrive in the real world we anticipate the inevitable meeting between the real Arnie and his fictitious self, but that payoff sucks. They have one moment together and nothing comes of it. And as for Mr. Benedict’s real world activities….

          Lame Climax

          Upon crossing over to the real world Benedict discovers that a) he can commit murder without consequence, and b) he can visit movie theaters and populate the real world with their villains, thus wreaking absolute havoc. We see him perusing movie listings in the newspaper for ideas, conjuring so many intriguing prospects. And what does Benny do? He brings back The Ripper, the villain from Jack Slater III, and they recreate the climax of that movie, which we’ve already seen. What a horribly wasted opportunity. Christ, bring back Dracula like you were teasing. Go to a screening of Batman and bring back The Joker. Ya know what would’ve saved this movie, if he went to see Jurassic Park and brought back a fucking T-Rex. Then Last Action Hero would’ve been a monster hit!


          -Upon discovering the magic ticket, Benedict delivers a long monologue directly to the camera, laying out for us his plan. He really talks to the cheap seats too, explaining in the simplest of layman’s terms. Yeah Benny, we get it. We’ve been watching this whole time. The rules are pretty simple really. I’m not sure why this explanation was even needed, though he does close the speech with a really cool line, “If God was a villain, he’d be me.”

          -I know it’s supposed to be a movie within a movie, but would Jack’s boss really send a 12-year-old boy out on patrol with him, especially without being able to clear it with the kid’s parents? That seems like a stretch, even for this fictional movie.

          -Tom Noonan plays another creepy, crazed villain in this movie, and as usual that typecasting fits him like a glove. But as The Ripper he seems to start almost every line of dialogue with the phrase “Ya know…” That just bugged me.

          -Given that LAH was aimed at a young audience, having Death from The Seventh Seal appear at the end was an odd choice. I guarantee less than ten percent of ticket buyers to this film had ever seen that one. Maybe they should’ve gotten Bill Sadler to reprise his role as Death from Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.

          It’s a shame Last Action Hero wasn’t written by more creative people, as the premise left a lot of room for smart, existential material blurring the lines between fantasy and reality. Had say, Quentin Tarantino done a film like this it would’ve been pretty groundbreaking and awesome. But instead LAH can’t seem to decide if it’s a typical action comedy or a philosophical study of action movies, and so it never really becomes either one. Still it’s a fairly entertaining piece of cinematic tripe that isn’t anywhere near as bad as most people probably remember it. The filmmakers’ hearts were in the right place, they just failed to assemble all the intriguing pieces correctly.


        • 19 Ambitious Movies That Didn’t Go as Planned

          Last Action Hero (1993)

          Zak Penn, writer of the first Avengers draft, came up with a script with Adam Leff, which was essentially Scream for action movies. Their script – called Extremely Violent at this stage – started a bidding war that attracted Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnie was concerned that the script was too violent (let that sink in for a second) but liked the concept. Penn and Leff’s screenplay was redrafted by Shane Black and David Arnott, which Penn disliked but Columbia Pictures were happy with. Then John McTiernan – who had directed both Black and Schwarzenegger in Predator – was brought in as director, and rewrote that script as he was unsatisfied with it. Penn fell out with Black, Arnie still wasn’t happy with the script, Black and Arnott were fired, and William Goldman was brought in and paid a million dollars. Black attributes this to the studio’s wanting insurance, not necessarily against poor quality, but against accusations that they didn’t try.

          The late Carrie Fisher and Larry Ferguson polished the script further, and the scripts veered in different directions with each new draft. It was still deemed unsuitable. McTiernan called Black again, asking for help with the action sequences, but Black declined. Despite this, a release date was set in stone, a mere nine and a half months away.

          When it came to the actual filming, Schwarzenegger became obsessed with details like his character’s car and boots, eating into filming time. McTiernan was also uncertain how to approach the movie, whether it was for kids or action aficionados. The compressed shooting time meant that he was ultimately rushing to get something finished, with a three-week gap between the end of filming and the release date. Various writers’ unconnected ideas were incorporated with minimal editing (in writing terms this was definitely a case of too many cooks). A test screening led to a decision to reshoot the ending. McTiernan had slept about six hours a day for months, and was bewildered by the confidence of the marketing (the film had its name written on the side of an actual rocket). Then Columbia, who were refusing to back down due to the money they’d invested, decided to put Last Action Hero out the same week as Jurassic Park on the grounds that Hook was mince, so clearly Spielberg was a spent force.

