‘Die Hard’ co-writer explains 29-year-old plot hole

A deleted scene is the key to the '80s action movie

One of the co-writers of the 1988 blockbuster movie Die Hard has explained a plot hole that has been bothering fans for nearly 30 years.

Steven E. De Souza, who wrote the movie with Jeb Stuart, revealed the news at a 30th anniversary screening of his film The Running Man.

In Die Hard, there is a scene where cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) and terrorist Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), pretending to be a Nakatomi Corportation employee Billy Clay, first meet and McClane almost immediately suspects Gruber is not who he says he is. Fans have been puzzled how the police officer knew so quickly for years and De Souza has now revealed it all comes down to deleted scenes.


In the original cut of the movie, Gruber and his fellow terrorists synchronise their matching Tag Heuer watches at the start of the heist. As McClane takes the team out one by one he notices they’re all wearing the same timepieces.

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“When Bruce offers the cigarette to Alan Rickman, Bruce sees the watch,” de Souza said. “You see his eyes look at the watch. That’s how he knows that he is one of the terrorists.”

The scenes were deleted because of a continuity error. As Slashfilm reports, De Souza only came up with the idea that Gruber’s gang planned to escape in an ambulance during the last week of shooting. This meant the “synchronise watches” scene had to be cut from the movie as there was no ambulance visible.

“Originally, they get off the truck, the camera craned up, you saw them in a circle and Alan Rickman says, ‘Synchronize your watches,’” de Souza told the audience. “They all put their arms out in a circle with the camera moving down and they all had the same Tag Heuer watch. If you notice, the first guy Bruce kills almost by accident going down the steps, he searches the body, looks at the IDs.”


He added of cutting the scene: ““[Director] John [McTiernan] says to the editor, ‘Get the scissors in there. Cut as soon as you can when they get off the truck so we don’t see there’s no ambulance.’ Now without ‘Synchronize your watches’ all of these moments where Bruce looks at these guys’ watches makes no sense.”