Die Hard Donation

Bruce Willis gives John McClane's blood-smeared undershirt to the Smithsonian. Yippee-ki-yay...


Actor Bruce Willis visited the Smithsonian on June 27 to donate a dirty, blood-smeared undershirt to the National Museum of American History. Why? Willis wore the shirt when he played New York police officer John McClane in 1988's Die Hard.

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Besides the undershirt, Willis donated a poster from the 1988 movie and a prop police badge and script from the 2007 sequel, Live Free or Die Hard. The original is "a quintessential Hollywood action movie," according to museum director Brent Glass, who accepted the donation.

Along with the boxing gloves from Rocky and the ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz, the Die Hard collection will represent American movie heritage. The items will go on display July 12 as part of the "Treasures of American History" exhibition, hosted by the Air and Space Museum while the National Museum of American History is closed for renovations. Bruce Willis spoke with the magazine's Amy Crawford.

How does it feel to have your undershirt in a museum with Abraham Lincoln's top hat?

It's pretty amazing. I was really surprised by this. I never really thought of this film as part of the culture. I never thought that it would come this far, and it is an honor. The Smithsonian Institution is a big deal—I used to come here when I was a kid.

What do action movies say about American culture?

You can draw a straight line from westerns and cowboy movies, to military movies and gangster movies, to what they now call "action movies"—they're really just about good triumphing over evil. They're morality stories that sometimes work and sometimes don't, and these films just seem to work.

Is John McClane a quintessentially American character?

I think so. What I've been saying about the character for a long time is that he loves his country, loves his family. He has a very American sense of humor. This character, in all four films, has always had zero tolerance for anyone trying to hurt or do harm to innocent people.

What's the best part of playing McClane?

About Amy Crawford
Amy Crawford

Amy Crawford is a Boston-based freelance journalist writing about government, education and ideas. Her writing has appeared in Smithsonian, Slate, Boston Magazine and the Boston Globe.

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