          So yeah. There was a lot of hubris involved in this film.


    • Is it accurate to say that on his best days, John McTiernan is one of those ‘workmanlike in a good way’ directors? He’s functional but not flashy.


  2. Hello oakleya77, I really enjoyed the article you posted up about McTiernan. I hope you do one on another director sometime throughout almost the rest of the year.


  3. Long time reader, First time to comment. I wonder what Mctiernan thought about Die Hard 2. Great article! I learned alot about the painful process of making Last action hero.


    • Welcome to the comments section. So glad you decided to jump in. Hope it won’t be the last time.

      I didn’t see anywhere where McTiernan commented on Harlin’s Die Hard 2. I suspect he’s pretty ambivalent about it. When it came out, he was moving on to bigger and better things. So I doubt he even considered taking the job himself.


  4. Nice work, oakleya77! I knew McTiernan because of Predator and Last Action Hero and was vaguely aware that he had spent some time in jail, but I wasn’t familiar with the rest of his career. I enjoyed your write-up!

    Also, thanks so much for including my favorite on-set photo from Predator: armless Carl Weathers and costumed JCVD. That picture never fails to make me laugh. 😛


  5. Nice article! Outside of the really big names (Speilberg, Lucas, Tarantino, etc.), I wasn’t that aware of directors and how strongly they influence a film until maybe the last 10 years or so. So I’d never heard of McTiernan until now despite really liking several of his films. Thanks for enlightening me!

    Also, “It was fun, although watching Steven Seagal movies one after another can be soul-crushing.” made my day!


    • The Seagal quip was from Zak Penn. While understandably disappointed about what happened to his movie, he seems to have had a real sense of humor about the whole experience. That’s part of why he is quoted so heavily in the article. One of my favorite Penn quotes that I actually left out was around trying to get the studio to move the release date. He told the studio that he came up with the idea for Last Action Hero and even he would rather watch Jurassic Park.


  6. Excellent article, a real breeze to read. I’d also like to point out that I think that the black & white photo of John McTiernan from 1995 makes him look like he could be Pierce Brosnan’s dad.


  7. Vikings fight cavemen in one of Hollywood’s biggest flops:

    The 13th Warrior (1999)

    Before The 13th Warrior, there was Eaters Of The Dead: a mucky, rainy Viking adventure, directed by John McTiernan and based on a novel by Michael Crichton, king of the bestsellers. The book, first published in 1976, marked one of the few times that Crichton demonstrated anything like literary ambition. It was a revisionist take of Beowulf, presented as an account written by the real-life 10th-century Arab diplomat Ahmad Ibn Fadlan, complete with notes and footnotes from a fictional translator. In the mid-1990s, when Michael Crichton adaptations seemed like the surest bet in Hollywood, it became a hot property.

    Eaters Of The Dead was shot in the summer of 1997, with Antonio Banderas as Ibn Fadlan. A release date was set, for the spring of 1998, and then moved to the summer as a potential blockbuster. Teaser trailers were released. Then came the early test screenings, the end result of which was McTiernan’s exit and costly, extensive reshoots directed by Crichton himself. Retitled The 13th Warrior, and still credited to McTiernan, the movie finally made it into theaters in the late summer of 1999. There is no consensus on how much it cost, though some estimate that the studio lost as much as $130 million on the project—about $185 million in today’s dollars.

    The surprising thing about The 13th Warrior—at least once you get past the opening credits—is that it isn’t the schizoid mess of clashing sensibilities one would presume it to be, given its production history. Stripped of the novel’s meta-fictional gimmicks and dry humor, and with only some of McTiernan’s vision, it still works well as a medieval adventure yarn. The storytelling is occasionally rushed and clunky, but the action—almost all of it McTiernan’s—is atmospheric and gritty, with combatants as figures lunging through fog, smoke, and rain.

