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- "When you steal $600, you can just disappear. When you steal $600 million, they will find you unless they think you're already dead."
- ―Hans Gruber to John McClane[src]
- "I am an exceptional thief, Ms. McClane, and since I'm moving up to kidnapping, you should be more polite."
- ―Hans to Holly[src]
Hans Gruber was an internationally-feared German terrorist who was the younger brother of Simon Gruber and the main antagonist of Die Hard. He was the mastermind behind the Nakatomi Plaza heist, where he used a gang of heavily-armed terrorists to take over the company's Christmas party and attempt to steal $640 million in negotiable bearer bank bonds inside the building's vault. Hans disguised this as a terrorist incident to distract the police from their robbery. Hans met his end after underestimating the courage of a one John McClane, who, despite being outmanned 13 to 1, managed to save the hostages of Nakatomi Plaza. Hans was also the brother of Simon Gruber and was likely disliked by him, as Hans worked with the West German Volksfrei movement, while Simon was an "obscure colonel from the East German army".
It is implied that Hans is far more dangerous than more people let on. He was most likely expelled from the Volksfrei movement for being too extreme and although he always maintained his calm persona, had absolutely no problem with killing innocent people and would do so if necessary. Hans, although not sadistic, had a previous history of terrorism affiliations, and although he didn't appear to be a killer upon his first glance, he is extremely cold and unpredictable; far more so than any of the other terrorists in the film series, with the possible exception of Colonel Stuart.
Hans Gruber was John McClane's worst threat he had ever encountered, according to McClane.
Before the Nakatomi HeistEdit
- "Due to the Nakatomi corporation's legacy of greed around the globe, they're about to be taught a lesson in the real use of power...you will be witnesses."
- ―Hans Gruber maintaining his façade of a freedom fighter. [src]
Not much is known about Hans's early life except that he enjoyed making models in his youth and claimed to have been classically educated, studying about Alexander the Great. At some point in his adult life Hans fell in with the Volksfrei, a West German terrorist organization. However, Gruber was later expelled from the movement, presumably for his overly-violent and extreme methods of getting things done. Gruber later used his past affiliation with the movement as a means to further fuel his ruse of a terrorist takeover. In the beginning Hans claimed the attack was punishment for "the Nakatomi Corporation's legacy of greed and deceit", which added to the belief the attack was terrorist-related. Besides his reputation, Gruber used his terrorist background to command his underlings to anticipate and repel the forthcoming counterattacks. Only when the Volksfrei issued a statement to the U.S. government denying any complicity in the Nakatomi Plaza attack and that Hans Gruber had been kicked out of the organization years ago did it start to dawn another motive may be at stake. Gruber was likely a sell-out to his own views, trading some of his extremist beliefs in order to retire in style from the ill-gotten gains of the bearer bonds.
Arrival at Nakatomi PlazaEdit
As mentioned before, Gruber was originally a member of the German terrorist organization the Volksfrei movement, until he was expelled. Now only concerned with personal gain, he concocted an elaborate robbery scheme using a terrorist pretense as a cover to manipulate the authorities with his plan. He led his gang of 13 thieves to Los Angeles, California on Christmas Eve where a party of employees was being held to take control of the Nakatomi Plaza. Although protected by several code based lock mechanisms, Hans and his team were after the $640 million in negotiable Bearer Bonds that were being held in a high-security vault. In addition to the first five locks, the vault was protected by one last lock which was electromagnetically sealed, and could only be opened by a complete loss of power to the building, which Hans had also planned for. The prior is the main reason Hans had made the situation look like a terrorist plot rather than a straight robbery. If the authorities had known the team were after the contents of the vault, the power wouldn't have been cut, and the vault never would have been opened.
Most of the team arrived in a Pacific Courier truck, while Karl and Theo took out the Guards manning the main lobby. Theo then shut down all elevator motion from the 29th floor and down down using the security system as Hans locked the main entrance. Karl and Tony then proceeded to cut all phone lines in the building while Hans and the rest of the group arrived at the party on the elevator. Making their presence known through gunfire, the team gathered everyone up and took them as hostages, and Hans began his trickery, posing as a radical freedom-fighter by making a short speech about the Nakatomi corporation's legacy of greed around the globe. Gruber then used his knowledge of the president of Nakatomi trading, Joseph Takagi, in order to draw him out. Once he had Takagi, Hans led the businessman to a board room where he then made his true intentions known.
