‘Die Hard’ Villain Alan Rickman Was Actually Terrified in His Falling Scene Thanks to Director’s Surprise

Even the best actors sometimes need a little push in order to truly shine. Late actor Alan Rickman was indeed one of the greats, but you might be surprised to hear that even he needed a little assistance every once in a while.

While filming the iconic action movie Die Hard, Rickman needed a little bit of coaxing to film the scene where his character, Hans Gruber, (spoiler alert) falls to his death. Due to Rickman’s fear of heights, the production staff got creative in helping him accomplish the scene.

Alan Rickman had a hugely successful career

Rickman started his career in theater as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. After over a decade with the company, Rickman earned a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor in a Play for his role in Les Liaisons Dangereuses in 1987.

After that, Rickman transitioned into film and television. His cinematic role was in Die Hard in 1988. In the early 1990s, Rickman had more breakout roles in a number of films of different genres. He starred alongside Tom Selleck in Quigley Down Under, played the male lead in Truly, Madly, Deeply, portrayed the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and was a part of the all-star cast of Sense and Sensibility including Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, and Hugh Grant.

In 2001, Rickman began the role that he perhaps became best known for. He portrayed Severus Snape in all eight Harry Potter films, spanning from 2001-2011. His death in 2016 came as a shock to everyone, and many of his Harry Potter co-stars expressed their grief at his passing. Rickman died after a minor stroke in 2015 led to a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, which he kept quiet from the media.

What was his role in ‘Die Hard’?

One of the most popular roles for which Rickman is remembered was as the villainous Hans Gruber in Die Hard. Gruber was a German radical who, with his team of henchmen, seizes control of Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles. Gruber’s plan is to steal $640 million in bearer bonds which are locked in a vault in the building. The terrorists take a number of people hostage, further increasing the direness of the situation.

Bruce Willis’s character, John McClane, is a New York cop in town to reconcile with his estranged wife. McClane takes out each member of Gruber’s team until Gruber is the only one left. Gruber ultimately dies when he falls to his death off out of a window in Nakatomi Plaza.

Alan Rickman was truly terrified in his ‘Die Hard’ falling scene

The scene where Gruber falls to his death was iconic. It was shot with a closeup of Rickman’s face looking upward at Willis and you see his eyes widen in shock as he falls from the window in slow motion. Rickman’s performance in that moment made him a memorable villain.

What made Rickman’s reaction so great when he fell? It’s, of course, easy to assume it was simply his talent as an actor that made him pull it off so well. In reality, there was a bit of trickery in that scene, according to The Independent. Director John McTiernan arranged for Rickman to fall 25 feet onto an airbag for the shot after a count of three; Rickman, who was afraid of heights, was not looking forward to the stunt.

To make matters worse, the crew decided to drop him after only counting to one, which led to the iconic look of shock on Rickman’s face during the scene. Rickman was reportedly unimpressed by the surprise — but you can’t argue with the results.

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