    Punished with an assignment to the land of the Volga Bulgars, in what is now Russia, the effete Ibn Fadlan—essentially a modern-day viewer stand-in—ends up traveling further north in the company of a dozen Norsemen, led by Buliwyf (Vladimir Kulich), the story’s version of Beowulf. (The handling of language is pretty ingenious, with English used to represent anything ibn Fadlan understands, beginning with the occasional word peppered into the Norsemen’s speech.) There, they end up facing the eaters of the original title, a primitive tribe of cannibals who travel hidden in mist and fog.

    It’s not hard to pick up the signature of McTiernan, one of the great action stylists, on certain scenes; his striking, lopped-off sense of framing is a dead giveaway, as is the smoky, rainy atmosphere. Nor is it difficult to pick up what kind of film McTiernan set out to make—one that was darker and moodier than the finished product. It may not represent his original vision, but it remains a fun, old-school adventure flick that is, in stretches, beautiful.


  8. The CineFiles Podcast: Episode 12:

    Eric Cohen

    May 14, 2015

    Podcasts, The CineFiles Podcast

    In Episode 12 of The CineFiles Podcast we discuss the rise of Hispanic film makers such as Robert Rodriguez, Guillermo Del Toro, Alex De Iglesia, Nacho Vigolando and Alfonse Cauron among many others. Whether they hail from Mexico, Spain, Chile or Argentina… they’re leading the charge of the Latino auteur. But first, we review the films we’ve recently seen: THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, THE LONGEST DAY, WILD CARD, the Arnold Schwarzenegger zombie flick MAGGIE, both versions of THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY, THE OVERNIGHT and APPLESAUCE. And then we get into the news – oh, wait.

    Thing is… we recorded episode 12 before the AGE OF ULTRON podcast uploaded last week. So we apologize if our news discussion is three weeks old at this point. But, hey, it was the week of THE AVENGERS and we thought you’d want to hear our two cents on that asap! Anyhoo. As usual pull up a chair, pop open a beer and press “play” on your media player of choice. And feel free to respond by giving us your thoughts on episode 12 of The CineFiles Podcast.


  9. 13 Reasons ‘Die Hard With A Vengeance’ Is The Only ‘Die Hard’ You Need:

    by Kat Rosenfield 5/19/2015

    Twenty years ago, after two blockbuster movies and a five-year wait, the “Die Hard” franchise roared back into theaters with the explosive “Die Hard with a Vengeance.”

    The movie was released on May 19, 1995, and it was an instant classic, thanks to a smart script, exciting plot, and the absolutely stellar chemistry between Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson. But not only was “Die Hard with a Vengeance” a great movie, it was also arguably the best of its kind: unstoppable, and untoppable.

    Below, we round up the reasons why the third film in the series is the greatest “Die Hard” that ever was, or ever will be.


    • Oliver, Richard and Duncan discuss DIE HARD.


    • 10 Fascinating Backstories Behind Famous Movies

      Die Hard With A Vengeance Was Very Nearly Lethal Weapon 4

      Have you ever sat down to the third John McClane outing, Die Hard With A Vengeance, and thought to yourself, “Hey, Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson have really got a Riggs/Murtaugh/Lethal Weapon thing going on here”?

      You wouldn’t be the first to make such a comparison.

      There’s a good reason for it, too, because Die Hard With A Vengeance was originally envisioned as a potential Lethal Weapon 4, long before Lethal Weapon 4 was about Mel Gibson and Danny Glover trying to land a punch on Jet Li.

      Die Hard With A Vengeance initially existed as a spec script called “Simon Says” by a writer called Jonathan Hensleigh, see, which producer Joel Silver read and tried to option as the fourth instalment in the Lethal Weapon franchise. Clearly he saw something of the Riggs/Murtaugh relationship in the script’s bantering duo and thought it could be perfect for the next chapter in the franchise.

      For some reason, though, the sale didn’t work out, and director John McTiernan – who directed the first Die Hard flick – eventually nabbed the script for himself, turning it into Die Hard 3. But there is something very Lethal Weapon-esque about the final film, so you can understand how it almost came to be number 4.


  10. Really great post, would not have thought this was your first!

    The only problem I had was your treatment of one of my favorite movies, “Rollerball” (1975!). I absolutely would not call the world therein a “mild dystopia.” It’s not hellish, but I think it realistically portrays a world of vast manipulation and greatly diminished expectations for meaning.

