Bruce Willis personally picked Bonnie Bedelia as his Die Hard costar

By: Start TV Staff     Posted: December 19, 2018, 4:12PM

Image: 20th Century Fox

Whether you consider Die Hard a Christmas movie or not, it's always fun to revisit the franchise around this time of year, if only to watch Bruce Willis' star explode all over again. When the movie was filming, Willis was famously pulling double duty filming his TV show Moonlighting in the day and Die Hard at night. You'd think that would exhaust him, and it did, but that didn't stop the movie star from also doing his part to help cast his costar and love interest in the film, Holly Gennaro McClane, ultimately played to button-nose perfection by dramatic actress Bonnie Bedelia. But did you know how Willis came across the actress?

At the time that Die Hard was casting, Bedelia was a rising star nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance in Heart Like a Wheel. Willis had caught the movie - about the first female drag-racer - and he was floored by Bedelia's performance. So he recommended her for the part of Holly Gennaro, and the studio agreed. 

Willis' choice paid off. The chemistry between Bedelia and Willis in the movie adds depth, but also heightens the drama because it's so convincing. Bedelia brought more warmth than you might suspect from a character designed to be a disengaged wife, and stories from behind the scenes cite multiple instances where Willis forced the director to call cut over and over again, because he kept making the actress laugh with his antics. Of the two, Bedelia seemed to take the work more seriously, but together, they were seriously too good, elevating the action movie that went on to become a successful franchise on the back of that charm nearly as much as all the explosions.

And there's good reason for that. The original conception of Die Hard was firmly grounded in its action sequences, but screenwriter Jeb Stuart didn't know how he would add more dimension to really hook the audience. Fate intervened when the writer had a spat with his wife and went for a drive one night. He had a near-death experience when a truck loaded with refrigerators suddenly dumped a giant box right into his path. Unable to swerve in time, he panicked, but (in what those who do consider Die Hard a Christmas movie might consider a seasonal miracle) fortunately, the box was empty. Unscathed but shaken, the screenwriter went home grateful for the chance to see his wife again and say he was sorry for the fight. In a different headspace, Stuart realized that's what Die Hard needed: a husband and wife who the film pushes to reunite.

In Die Hard, Bonnie Bedelia's character always keeps her head, whether she's rejecting the advances of an over-eager coworker or keeping her poise against Hans Gruber's pointed gun. That's the same sort of spirit The Division instilled in its star character Captain Kate McAfferty, which is why Bedelia was a sensational choice for the cast. So if you've ever watched Die Hard and wondered what it would look like with Holly as the cop who can't quit, catch up with Bedelia's work on The Division.

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