- "...I'm telling you, you're just going to have to kill me."
- ―Hans' response to Takagi as he casually blows his brains across the board room [src]
Still believing him to be a terrorist, Takagi continued to make assumptions about the purpose of the takeover to which Gruber impatiently told him to sit down. He then continued to question Takagi over the code. After repeatedly denying that he knew the code, Takagi bravely asserted that they were just going to have to kill him. Unfortunately, Hans agreed, and killed Takagi by a single shot to the head from his weapon of choice, a Heckler & Koch P7M13 semi-automatic pistol. After that Gruber ordered Theo to break through the locks on the vault. Theo reminded Hans that the final lock is powered by circuits that cannot be cut locally. Gruber promised to handle the last lock.Hans was unaware, however, that observing them through the glass door from the outside was John McClane, who had slipped through the hands of the terrorists. McClane had stopped over at the tower to pick up his wife, Holly. After killing Karl's brother, Tony, Karl screams in anger and toss the office desk down, causing Hans to pushes him into the wall and tells him not to alter their plan. McClane used Tony's walkie-talkie to radio for help. This resulted in a cop car being sent over. The officer, Al Powell, did a quick check over, and left. McClane saw this and after having dispatched two more of the terrorists threw the body onto Powell's car. These were the first omens of the trouble to come.
- "Mrs. McClane. How nice to make your acquaintance."
- ―Hans discovers Holly's relation to John McClane. [src]
While acquiring a two-way radio, C4 explosives, and detonators from the body of one terrorist, McClane explained the situation via the two-way radio as the police, led by Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson, arrived. The police sent in a SWAT team and an armored vehicle. McClane and Powell aware unable to prevent the SWAT team from being ambushed, but McClane managed to kill the terrorists attacking the SWAT team. One of Holly's coworkers, Harry Ellis, tried to negotiate with Hans and McClane for the return of the detonators. McClane helplessly tells Ellis that Hans would kill him to which Gruber proves when Ellis fails. The FBI arrived, and took control from the police. They ordered the power to the building shut down, which deactivates the vault's final lock as Gruber had intended. Theo ransacks the now-open vault, loading the bearer bonds into an ambulance to be used as their getaway vehicle.McClane continued to sneak through the building to kill the terrorists. When he found Gruber working at the explosives planted on the roof, Gruber passed himself off as an escaped hostage. McClane appeared to let down his guard, and gave Gruber a gun; when Gruber attempted to fire the weapon, however, it is discovered that there were no bullets in the gun. As this happened, Gruber's men appeared from an elevator and fired at McClane, who was forced to flee, leaving behind the detonators. The roof was rigged to explode with the detonators, and Gruber lured the FBI into the trap by asking for helicopter transport for him and his men to Los Angeles International Airport in exchange for the hostages; Gruber planned to use the roof explosion to make the authorities believe him to be dead and allow him to escape with the bonds. As the helicopters travelled to the scene, Gruber observed a television news story from investigative reporter Richard Thornburg that Lucy mentions that Holly Gennero is McClane's wife. With the helicopter nearing with Special Agent Johnson and Agent Johnson on board, Gruber ordered the hostages to the roof, taking personal control over Holly.
- "Oh yes, what was it you said to me before? Yippee-ki-ay...motherfucker."
- ―Hans imitating John McClane before he tries to kill him [src]
AppearanceEditHans, on the night of the Nakatomi Christmas party, appeared a very well groomed man. He wore a black suit, a white shirt, a red tie, and black shoes. Due to his knowledge of Takagi's expensive suit, it is likely his own suit was quite expensive. He had brown, though slightly graying hair that was combed to the right. In the file photo used in the news broadcast, detailing the Nakatomi takeover, Hans did, however, have extremely messy hair and baggy, dirty clothes.
- "As far as I'm concerned, I'm not playing 'the villain'. I'm just playing somebody who wants certain things in life; has made certain choices, and goes after them. "
- ―Alan Rickman on Hans Gruber [src]
As shown when dealing with Holly, he also had a curt attitude to people whom he did not know.
