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Die Hard has a Frank Sinatra prequel you’ve never seen

Starring Bruce Willis, Die Hard is one of the best action movies ever made. A masterpiece, really. And now you know it has a prequel starring Frank Sinatra.

Bruce Willis in Die Hard

Die Hard began and ended with Bruce Willis, right? Well, not quite. The first Die Hard movie actually starred Frank Sinatra in the leading role, and it’s a prequel that we bet you’ve never seen.

Something you might not know is that the Die Hard movies are based on books, which is how this whole piece of trivia about Sinatra and prequel really comes together. In 1966, author Roderick Thorp wrote a noir thriller novel titled The Detective. This was then followed up by a sequel novel named Nothing Lasts Forever in 1979.

The latter would be turned into one of the best action movies ever made in 1988’s Die Hard, but the first book in the series also became a movie too, which serves as a Die Hard prequel: it’s called The Detective, like the book, and stars Frank Sinatra in the leading role.

The Detective follows Sinatra as a (you guessed it) detective named Joe Leland who is tasked with solving a complex murder case while juggling his marital commitments. The movie performed moderately well upon its release was well-received by critics too, who praised Sinatra’s darker performance. But, it was a one-and-done affair and The Detective has since faded into obscurity.

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Then, after the release of Nothing Lasts Forever, studios wanted a sequel. Sinatra was offered the chance to reprise his role from the first movie and return as the hero character. However, he decided to decline, which led to Bruce Willis leading the Die Hard cast, and the character’s name was changed from Joe Leland to John McLane.

This separated the two movies, and you can watch Die Hard and be completely oblivious that it does, technically, have a prequel. Of course, subsequent Die Hard movies would go on to uncouple themselves from the author’s books and explore their own stories.

So, if you’re a Die Hard fan and want to do a re-watch, you really have to start with The Detective.

For more action classics, take a look at our guide to the best Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, the best Bruce Willis movies, and the 101 best movies of all time. Or, see what new movies are coming up in 2024.