Frank Sinatra Dies Hard, Baby

One of Frank Sinatra's best dramatic performances was as NYPD Detective JoeDie_hard_dvd_bruce_willis__large_
Leland in the gritty cop thriller THE DETECTIVE, which was based on the Roderick Thorpe novel of the same name (the movie also starred Lee Remick, Jaqueline Bisset and Robert Duvall). Thorpe wrote a sequel called NOTHING LASTS FOREVER, again featuring Det. Leland…only this time, most of the story unfolds in a Los Angeles skyscraper taken over by terrorists. Sound familiar? It should. The book was adapted into the movie DIE HARD. So, in other words, Bruce Willis took over the role originally played by Frank Sinatra (can you imagine him swinging from the Fox Tower screaming "Yippee Ka-yaa Motherf****r"?). This is old news, but news to me nonetheless… I only just stumbled on it today, going through some old books of mine. It was like discovering that Sean Connery wasn't the first actor to play James Bond on screen (Barry Nelson was) or that Peter Falk wasn't the first Columbo on TV (Bert Freed was)…

11 thoughts on “Frank Sinatra Dies Hard, Baby”

  1. As much as I love DIE HARD, I like the original novel much better. Joe Leland had aged, was retired, and nowhere near in condition to battle the Bad Guys. It made the whole story a lot more believable (well, within reason), and very tense.
    I highly recommend finding both THE DETECTIVE and NOTHING LASTS FOREVER if you’re looking for something to read….

  2. That’s only true if you compare it to films today. Of course it’s dated. You have to watch it in the context of when it was made. It was pretty gritty stuff in its day. I found it very entertaining in its own right. (I also love Sinatra’s two TONY ROME movies).

  3. A Script Analysis class I took last year watched “Die Hard” and I have to say, I think the movie holds together extremely well. The script works like a little McKee-ian piece of clockwork, the characters are solid (I mean, for an 1980s action flick), the tension’s believable, and the action feels believeable. I remember seeing it originally and how epic is felt, and now it sort of feels almost quaint, a “Masterpiece Theater” version of a modern action film.

  4. Followed this here from the IAMTW blog. Thanks for the memory jog, Lee!
    I read this book after seeing the movie, and it remains one of my favorites to this day. Another novel with some of the same very basic plot elements (lone guy against bad guys in a building) but with a very different story that I also enjoyed is VERTICAL RUN by Joseph R. Garber.
    As for the DIE HARD movies, all of them are based on other source material. In addition to NOTHING LAST FOREVER and the aforementioned 58 MINUTES, DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE was based on another script, SIMON SAYS, which was retooled to be another John McClane vehicle, and LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD actually has its roots in an artile that appeared in WIRED magazine, the title of which escapes me at the moment.

  5. I saw DIE HARD at one of those six story movie theatres, and the person I was with and I agreed that if this didn’t make Bruce Willis into a star it would be a shame. Allan Rickman was also great as the antagonist, and so was his Russian sidekick.

  6. Was that my book? (Secrets Of Action Screenwriting)
    The cool thing about the novel – wasn’t his estranged wife, it was his estranged Patty Hearst-like daughter. And he’s old.
    Had a great conversation with Thorp at an MWA meeting about how NOTHING and a Civil War novel killed his career… then DIE HARD brought it back.
    – Bill


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