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The best 5 episodes of Die Hard on a Blank!

The best episodes of Die Hard on a Blank Die Hard anniversary


The best 5 episodes of Die Hard on a Blank!

This week marks the 35th anniversary of Die Hard – the most impactful action movie ever made! At least that’s according to Hollywood screenwriter Philip Gawthorne, the creator and host of the hit film podcast Die Hard on a Blank, which explores the influence of Die Hard on action cinema, one action movie at a time.

In each episode, Philip and his co-host Liam Billingham analyse a different action film that has some kind of connection to Die Hard – be it through premise, personnel or otherwise. Some of these movies involve classic ‘Die Hard on a blank’ scenarios, like the boarding-school based Toy Soldiers, the U.S. Battleship-based Under Siege and plane-based Passenger 57. But others have more subtle and surprising connections to the original 1988 classic, such as Road House, Ricochet and Harrison Ford thriller The Fugitive.

An LA-based podcast, Die Hard on a Blank is produced by Sugar23 and Michael Sugar (the Oscar-winning producer of 2016’s Spotlight) and it’s already attracting some stellar guests. We talked to Philip when the podcast first launched, but now that the show is really gathering steam, we asked him to reflect on his favourite episodes so far…

Die Hard (Episode 1A and 1B)

We kicked off the show with a two-part double-header on the daddy of the genre: Die Hard. First, we talked through the entire movie scene by scene, discussing moments, creative choices and characters that we love. In the second part we talked about the origins of the film, which was based on a terrific novel called Nothing Lasts Forever and was influenced by earlier movies such as The Taking of Pelham 123, The Towering Inferno and First Blood. I’d only met Liam twice before recording the episode (and never in person) but we just clicked instantly, so I love this ep on a personal level because it also captured the beginning of our friendship.


Licence to Kill (Episode 3)

It’s Die Hard in a Bond movie! I took my research for this episode very seriously because I know how much James Bond means to people, especially in the UK, where 007 is arguably our greatest pop-cultural export. The links to Die Hard might not be immediately obvious, but they are there, and it was also a really fun experience for me and Liam to unpack this film, and its context within the wider Bond canon, from our differing cultural perspectives (I’m British, Liam’s American). Liam grew up on Sean Connery, whereas I was weaned on Roger Moore, but we both love what Timothy Dalton did with the role. Although it’s not necessarily “the best”, this is actually my favourite Bond movie!


The Last Boy Scout (Episode 9)

It’s Die Hard in an LA noir! This is one of the episodes I’m most proud of, and it was also the most vulnerable for me, because the director of the film – the late, great Tony Scott – is one of my biggest heroes, so I got a little emotional talking about him. It led to a wide-ranging, deep dive discussion that encompassed film noir, American distraction and the dark history of Los Angeles. We also talked about (gridiron) football, as I’m obsessed with the NFL, so much so that Kyle Brandt (the effervescent host of ‘Good Morning Football’ on the NFL Network) will be guesting on the pod for our Hard Target episode (out August 2nd). In my first interview with you guys, I said that Kyle would be my dream guest for the show, so to get him was an incredible coup!


Hard Boiled (Episode 10)

It’s Die Hard in a hospital! We were so excited to talk about this incredible movie that we went into a state of hyperactive mania! I absolutely love John Woo and Chow Yun-fat and I just cannot get over how astonishing this movie is to watch. For me, Hard Boiled is like this magnificent, exotic, phantasmagoric vision that was beamed to us from another world – it’s exuberant action cinema at its absolute zenith. By this point we were pretty dialed in to our format, that also includes the ‘Die Hard Oscars’ (with categories such as The Dick Thornberg award for ‘Dick of the Movie’) and our ‘Double Jeopardy’ trivia quiz. We were just having a blast.


Cliffhanger (Episode 14)

It’s Die Hard on a mountain! This was a particularly cool episode as we were joined by Jamelle Bouie, a brilliant and highly influential opinion writer for The New York Times. Jamelle also co-hosts a fantastic podcast called Unclear and Present Danger, where he analyses the action movies of the 1990s through a political lens, and he’s just an incredibly smart, yet completely unpretentious, person. Cliffhanger is one of the more obvious ‘Die Hard on blank’ films, in that it directly replicates the classic ‘Die Hard formula’ (i.e. ‘bad guys take over a blank and it’s up to one person to fight back’) in a different setting, but that setting is a really interesting and unusual one here. We also talked about Sylvester Stallone, Michael Rooker, John Lithgow and the director Renny Harlin, whose background in horror may have influenced this surprisingly gory movie!


Listen to Die Hard on a Blank now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and all other popular podcast apps >>

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