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Die Hard: Getting Into Character Actors

Ever since Bruce Willis sprinted barefoot across broken glass in Die Hard, Hollywood has been pumping out countless “Die Hard on a…” retreads (Speed, Under Siege, Passenger 57). But they’ve all been missing that one key ingredient that helped to make Die Hard the classic it is today: The dad from Family Matters. Die Hard isn’t just one of the greatest action films of all time for its gut-wrenching, throat-gripping concept. It’s also a showcase for some of the best character actors around.

Reginald “Carl Winslow” VelJohnson’s turn as Sgt. Al Powell was such a hit with audiences that he reprised the role in Die Hard 2 as well as in several subsequent Die Hard video games. (But sadly, not in Die Hard With a Vengance or Live Free or Die Hard . Is there a correlation between the drop in quality of the Die Hard films and the lack of Carl Winslow? We’re just saying…) Aside from the nine seasons he spent opposite a certain nasal-voiced über -nerd, VelJohnson also had memorable turns in such films as Turner & Hooch , Crocodile Dundee , and Ghostbusters .

But let’s not forget the other familiar faces who round out the cast.

Die Hard helmer John McTiernan reportedly cast Alan Rickman in his on screen debut after catching Rickman in a stage production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Rickman’s indelible baddie Hans Gruber went on to inspire legions of future movie villains of indeterminate foreign origins. (And, of course, he went on to great acclaim in everything from  Truly, Madly, Deeply to the William Atherton as slimy TV reporter Richard Thornburg. Atherton’s role in the first two Die Hard films, coupled with his turn as Walter Peck in Ghostbusters, pretty much opened and closed the book on the “yuppie scumbag” character of the 1980s. (Atherton continues to lend his signature smarm to the big and small screen in such fare as  Last Samurai  and Desperate Housewives.)

So, Bruce, if you’re thinking of reprising John McClane for a fifth go-round, how ’bout throwing your old pals VelJohnson, Rickman and Atherton a bone? (Sure, Hans Gruber plunged from the top of the Nakatomi Plaza. But come on, he could’ve survived — he’s Hans Gruber.) And for that matter, what’s Bonnie Bedelia up to these days?

Spend some time with Sgt. Powell, Hans Gruber, and Richard Thornburg when Die Hard airs Tue., March 18 @ 8PM | 7C and Wed., March 19 @ 5:30PM | 4:30C. Click here for upcoming showtimes .

Learn more about this month’s Hollywood Icon: Bruce Willis.

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