Hans also has a good, but clearly dark sense of humor, and isn't afraid to make light of very dark and serious situations. This is furthered by his apparent jokey nature with Karl and Theo, two people he presumably knew well and liked. Even McClane often shot witty remarks back and forth either face to face or over the radio with Hans. The last thing Hans ever says, in fact, is a repetition of McClane's trademark phrase that he had jokingly coined over the radio earlier in the film.
An intelligent man, Hans liked to flaunt his knowledge and boast of his high education, as shown during his conversation with Takagi. Gruber was also knowledgeable about business and finance, and he was also able to determine what kind of high priced suit one was wearing just by looking at it (or perhaps he just had a penchant for John Philips suits in particular).
Hans also seems to enjoy reading magazines, making references to things that he has read in Forbes and Time. While speaking to the Police and FBI, Hans diverts their attention by pretending to have ideological aims, as had been presumed (as opposed to the simply self-interested theft which the operation truly is), and demands the release of supposedly imprisoned members of various groups in Canada, Sri Lanka and Northern Ireland, referring to these as "comrades in arms". He has, of course, no concern whatsoever for these people, and when questioned by Karl (who is puzzled, as the ploy seems not to have been a pre-arranged part of the plan) Hans states that he read about them in Time magazine, and doesn't care whether the FBI act on the demands or not.
Due to his blatant disregard for human life, along with the unbelievable things he'd done for the sake of a robbery, John had no problem doing away with Hans. McClane likely feels that Gruber is one of the most disgusting beings he's ever met. Even in the third film, Hans' brother, Simon, concurs with McClane, saying in agreement that his brother was, indeed, an 'asshole'.
ImpactEditDue in no small part to Rickman's performance, the character of Hans Gruber has had an enduring popularity and is constantly voted as one of the top villains of all time. Due to this, Hans is often seen as John McClane's one true nemesis and the quintessential Die Hard villain, only seconded by his brother, Simon, in Die Hard with a Vengeance.
Due to his highly acclaimed and recognizable performance, Alan Rickman was often typecast as villains following this film, such as playing the Sheriff of Nottingham in the 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. In recent years up until his death, Rickman had generally stayed away from playing straight villain roles, instead preferring more complex characters. For example, Severus Snape in the Harry Potter franchise, who at first glance seems villanous, but is later revealed that while unlikable in many ways, is an antihero, or complex heroic figure. This role had also impacted Rickman's career and popularity.
Hans was still mentioned relatively often or at least referenced to in some way, in both Die Hard 2 and Die Hard with a Vengeance. He's even arguably referenced to whenever McClane says his 'yippie ki yay' line, as those words were the last words Hans had the chance to say before his death.
Hans Gruber is often voted as one of Alan Rickman's most popular roles. Other popular roles played by Rickman being the Sherriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood-Prince of Thieves, Severus Snape in Harry Potter, and Judge Turpin in Sweeney Todd.
For Hans Gruber quotes, click here.
- Hans is the only main villain to ever say John's catchphrase, which was also his last words ever before his death.
- It is also interesting to point out that unlike the other sequels, the catchphrase is said by the villain and then dies while in the other films John says his line then finishes off the villain (with the exception of Yuri Komarov).
- According to Hans Buhringer, a German actor who played Fritz, Alan Rickman did an excellent German accent and meticulously researched German speech. Since English is a second language in Germany, Rickman even got the dialect of German English down. For example, when Hans tells Takagi that he enjoyed making models as a boy, he says: "I always enjoyed to make models when I was a boy." This is the correct German way to say that in English.
- Similar to Die Hard with a Vengeance, Hans Gruber could be referenced again if Die Hardest is made.
- Hans Gruber was played by the late Alan Rickman who died on January 14, 2016.
- His death is very similar to that of Dick Jones' from RoboCop (which was released the year prior to Die Hard).
Behind the ScenesEdit
Alan Rickman portrayed Hans Gruber in Die Hard.
|Die Hard||Die Hard 2||Die Hard with a Vengeance||Live Free or Die Hard||A Good Day to Die Hard|