    Lebeau and I talked about it recently. 🙂

    BTW, oddly, I didn’t find the remake to be nearly as terrible as people said it was going to be. It was just mediocre with some decent scenes here and there.


  11. Also, I knew nothing about this director and felt I got a very good picture of his career in one go. Very educational!


  12. Schwarzenegger: Studio messed up Predator sequels:

    Arnold Schwarzenegger claims that no Predator sequel “has been satisfactory to the audience.”

    Terminator Genisys continues its global roll out with $135 million banked worldwide so far and counting. Arnold Schwarzenegger, meanwhile, continues to do his bit to promote the film, and as part of that, he’s taken part in a Q&A session for Reddit. And there, the subject of the Predator sequels came up.

    Writer and director Shane Black – who, of course, had a role in the original film – is working on a new Predator sequel. And asked whether he was likely to participate, Arnold Schwarzenegger said that he wasn’t attached at this stage, but that Black is a “very talented guy.” He also revealed that the original Predator was one his “absolute favorite” projects.

    He did not say the chopper line at the Q&A.

    He reserved some stern words for the sequels to the film, though. Thus far, there’s been Predator 2, Predators, Alien Vs Predator and Aliens Vs Predator – Requiem. It would be fair to say that Arnie isn’t a fan.

    “The sad story is that sometimes studios do a great job with creating sequels, and sometimes they really screw it up bad, and it all has to do with greed,” said the Batman & Robin star. “They sometimes want to do it really cheap and make as much money as possible, so they don’t hire the right cast or the right director.”

    He also argued that “so far, no Predator, no matter which one they did after the first one has come out, has been satisfactory to the audience.”

    We wait and see if whatever Shane Black comes up with can impress Mr Schwarzenegger more.



    The death of Alan Rickman has me thinking of my favorite role as Hans Gruber, what I still consider the watermark of action films!

    This has me thinking of DIE HARD director John McTiernan. Now here’s a guy that has a pretty impressive resume.


    • Alan Rickman passed away? Bummer. I really liked him in “Dogma” amongst other roles in which he’s probably remembered more for.


  14. 10 Box Office Flops Much Better Than Their Reputations

    The 13th Warrior

    Budget: $160 million

    Worldwide Gross: $61.7 million

    Delayed for more than a year due to poor responses from test screenings, The 13th Warrior had a lot of people, including some of the actors involved, weary of its final product. But even after numerous re-shoots and edits, this movie came out the other end like a more polished version of Conan the Barbarian. And…why is that somehow a bad thing?

    Indeed, one of the biggest criticisms lobbed against the Antonio Banderas medieval action thriller, is that it seems trapped in the 80s. But if that’s meant to somehow diminish the brutal action sequences that feature limbs being chopped off and blood spurting out of every major orifice in the human anatomy, then it’s totally unfair to lambast a movie for earning it’s R rating.

    Carnage candy is everywhere in this movie, but beneath all the blood and guts is a story of a man seeking to initiate himself into a group of which he seems to be ill-equipped to fit in with. It’s like a less patronizing version of Dances With Wolves.

    Banderas plays the part with an air of mystery about him, and moves effortlessly between the battle scenes and the quieter moments with his new comrades. It’s not exactly Gladiator, but it certainly gets the job done.


    • Directors fired during filming

      John McTiernan (The 13th Warrior)

      When John McTiernan started working on The 13th Warrior, it was still called Eaters of the Dead—the same name as the Michael Crichton novel on which it was based. The expensive film had a set release date and even a teaser trailer when it was screened for early test audiences…whose reactions were overwhelmingly negative.

      This led to the studio firing McTiernan and replacing him with Crichton, whose lack of film experience would come back to bite the studio when he conducted major reshoots in what became a hugely expensive and long-delayed production.

      According to star Vladimir Kulich, the conflict between McTiernan and Crichton was so great that he had to film separate endings for both men, with Crichton saying McTiernan’s work didn’t matter because he had final cut. The film ended up being a huge failure, panned by critics and losing millions of dollars for the studio with just a $61 million gross against a $160 million budget. McTiernan ultimately ended up with directing credit, although he may have ended up wishing Crichton had gotten it instead.


