I imagine there’s nothing more American to celebrate the 4th of July than the first Die Hard film set in summer with plenty of explosions, car crashes, and gunfights. Happy Independence Day!
(I’m aware that Live Free or Die Hard was actually set on the 4th of July, but that flick is when things started getting a little too ridiculous. McClane was no longer vulnerable, and I just wasn’t feeling it. I might post about it sometime, or I might not.)
Bruce Willis as John McClane, increasingly cynical NYPD lieutenant
New York City, Late Summer 1995
Film: Die Hard with a Vengeance
Release Date: May 19, 1995
Director: John McTiernan
Costume Designer: Joseph G. Aulisi
Bruce Willis’ Costumer: Lori Stilson
In 1995, the Die Hard franchise managed to pull off for the second time something that few movies are able to do at all: produce an excellent sequel. After the successful Die Hard 2, the filmmakers retooled, dropping the out-of-town-cop-trapped-in-a-place-at-Christmas-to-save-his-family plot line and instead placing said cop as a pawn in a megalomaniac’s plan to terrorize and rob his hometown of New York City during a hot Indian summer.
“Yeah, and of course it’s the same cop who already saved the world twice who is forced to do all this, right?” said the viewing public, sarcastically.
“Yeah, the villain is actually specifically targeting him because of the events of the first movie, jackass,” responded Die Hard with a Vengeance, living up to its name.
“Oh, shit. This is actually really good,” admitted said viewing public.
And it is really good. Some even say Die Hard with a Vengeance is a better sequel than Die Hard 2. Hans Gruber’s brother comes back to avenge (oh!) his brother’s death by targeting John McClane and forcing him into a cat-and-mouse game around New York City filled with logic games and an awesome Samuel L. Jackson. Of course, the apple doesn’t fall far from the Gruber tree, and little brother Simon is merely using his terrorism as a cover for his actual robbery scheme.
The film continues to make things fresh by losing the claustrophobic qualities that worked for the first two films and adding Samuel L. Jackson, Willis’s co-star with whom he shares terrific on-screen BAMF chemistry. For even more of a wild card, McClane is at the bottom of his game after being dumped by Holly and has taken to constant hangovers. (Think Burt Reynolds at the beginning of Smokey and the Bandit II.)
What’d He Wear?
As per the Die Hard franchise, the entirety of the events of Die Hard with a Vengeance take place over the course of a single day, so Willis was required to have twenty five identical shirts and trousers – all in various stage of distress – for the production, according to The Huffington Post.
McClane’s attire is fitting enough for a down-and-out cop begrudgingly called into work on one of the hottest days of the year. He keeps it simple, as you would expect, with a lightweight shirt, khaki trousers, and – of course – a white sleeveless undershirt.
Both McClane’s shirt and undershirt were auctioned with Zeus Carver’s outfit and Simon Gruber’s combat attire in May 1997 at Sotheby’s. The total lot was sold for $3,450, according to DieHardProps.com.
The shirt, which is the first item to go once McClane gets to ass-kicking, is a casual cream and tan plaid short-sleeve woven shirt. The look is achieved with wide cream and tan bengal stripes criss-crossed by three gray-tan stripes, creating a check pattern throughout the shirt.
The shirt’s details are very common for summer shirts, including camp collars, a straight bottom hem, and a loose fit. There is a patch pocket on each side of the chest with a straight bottom. There are two side darts on the rear.
McClane’s shirt is lightweight woven cotton (or a linen-cotton blend), which is comfortable for the hot day and practical to allow easy movement and access to his handgun. He wears it very open with only the bottom button fastened; while this could be construed as laziness given his hangover, it also makes sense to give him quick access to his Beretta – as we see in the elevator. In fact, the shirt’s bottom button stands just below the trouser waistline.
Shoulder holsters are typically worn over a shirt, but it makes sense that he would want to conceal his pistol without having to wear a jacket on such an active, hot day. This holster is different from the ones used in the previous films of the Die Hard franchise. It is a brown leather shoulder rig, like the others, with a double magazine pouch under the left arm and a full-size Beretta holster under the right arm for a left-handed draw. However, the older holsters had brass snaps and silver hardware whereas this holster has black snaps and joints.
A replica holster was sold, along with a screen-used undershirt and a replica badge, for $4,539 through the Prop Store, according to DieHardProps.com, which supplied the watermarked photo of the holster below.
Underneath, McClane wears one of his standard white ribbed sleeveless A-shirts, similar to the undershirts worn in the first two films of the series. According to auction listings, Bruce Willis wore at least a half dozen different undershirts, including some made by venerable underwear brand Jockey.
After he loses his button-up shirt in the Federal Reserve building, he spends the rest of the film clad in his undershirt and trousers, although – unlike the first Die Hard – he is lucky enough to keep his shoes on.
