Bruce Willis and Frank Sinatra may not have acted together in any movies, but they did both play the same character. While Willis’ John McClane from Die Hard and Sinatra’s Joe Leland from The Detective don’t share the same name, both films are based on novels by author Roderick Thorpe. Die Hard was actually based on a book called Nothing Lasts Forever, which was a direct sequel to the book The Detective, technically making Die Hard a sequel to Sinatra’s 1968 film.
Along with changing the name of Frank Sinatra’s character to John McClane, Die Hard made a few other plot adjustments to Thorpe’s Nothing Lasts Forever novel. Instead of the Klaxon Oil Corporation in the book, the skyscraper was changed to the Nakatomi Corporation. Also, in Nothing Lasts Forever, Leland (aka McClane) was attempting to save his daughter and grandchildren, which changes to his wife in the film.
Die Hard is based on the book Nothing Lasts Forever, a direct sequel to the book The Detective, technically making Die Hard a sequel to Sinatra’s 1968 film of the same name.
Other than the source material, there are some other interesting connections between Frank Sinatra’s The Detective film and Die Hard. One is the fact that Hart Bochner played a role in Die Hard, and his father, Llyod Bochner, played a role in The Detective. Also, Alexander Gundanov, who was at one point the partner of Sinatra’s The Detective co-star Jacqueline Bisset, was featured in Die Hard as well.
Frank Sinatra’s The Detective is quite a bit different in tone compared to Die Hard, with it being more of a hard-boiled neo-noir film rather than an outright action thriller. Along with Sinatra, the film starred Lee Remick, Jacqueline Bisset, Jack Klugman, William Windom, and Robert Duvall with a screenplay by Abby Mann. Gordon Douglas direct.
Fun fact: Hart Bochner played a role in Die Hard, and his father, Llyod Bochner, played a role in The Detective.
Frank Sinatra’s The Detective obviously never became the action classic that Die Hard is known as now, but it was well-received when it was released. It’s also considered one of Sinatra’s best acting efforts. Along with receiving relatively warm critical praise, it was also a modest box-office success.
Interestingly enough, there was a world where Frank Sinatra could have starred in Die Hard instead of Bruce Willis, as the studio was contractually obligated to offer him the part since he starred in The Detective. Of course, by the time Die Hard was in the works, Sinatra was already 70, and he declined the role. But the studios didn’t go right for Willis after that.
Who else was considered for the lead in Die Hard?
At the time, Bruce Willis’ acting career had hardly started, so he didn’t get offered the role after Frank Sinatra turned it down. Instead, they offered the role to Sylvester Stallone, Richard Gere, Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Burt Reynolds, Nick Nolte, Mel Gibson, Don Johnson, Richard Dean Anderson, Paul Newman, James Caan, Al Pacino, and Arnold Schwarzenegger first.
Willis was then offered the role, but had to decline due to his obligations on the TV series Moonlighting.
There was a world where Frank Sinatra could have starred in Die Hard instead of Bruce Willis, as the studio was contractually obligated to offer him the part since he starred in The Detective.
Fortunately for Willis, his co-star Cybill Shepherd became pregnant, and filming on the series was paused for eleven weeks, giving him the time he needed to star in Die Hard. The rest is history, and Bruce Willis quickly rose to superstardom shortly after that, with multiple Die Hard sequels being filmed thanks to the original’s success. However, we might not have seen any of those films if it wasn’t for the original Frank Sinatra prequel.