By EW Staff
Updated June 20, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
Credit: Frank Masi

Len Wiseman may have cut his fangs on vampire flicks like Underworld, but he grew up watching John McClane rough up a procession of Teutonic bad guys — and when he was given a chance to direct the fourth Die Hard installment, he wasn’t about to let it suck. So when he laid eyes on an early draft of the script, he called for a serious overhaul. ”On page 30, John McClane goes into the police department and says, ‘What can I do to help?”’ says Wiseman. ”That’s not John McClane! John McClane is, ‘Why the hell do I have to be here?”’

That ear for the character was just a bonus. It was Wiseman’s style that won him the fourth Die Hard movie. Bruce Willis himself hand-picked him to direct after watching Underworld: Evolution with his daughters — and Wiseman swiftly developed a plot that fit in neatly with the franchise’s history. The story finds McClane goaded into action against terrorists after a member of his family gets herself into trouble — and since wifey had been down that road in the first two flicks, it’s time for his daughter (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) to have a date with a baddie.

And what a baddie he is: Deadwood‘s Timothy Olyphant signed on as a disgruntled government employee-turned-cyberterrorist. If this sounds like peculiarly digital territory for the decidedly analog McClane, that’s because it is. After all, it’s been 12 years since Willis saved New York in Die Hard With a Vengeance. ”A lot of time has passed, and the world’s different,” says Olyphant. ”There’s a generation gap between the hero and the villain. You get the impression John McClane’s still using snail mail.”

Left to his own devices — fisticuffs and firearms, mostly — McClane might not be a match for Olyphant’s evil geek. Fortunately, Justin Long (Accepted; those ubiquitous Mac ads) is along for the ride as a wisecracking computer whiz who helps McClane navigate cyberspace. ”If I’m hacking away at something, I’m the hero,” says Long. ”But once the action starts, I’m like the water boy waiting for him to come off the field and shower him with praise. A lot of ‘Holy s—!’ and ‘Jesus Christ!’ ” (June 27)

Live Free or Die Hard

  • Movie
  • 128 minutes
  • Len Wiseman