The cast of Die Hard: Where are they now?
It's been over three decades since Die Hard unleashed a winter wonderland of mayhem on the big screen. Catch up with the cast of this Christmas action classic.
Die Hard: Then and Now
Parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting, and the internet flame wars are roasting as the annual debate over whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie rages once again (it is). It must be the most wonderful time of the year! With each passing season, the Yuletide legacy of this 1988 action movie classic grows stronger.
Set on Christmas Eve, Die Hard tells the explosive tale of one man's attempt to reconcile with his estranged wife while rescuing her from a group of terrorists who have taken her company holiday party hostage. Based on the 1979 novel Nothing Lasts Forever, the John McTiernan (Predator)-directed actioner debuted at number three at the box office, and spent 10 weeks in the top five, ultimately becoming one of the highest-grossing films of the year — without ever reaching the number one spot.
In addition to launching the movie careers of stars Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman, the blockbuster spawned four sequels, comic books, and a series of video games. Read on to find out what the heroes and villains of Die Hard have been up to since the Christmas Eve takeover of Nakatomi Plaza 34 years ago.
The success of Die Hard catapulted Bruce Willis from Emmy-winning co-lead of the hit TV series Moonlighting to A-list movie star overnight. With the Christmas action hit under his belt, and the private eye dramedy's cancellation in 1989, the actor moved into film work full-time. The next few years saw him star in Look Who's Talking and Look Who's Talking Too, co-starring the late Kirstie Alley; the sequels Die Hard 2 and Die Hard with a Vengeance; and Quentin Tarantino's critical and commercial hit Pulp Fiction.
The former Planet Hollywood co-investor hit a few bumps in the mid-90s, but he closed out the decade with two of the most successful films of his career with Michael Bay's Armageddon, and the M. Night. Shyamalan thriller, The Sixth Sense. The start of the new millennium saw Willis return to television in a three-episode guest arc on Friends that earned him a second Emmy award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series, as well as continuing his box office streak with The Whole Nine Yards and Unbreakable. He's gone on to do two more Die Hard movies, 2007's Live Free or Die Hard and 2013's A Good Day to Die Hard, and added the Red and Expendables franchises to his resume of action roles. Willis made his Broadway debut in 2015 with the Stephen King adaptation Misery, and in 2019 completed the Unbreakable trilogy with the movie Glass, his fifth project with co-star Samuel L. Jackson.
He was married to actress Demi Moore from 1987-2000, and the couple share three daughters Rumer, Scout, and Tallulah. He married his second wife, Emma Heming, in 2009, with whom he has two daughters, Mabel Ray, and Evelyn Penn. In March 2022, Rumer announced via Instagram that her father "has been experiencing some health issues and has recently been diagnosed with aphasia, which is impacting his cognitive abilities," and that the man perhaps best known as John McClane would be "stepping away from the career that has meant so much to him."
After accumulating several stage credits, a few TV roles, and a Tony nomination for his performance in Les Liasons Dangereuses in 1985, Alan Rickman made his film debut as the iconic villain Hans Gruber in 1988's Die Hard. In fact, Rickman was cast after producer Joel Silver caught a performance of him in the celebrated play. An alumnus of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, the one-time graphic designer brought a sophisticated flair to the terrorist that wasn't initially in the script.
He followed the action hit with a co-starring role opposite Tom Selleck in 1990's Quigley Down Under, before adding another legendary bad guy to his resume as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, for which he received a BAFTA for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Reluctant to continue playing villains, he made a conscious effort to expand his filmography throughout the rest of the '90s, choosing eclectic roles in films such as Sense and Sensibility, Close My Eyes, Dogma, and Galaxy Quest. The 2000s saw the British thespian take on the biggest, and lengthiest tenure, on a character of his career when he joined the ensemble of the Harry Potter franchise as the mysterious Professor Severus Snape for eight films across 10 years. In 2003 he added another perennial Christmas classic to his film canon in the form of Love, Actually.
Over the course of his career since Die Hard, he was nominated for, and won, several awards, including an Emmy, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild Award, and received a second Tony nod for the Noel Coward play Private Lives. On January 14, 2016, Rickman died at the age of 69 from pancreatic cancer. He is survived by his wife, Rima, with whom he had been partnered for over 50 years, and married for four.
Born Bonnie Bedelia Culkin, the Golden Globe nominated aunt of Macaulay, Kieran, and Rory Culkin, was an accomplished actress prior to the success of Die Hard. In 1990 she reprised her role as Holly Gennaro McClane in the follow-up, Die Hard 2, and starred with Harrison Ford in the box office hit Presumed Innocent. She was featured in the adaptation of the best-selling Steven King horror novel Needful Things in 1993, and continued to appear in movies on both the big and small screen throughout the '90s. From 2001-2004 she was a series regular on the cop drama The Division, and then spent six seasons as the matriarch of the Braverman family on the NBC drama Parenthood.
After 60 years in the industry, the two-time Emmy nominee is still going strong. In 2021, she had a recurring role in the Amazon Prime Video series Panic, and in 2022 she co-starred with This Is Us alum Justin Hartley in the Netflix holiday film The Noel Diary.