His trousers are a pair of light khaki cotton flat front chinos from Ralph Lauren, size 32. The chinos have flat fronts with on-seam side pockets and two jetted rear pockets. Of the rear pockets, the right pocket has a button-through closure, but the left pocket does not.
McClane wears a brown leather belt with a gold squared clasp through his trousers’ seven belt loops. The belt also helps McClane secure his holster into place.
The plain-hemmed bottoms of the trousers fall with a half break over his shoes. McClane’s brown shoes are soft leather low boots with a plain toe and 5-eyelet front. He wears them with a pair of plain white tube socks.
The shoes that were auctioned off with other costume elements (mentioned later) were a pair of brown leather Rockports in size 10.5, but the auction shoes look much different from the low boots worn in the film.
McClane’s watch is a stainless Breitling Chronograph with a black face and three white sub-dials at 12:00, 9:00, and 6:00. He wears it on the inside of his right wrist on a dark brown leather strap with edge stitching.
In one scene, however, he appears to be wearing a different watch. Similar, with a black dial and dark strap, but it is definitely a different watch. Perhaps a Rolex?
Despite the slack nature of his relationship with Holly, McClane still wears his plain silver wedding band on his left ring finger. This is the last Die Hard film where McClane wears a wedding ring.
His only other accessory is his police badge, specifically a gold NYPD lieutenant’s shield with blue enamel, which he wears on a black leather holder around his neck on a silver chain. Undercover necklaces like these can be purchased cheaply online, but I can’t think of why anyone would want one who isn’t a policeman.
McClane’s lieutenant badge used in the film was auctioned in December 2013, netting $3,000. Images of the badge – including the inset image above – can be found on DieHardProps.com.
McClane also spends an embarrassing amount of time with his underwear exposed when Gruber’s plot lures him to Harlem half-naked. He keeps his shoes and socks on as well as a pair of white and green butcher’s striped boxers with an elastic waistband. These boxers were part of their own auction set, in addition to the undershirt and an athletic supporter that Willis wore underneath.
After driving underground, McClane dons a quick functional disguise as a trucker with a yellow hard hat and a zip-front flannel shirt in red, orange, and yellow plaid. The flannel shirt has cuffs that are left unbuttoned, and the hard hat proudly carries an American flag decal on the left side.
Later, after escaping the exploding cargo ship with Zeus, McClane is given a dark blue insulated emergency jacket with a hood, outer patch pockets on the hips, and a red and black flannel inner lining.
The costume auctioned off last July, found at the Nate D. Sanders site, consisted of the following:
Costume is intentionally distressed as it was used in bloody scenes of the film’s climax and includes: (1) short-sleeve plaid shirt with an ”Imported Fabric / Woven in Italy” tag. Measures 22” shoulder-to-shoulder. Covered in soot and fake blood with rips and tears; (2) white ribbed tank top covered in black soot and fake blood, no size or brand; (3) pair of brown leather ”Rockport” shoes, size 10.5, with a hole drilled through heel of one shoe for an unknown reason; (4) jock strap and pair of socks; and (5) pair of ”Ralph Lauren” khaki pants with a brown leather belt. Pants are again torn and distressed with ”32w BW #1” handwritten to inseam, denoting a 32” waist. Pants measure 43” in length. Includes two original wardrobe tags and a Prop Store COA. Near fine, albeit intentionally greased and torn for the film.
Go Big or Go Home
As part of the day’s activities, McClane and Zeus find themselves in the park with an active bomb. In order to disarm the bomb, they are given the following directive from Simon:
On the fountain there should be two jugs. Do you see them? A 5-gallon and a 3-gallon. Fill one of the jugs with exactly four gallons of water and place it on the scale, and the timer will stop. You must be precise; one ounce more or less will result in detonation. If you are still alive in five minutes, we will speak.
Luckily, the guys are able to solve the riddle with six seconds to spare. Should you ever find yourself in a similar situation with a psychotic Jeremy Irons ordering you around, follow these steps:
- Fill the 3-gallon jug, then dump the contents into the 5-gallon jug. You now currently have 3 gallons of water in the 5-gallon jug.
- Fill the 3-gallon jug again, and dump the contents into the 5-gallon jug. Since there was only 2 gallons of empty space in the 5-gallon jug, make sure to leave the remaining 1 gallon in the 3-gallon jug.
- Now, dump out the entire contents of the 5-gallon jug.
- Pour the 1 gallon remaining in the 3-gallon jug into the empty 5-gallon jug. You now currently only have 1 gallon of water in the 5-gallon jug.
- Fill the 3-gallon jug for one last time, and dump the contents into the 5-gallon jug. You now have 4 gallons of water in the 5-gallon jug, and Jeremy Irons will disarm the bomb.
