Of all the action movie villains, Alan Rickman's Hans Gruber remains one of, if not the finest. His suave yet sinister take on the German terrorist in "Die Hard" endures due to Rickman's clear commitment to the role. The actor, who was at the time transitioning from an esteemed theater career, was obviously determined to portray Gruber convincingly, despite his initial reservations about doing an action movie.
That commitment extended to doing his own stunts, including Gruber's dramatic fall from the roof of the Nakatomi Tower in the film's final moments. Even before he'd stepped on set, Rickman read the original script and suggested his character wear a suit rather than the "terrorist gear" that was written, demonstrating a thoughtful approach prior to a single scene being shot.
Unfortunately, when Rickman did come to shoot an actual scene — his first movie scene ever — he immediately injured himself. In fact, for an entire scene that made it into the final movie, the prolific and celebrated actor of stage and screen was standing on one leg.
Rickman Thought He Was Out Of A Job
In his conversation with Bobby Wygant, a clash of dialects almost as dramatic as that of Hans Gruber and John McClane themselves, Alan Rickman recalled the day he jumped from a three-foot-high ledge during his first scene and immediately ripped the cartilage in his knee. As the actor remembered it, "It was late at night and tense and noisy and it was my first shot. So that was living dangerously. It was the first thing I ever did on a movie." He would elaborate in an interview with Empire, explaining how he immediately went downstairs to see the doctor:
"[The doctor] said, 'You may have torn a ligament. If you have, you're out of action for six months.' I hadn't even shot a scene! I was still in my costume, and I said, 'Could you pull the trouser leg down over that splint thing?' I went back up to the 33rd floor and carried on shooting. But the doctor said, 'Don't put any weight on that leg!'"
The scene in question was the all-important meeting between Gruber and McClane. The interaction required Rickman to affect an American accent as Gruber tries to trick McClane into thinking he's a Nakatomi worker. If you watch it, that entire scene seems to be shot on a dutch tilt, likely to heighten the unease and suspense as McClane discovers Gruber's identity. What's more, adding to the strangeness of the whole thing, the newly-injured Rickman is standing on one leg the entire time. Although the actor would recover fairly quickly, at the time he claimed quite understandably that he thought he was "out of a job."
Rickman Was Committed Despite Reservations
Of course, Alan Rickman was not out of a job. Far from it. Rickman completed work on "Die Hard," staying committed throughout. That dedication paid off, as Rickman's portrayal of Hans Gruber basically launched his movie career — a pleasant development considering he initially balked at the idea of doing the film.
His injury at the beginning of the shoot didn't even stop him from doing the rest of his own stunts in "Die Hard," including that famous drop from the top of the tower where his stunt trainer told him: "Make sure you spread your arms into a kind of star shape because if you don't you'll start turning and you'll land on your head and kill yourself." The crew and Rickman attempted that particular stunt three times at 3 a.m. and it was the actor's final shot on the movie. As the story goes, he was dropped before the end of the countdown, providing a genuinely surprised reaction to the falling that made it into the final film. In that sense, suspended 40 feet in the air and tricked by the film's production crew, Rickman wrapped his scenes on "Die Hard" in as precarious and dedicated a way as he'd started.
Read this next: 17 '80s Action Movies You Definitely Need To See
The post Alan Rickman Injured Himself In The First Die Hard Scene He Shot appeared first on /Film.