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Die Hard on a Blank: Exploring the influence of ‘Die Hard’ on action cinema

Die HArd on a Blank is Die Hard a Christmas movie


Die Hard on a Blank: Exploring the influence of ‘Die Hard’ on action cinema

Have You Heard? is where the Pod Bible team meet the people behind the podcasts you may not have heard of yet. This time we’re speaking to Philip Gawthorne about the new film podcast exploring the far-reaching influence of the 1988’s classic ‘Die Hard’…

Who are you and what’s your podcast about?

Hi! I’m Philip Gawthorne and I’m an action movie screenwriter living in Hollywood. Our podcast Die Hard on a Blank explores the influence of Die Hard on action cinema, one action movie at a time. I co-host the show with Liam Billingham, a brilliant film podcaster and fellow cinephile. Each episode is a deep dive on a different action movie that contains some kind of ‘Die Hard DNA’. It’s essentially a fun movie discussion podcast that treats the action genre with real respect and love.

Phil Gawthorne

What was the first podcast you ever listened to?

How Did This Get Made? was really my gateway drug into this world – I quickly became addicted to it. The three hosts are absolutely brilliant – wildly contrasting personalities who together have incredible chemistry. What they’ve achieved in the podcast space is truly inspiring – now they do live shows and pack out venues all across the United States. I think they blazed the trail for everyone in this game.

Why did you decide to start podcasting in the first place?

I’m a passionate cinephile with a particular love of the action movies of the 1980s and 1990s, which was really a golden age of action cinema. I was a video store kid and there’s a sense of nostalgia to the whole experience – there’s something wonderfully comforting about revisiting all these films that I loved so much growing up. At the same time, I work in the Hollywood studio system as a screenwriter, so I come at the analysis from an inside business angle, as well as being an action movie fanboy. This project was something I’ve wanted to do for a while, and when I met my co-host Liam Billingham, everything clicked into place. He has the same effusive love of action movies that I do, but he comes at it all from a completely different cultural perspective (I’m British, he’s American) which makes for highly entertaining conversations!

Liam Billingham co-host of Die Hard On A Blank

Which podcasts do you take inspiration from?

I’m a huge fan of The Rewatchables and Clash of the Titles – two shows that adroitly balance serious cultural/critical analysis and a light-hearted sense of fun. I want our show to evoke the same friendly, inviting vibe that those podcasts have, where you feel like you’re hanging out with your mates when you listen. There was another show called 80s All Over that I absolutely loved, where they reviewed every movie of the 1980s, one month at a time. It was a fascinating endeavour, as everything was placed in a social-political context, and you got a real sense of different filmic trends throughout the decade. I want to do the same thing with Die Hard On A Blank, as we’ll be discussing all the films in chronological order of their release. It’s a kind of “action movie genealogy project”, where we’ll be able to track how the Die Hard formula evolved, adapted and mutated over time. Each episode will be entertaining in its own right, but in its totality it will be a comprehensive analysis of Die Hard‘s enduring impact on action cinema.

Who’s your dream guest for the podcast?

There are several guests I’d love to have on, but right now there’s a podcaster and presenter called Kyle Brandt that I’m a huge fan of. He’s primarily an NFL guy, but he’s guested a few times on The Rewatchables discussing 80s action movies like Commando and Cobra and I know we’re very much on the same action movie wavelength! Van Lathan is another guy I’d love to have on, as well as Matt Gourley, who did a wonderful podcast called I Was There Too and now co-hosts the 007 podcast James Bonding We’ll be doing all the Bonds, Bournes and Jack Ryans, so I’d love to have guests who can provide additional expertise in certain areas, especially if there’s an action movie they’re really passionate about!

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt so far as a podcaster?

Doing a podcast is a lot of work, so it’s important that you absolutely love it, which fortunately I do! I think finding the right partners and co-host is also critical – it needs to be about a subject that you are utterly fascinated by and truly passionate about, that you discuss with someone whose company you genuinely enjoy. That’s certainly been the case with Die Hard On A Blank – it’s a transfer of enthusiasm with the audience, and Liam and I certainly have abundant enthusiasm for action movies!

Which episode would you say is the perfect introduction to your podcast?

The show starts with a two-part double header (out on December 21 across all platforms) all about the original 1988 classic Die Hard, and that’s a great entry point for new listeners. We break down Die Hard scene by scene, moment by moment, then we go on to discuss all the pop-cultural elements that influenced it. That includes films such as The Detective starring Frank Sinatra (who was originally offered the role of John McClane), the 1976 disaster movie The Towering Inferno, and the first Rambo picture, First Blood. We also talk a lot about Nothing Lasts Forever, the 1979 thriller novel upon which Die Hard is based. In other episodes, we’ll go on to talk about films like Road House, License to Kill, The Hunt for Red October and Die Hard 2 – look out for that episode, I think it was the funniest one we’ve done so far (by which I mean I mean the most embarrassing for me).

Where can the Pod Bible readers find out more about you?

I’m on all the usual social media places – Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn. I’m also on the Blu-ray/iTunes commentary track for the 2020 sci-fi/horror/action film Underwater, alongside the director William Eubank, who is a frequent collaborator of mine – so you can hear me gabbing about that movie there. I recently appeared on my friend Andy Maiorano’s podcast The AndyPlex, where we discuss Blue Thunder, the most underrated action movie of the 1980s in my opinion, and we talk more about Die Hard on a Blank and the show’s format. There’s a few fun games we play on our show that we chat about in that interview. Liam also has his own show called Rohmercast that’s really cool – he was recently listed in Vulture’s article about the best film podcasts. So come check us out – we want to welcome all our pals to the party!

Die Hard on a Blank - Cover Artwork

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