Die Hard is considered one of the greatest action movies of all-time, but that wasn’t always the case. Prior to its release, expectations for the movie were low, but the movie became a surprise hit and made stars out of Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman. The studio quickly got the ball rolling on Die Hard 2 and tapped Renny Harlin to direct, but the production was far from easy.
While speaking with Empire Magazine last year, Renny Harlin reflected on shooting Die Hard 2. “When I look back, I think, ‘Did I realise how young and inexperienced I was?’” Harlin said. “I was very passionate and confident, but not cocky, because I really had huge fears and doubts. We shot so much at night-time too, and I was just really stressed about not being able to sleep. So yes, I felt huge pressure. It’s no secret that the movie went over budget and over schedule.” The biggest problem came from the unpredictable weather, which caused an uncharacteristically warm winter. “We were literally hunting for snow around the country and in Canada,” Harlin said. “I remember the most horrendous disappointment was when we went to Spokane, Washington. We got there and everything looked great. The aircraft was white. It was perfect. So I went to sleep for a few hours to be ready for the night. And when I woke up and looked out the window, I couldn’t believe my eyes, because the grass was green and there was not a snowflake in sight. They’d just had an unusual heatwave that melted everything.“
The production wound up using fake snow and had the local fire department cover acres of fields with fire foam in order to make it look more like winter, but mother nature had other plans. “The night came and we were ready to shoot,” Harlin said. “And then, out of the blue, a ginormous blizzard hits us. It became unsafe to do anything and we all huddled behind a shed, trying to find protection.”
Despite the weather issues and having to deal with a star who was freshly on the A-list, Renny Harlin found plenty to enjoy on the Die Hard 2 set, particularly when Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg came to visit. “I always remember the day when somebody came to me and said, ‘Would it be okay if Mr. Martin Scorsese comes and visits the set? He really wants to see what you’re doing,’” Harlin said. “It was the whole air-traffic control tower we built, which was amazing. It was on in the centre of the biggest soundstage on the Fox lot in LA, and around it the entire floor was the airfield. There were runaways getting smaller and smaller, in forced perspective, with miniature planes on wires, and three different sizes of plastic snow falling from giant mills in the ceiling. This set became really famous, in terms of everybody wanting to see it, how we created the illusion. Spielberg came to see it, too.” Die Hard 2 was followed by Die Hard with a Vengeance, Life Free or Die Hard, and A Good Day to Die Hard.