Of course, that is just one method. Once you’ve saved the day, smoke ’em if you got ’em – Marlboro Reds, in McClane’s case – and kick back to watch Captain Kangaroo. (McClane’s line “smoking cigarettes and watching Captain Kangaroo” is a line from The Statler Brothers’ 1965 song “Flowers on the Wall”. The reference to the song is an in-joke as “Flowers on the Wall” appeared on the soundtrack to Pulp Fiction which starred Bruce Willis… and Samuel L. Jackson. Furthermore, Willis’ character actually sings along to the song, singing the very line “smoking cigarettes and watching Captain Kangaroo” before he runs into Marsellus Wallace!)
How to Get the Look
McClane dresses comfortably and practically for the warm weather. It might not be the most debonair look, but McClane ain’t a debonair sort of hero. Not everyone needs to save the day wearing a three-piece suit, Pierce Brosnan.
- Cream-and-tan plaid lightweight short-sleeve shirt with camp collar, chest pockets, and double rear darts
- Light khaki flat front cotton chinos with on-seam side pockets, jetted rear pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Brown leather belt with squared gold clasp
- Brown leather 5-eyelet low boots
- White tube socks
- White ribbed cotton sleeveless A-style undershirt
- White & green butcher’s stripe boxers with elastic waistband
- Plain silver wedding band
- Breitling Chronograph with a round stainless case, black face with three sub-dials, and dark brown leather strap
- Brown leather shoulder rig with LHD holster for Beretta 92-series pistol and double magazine pouches
McClane’s primary sidearm is the same Beretta 92FS he had used in Die Hard 2 with the extended slide release and extended magazine release to make it easier for Willis to handle the weapon with his left hand. Many semi-automatic pistols now accommodate left-handed shooters, but southpaws used to either learn to shoot with their right hand or have extended controls.
This is the second appearance of the 92FS in McClane’s hands, since he carried the earlier Beretta 92F model in the first Die Hard in 1988. The use of the 92-series, particularly the 92F and 92FS, in action franchises like Die Hard and Lethal Weapon catapulted the Beretta to stardom. Having only recently been chosen to replace the venerable M1911A1 as the U.S. military’s sidearm of choice, its appearance in these six films in the subsequent ten years made the Beretta 92-series the pistol to own in the early 1990s.
The Beretta 92FS, originally manufactured by Pietro Beretta in Italy and contracted to Beretta USA, is chambered in 9×19 mm Parabellum with standard 15-round magazines, of which McClane carries two in his holster rig. It is a full-size service pistol at 8.5″ long, a 34 oz. weight, and a 4.9″ barrel. There are more than fifty different variants from the original Beretta 92, which was introduced to the market in 1975. The “92FS” model indicates that it is a 9×19 mm Parabellum weapon (“92”) with a traditional double action system and a decocking safety (“FS”).
Although it remains to be one of the most popular handguns in the world among private citizens, militaries, and police, the Beretta 92FS was never authorized by the NYPD, which had just begun authorizing its first semi-automatic pistols a few years earlier. In the early 1990s, the NYPD saw the authorization of the Ruger P93, the SIG-Sauer P226, the Glock 19 (in 1993), and the Smith & Wesson 5946 (in 1994). All pistols were 9×19 mm Parabellum, but none were even manufactured by Beretta. The closest the NYPD came to adopting McClane’s pistol was with the authorization of the 9 mm Beretta Cougar 8000D backup pistol in 1998.
(NB: The Beretta 92D, a double-action-only variant with no manual safety, was actually adopted by the Emergency Service Unit in 1995, McClane is a major crimes detective, not an ESU officer.)
Other Beretta 92-series pistols vary by caliber, operation, finish, material, and size. There is even a select-fire machine pistol, the Beretta 93R, that is relatively rare and shows up in a few action movies from time to time.
Of course, McClane manages to get his hands on many other weapons during the film, although the relatively anemic qualities of some of them compared to the villain’s automatic weapons show a further reliance on McClane’s wits than his braun. In fact, the first time we see McClane with a weapon is a callback to the climactic scene in the first Die Hard when McClane tapes a pistol to his back. Here, his NYPD pals give him a backup weapon – a nickel Smith & Wesson Model 36 revolver with black Pachmayr grips – duct-taped to his back in case of an emergency during his “mission” into Harlem. Zeus Carver grabs the revolver to help McClane out of a sticky situation, and it works – the last person I would want aiming a gun at me is Samuel L. Jackson.
During the film’s finale, McClane gets his hands on another snubnose Model 36, although this is the standard blued “Chief’s Special” with wooden grips. After firing three shots at Simon’s helicopter in Canada, McClane manages to use the two remaining shots to bring the chopper down.
Almost all of McClane’s weaponry in the film are handguns. Even his “assault weapon”, a MAC-10 he grabs from one of Simon’s men on the cargo ship, is technically considered a “machine pistol” rather than a submachine gun.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
Yeah, I got a deal for you. Crawl out from that rock you’re hiding under, and I’ll drive this truck up your ass.