  15. John McTiernan talks directing Die Hard 6, Expendables 4, Conan 3.


  16. ‘Die Hard’ Director John McTiernan Ratchets Up War Against Bank That Kicked Him Out of His Home


  17. Earwolf Forums → Earwolf Productions → How Did This Get Made? → Bad Movie Recommendations → Rollerball (2002)


    • Directors Chewed Up by The Machine

      There’s way more to it than the film alone, but ROLLERBALL certainly seems to have f***ed up John McTiernan’s trajectory.


      • Speaking of “Die Hard” movie directors:

        Harlin peaked with A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4, when he was young and hungry and managed to inject enough life and inventive imagery into an unfinished script to make something kind of amazing in its sheer 80s kinetic radness. It doesn’t seem like it took him very long afterward to become the Finnish Brett Ratner. There are few things more damning than being the guy the studio approaches to re-do an Exorcist prequel that wasn’t mainstream enough for the execs’ comfort.

        He seems like a cool dude to hang with, though.


      • 14 Directors Who Desperately Need A Hit Movie

        John McTiernan

        With all of the talk of directors landing themselves in “movie jail” due to financially unsuccessful movies, here’s a director who actually went to real jail, for his part in the Anthony Pellicano wiretapping scandal.

        A now-bankrupt McTiernan, director of such action movie classics as Predator, Die Hard, Last Action Hero and Die Hard with a Vengeance, was released from prison in 2014, and hasn’t directed a single feature film since 2003’s critical and commercial dud Basic.

        This came just a year after McTiernan’s big-budget bomb Rollerball, which combined with his subsequent legal troubles made him a major Hollywood liability.

        Will It Happen?: With his legal troubles (mostly) behind him and a clear desire to make some money, McTiernan has been shopping numerous projects around.

        His proposed action-thriller Thin Rain has been pursuing sales for the last few years, though word has gone awfully quiet as of late, and with his last successful film being 1999’s The Thomas Crown Affair remake, he may need to prove himself in a lower-budget arena before studios will want to throw blockbuster money at him again.

        Don’t be surprised if he ends up in the straight-to-VOD action movie arena sooner rather than later, as depressing as that sounds.


  18. McTiernan on WatchMojo’s Top 10 Action Movie Directors


  19. Forgotten Film Gems: The Hunt for Red October

    Dive Hard

    Director John McTiernan passed up the opportunity to make the sequel to his classic action film Die Hard to make this movie. What other reason do you need to see how great this film is?

    The Hunt for Red October continues many of McTiernan’s themes and motifs from Die Hard:

    The main character hates flying, and he is forced to confront his fear over the course of the film.

    He starts the film at an airport.

    No one in authority believes him at first.

    He has to crawl through a tight space during an action sequence.
    He buys a teddy bear for his daughter.

    There’s someone on board the submarine/inside the building that the conspirers hadn’t planned on (the cook/John McClane).

    There aren’t enough similarities to do a full Movie Matchup, but it’s interesting to note that McTiernan was in familiar territory bringing The Hunt for Red October to life. He was also at the top of his game at the time, having made two perfect action films just before this one. His career went mostly downhill in the ensuing years, with the exception of Die Hard with a Vengeance. It’s sort of melancholy to watch this movie knowing that it was one of his last hurrahs.


  20. Die Hard humanized (and perfected) the action movie

    Die Hard director John McTiernan knew the way ’80s action movies were supposed to look. The year before making Die Hard, he’d directed Schwarzenegger in Predator, a movie that might represent the peak of the man’s movie-hero inhumanity. Predator ends with Schwarzenegger’s character surviving a thermonuclear blast—a feat he accomplishes by running away and then jumping. If a towering dreadlocked alien had blown up a WMD right next to John McClane, John McClane would be dead. But given the slightest bit of daylight, he would find a way to wriggle through. (Oddly enough, both Schwarzenegger and McClane crawl through waterfalls in their movies. But Schwarzenegger is deep in the jungle, while McClane is 30 stories above Los Angeles, in a fancy office where someone has exactingly recreated Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater.


  21. Retrospective / Review: Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995)


  22. Exclusive: ‘Predator’ Director John McTiernan Celebrates the Classic Action Movie’s 30th Anniversary


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