After a series of blink and you'll miss them roles in Ghostbusters and Crocodile Dundee, Reginald VelJohnson found breakout success as Sgt. Al Powell in Die Hard, and later Die Hard 2. The unknown actor was cast after Gene Hackman, who was originally offered the role, dropped out for undisclosed reasons. He followed his tenure as the fan favorite cop by playing another officer of the law in 1989's Turner & Hooch starring Tom Hanks, and then yet another cop, this time for nearly a decade, as Carl Winslow on the hit sitcom Family Matters from 1989 to 1998. The Perfect Strangers spin-off, most famous for introducing the world to Jaleel White's lovable nerd Steve Urkel, was one of the most successful shows on ABC's popular TGIF line-up before moving to CBS for its final season.
In the years since Family Matters, VelJohnson has appeared on numerous TV shows in guest starring roles. He reprised his role from Turner & Hooch in the 2021 Disney+ reboot, and most recently voiced Principal Winslow, named after his Family Matters character, on the Seth Rogen-produced Amazon animated superhero series Invincible.
Clarence Gilyard Jr.
In Die Hard, the California State University Theatre Arts alum portrayed the wisecracking computer hacker Theo, tasked with cracking the code to the Nakatomi vault and gaining access to the $640 million prize inside. Prior to the attempted Christmas Eve heist, Gilyard Jr. was a series regular on the final season of the '80s cop hit CHiPs, and made his film debut in the original Top Gun opposite Tom Cruise as Lt. Marcus "Sundown" Williams.
Following the success of Die Hard, he joined Andy Griffith on the series Matlock as private investigator Conrad McMasters from 1989 to 1993, before departing for a nine-season run co-starring alongside Chuck Norris on the original Walker, Texas Ranger. Gilyard Jr. appeared in all 196 episodes of the series, as well as the 2005 made-for-television follow-up film. He returned to school after Walker, and earned a Masters of Fine Arts in Theatre Performance at Southern Methodist University.
While he continued acting professionally, most notably in The Left Behind film series, his next role was outside the entertainment industry. As Professor Clarence Gilyard Jr. at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas's College of Fine Arts, he shared the expertise he gained over more than three decades in the business until his death in November 2022 at the age of 66.
The Hawaiian-born actor-singer — once known as "the Frank Sinatra of Japan" — starred in numerous television and film roles in the decades leading up to his turn as Nakatomi President Joseph Takagi in Die Hard, including the Oscar-nominated Flower Drum Song, and Paradise, Hawaiian Style with Elvis Presley. In 1960, he was one of four actors to share the Golden Globe for Most Promising Male Newcomer.
Post-Die Hard, the actor continued to work on the big and small screen, most notably as the voice of General Li in Disney's animated feature Mulan. In 2006, he was one of many industry professionals interviewed for the documentary The Slanted Screen, which examined the portrayal of Asian men in Hollywood. He received the Visionary Award for his work from the East-West Players, the nation's first Asian-American theater organization, in 2005. Shigeta died in his sleep at the age of 85 in July 2014.
Paul Gleason was a Hollywood veteran long before he arrived on the scene at Nakatomi Plaza as bullheaded LAPD Deputy Chief Dwayne T. Robinson. The one-time pro-baseball player made the leap to acting after two years in the minor leagues, and moved to New York City to study the craft at the famous Actors Studio. By the time he filmed Die Hard, he had been plying his trade professionally for nearly 20 years.
In addition to his role in Die Hard, Gleason is most famous for his portrayal of Principal Vernon in the classic '80s John Hughes film The Breakfast Club. Over the course of his career, the actor had notable roles in over 140 productions, including Trading Places, National Lampoon's Van Wilder, and the sitcoms Friends and Seinfeld. In January 2006, he published a book of poetry titled Uleta Blues & Haikus, but in May of the same year he died at the age of 67 from mesothelioma.
Sleazy reporter Richard "Dick" Thornburg was brought to life by accomplished stage and screen actor William Atherton. A graduate of Pittsburgh's prestigious Carnegie Mellon School of Drama, he originated several roles on and off Broadway before landing the lead in Steven Spielberg's feature film directorial debut, The Sugarland Express, alongside Goldie Hawn. Thornburg is one of three famously smarmy characters the actor played throughout the '80s, alongside EPA inspector Walter Peck in Ghostbusters, and Professor Jerry Hathaway in Real Genius, making him one of the decades go-to movie jerks.
Post-Die Hard, Atherton reprised his role for the sequel, and has worked steadily onstage, in voice-over, and in film and television in projects such as The Pelican Brief, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, Lost, Desperate Housewives, and the Ghostbusters videogame. He has been married to his wife Bobbi Goldin since 1980, and has used his gifts to support charitable works with the Jewish Family Service of the Desert in Palm Springs, and the Los Angeles Library Foundation.
As Hans Gruber's top henchman, Karl, Alexander Gudonov's ballet-honed physicality made him a worthy adversary for Willis' McClane. The Russian-born dancer-actor was a classmate and friend of Mikhail Baryshnikov, and a member of the Bolshoi Ballet. In 1979, while touring the United States, he sought political asylum, and defected to the United States. In fact, the drama that ensued with the KGB and his wife, and company member, Lyudmila Vlasova, inspired the film Flight 222 in 1986. Post-defection, he joined the American Ballet until 1982, and became a naturalized citizen in '87. He transitioned into acting with small roles in Witness, with Harrison Ford, and the Tom Hanks comedy The Money Pit, before landing the part of Karl in Die Hard.
Gudonov only went on to star in four more films following the Christmas action movie's success. His "refusal to play Russians, dancers, or more Die Hard-esque villains" hampered his career, EW wrote in a remembrance of the performer's life, and he tragically died from complications related to alcoholism on May 18, 1995 in his West Hollywood apartment.