One question has endured in the ever-debated realm of holiday cinema: Is “Die Hard” indeed a Christmas movie? The ongoing discourse took an intriguing turn as Peter Billingsley, celebrated for his roles in festive classics like “A Christmas Story,” took center stage in a recent episode of the A Cinematic Christmas Journey podcast.
Alongside co-host Steve Byrne, Billingsley delved into the heart of the matter, seeking to unravel the enigma with the assistance of the film’s cinematographer, Jan de Bont.
As a seasoned luminary of holiday-themed productions, Billingsley brought a wealth of experience to the discussion, having etched his mark in the genre through iconic roles in films like “Elf” and “Four Christmases.” In this exclusive podcast episode, the 52-year-old actor embarked on a quest to convince de Bont that “Die Hard” was a Christmas film.
Quoting de Bont’s skepticism about the Yuletide credentials of “Die Hard,” Billingsley recounted, “I had seen some quotes of him that he did not believe that Die Hard was a Christmas movie. He said, ‘I just don’t see it.’ So I said, ‘Would you mind if I try to convince you of why this is a Christmas movie? I know you made it. I know you’ve lived with it for a very long time, since 1988.’ He said, ‘Okay.'”
Despite the film’s summer release in 1988, the actor highlighted the pivotal Christmas Eve setting in the plot. Billingsley strategically appealed to de Bont’s sensibilities by emphasizing the fractured relationship between the protagonist, John McClane, and his estranged wife. “There’s hope, there’s joy, and they’re going to go and have a great Christmas morning with their kids,” Billingsley asserted, pointing out the thematic elements that screamed ‘Christmas movie.’
The actor went on to list other festive nuances within the film, such as including Christmas songs and the backdrop of falling snow. His argument, while subjective, aimed to establish the film’s inclusion in the revered category of holiday classics.
In a surprising twist, “Die Hard” director John McTiernan aligned himself with fans and critics who had long labeled the action-packed thriller as a holiday film.
Reflecting on the film’s unintended festive legacy, McTiernan shared with the American Film Institute in 2020, “We hadn’t intended it to be a Christmas movie, but the joy that came from it is what turned it into a Christmas movie.”
However, not everyone in the “Die Hard” fraternity agreed. Bruce Willis, the indomitable lead of the film, finally weighed in on the debate during Comedy Central’s 2018 Roast. Asserting his stance, Willis declared, “Die Hard is not a Christmas movie! It’s a goddamn Bruce Willis movie.”
Despite Willis’ resolute opinion, Billingsley emerged victorious in his mission to sway de Bont’s perspective. “I went through my criterion,” Billingsley revealed, “And he said, ‘I’ve never thought about it that way.’ He said, ‘You have now convinced me it is a Christmas movie.’ And I was like, ‘Yes!’ So I was able to change a filmmaker’s mind, which was cool.”
As the perennial debate persists, one thing remains certain: “Die Hard” has undeniably carved its niche in the festive cinematic landscape, whether you agree it’s a Christmas movie. Stay tuned for more engaging insights and debates on all things cinematic—sign up for PEOPLE’s free daily newsletter and stay abreast of the latest in celebrity news and captivating human interest stories.