It took four months to assemble and combine archive footage of past American presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush to create the televised warning from Gabriel. The goal was to create a video representation of a ransom note.
According to Bruce Willis and director Len Wiseman in the DVD commentary, the story originally involved McClane's son, Jack. Originally, he was supposed to be the computer hacker John has to deliver to the FBI. Eventually that idea was dropped and the hacker became the Matt Farrell character. It was then decided to bring in his daughter Lucy to keep up the series theme of McClane always having a personal stake in what happens in the story.
Bruce Willis' stunt double, Larry Rippenkroeger, was seriously injured when he fell 25 feet to the pavement. He suffered broken bones in his face and fractures in both wrists. Production was temporarily shut down. Willis picked up the tab at area hotels for Larry's parents and visited him numerous times at the hospital. Larry also doubles for James Caan in his television series, Las Vegas (2003). Caan came and visited Larry in the hospital and joked around for over an hour. Larry told his parents he was glad when Caan left because he hurt so bad from laughing at his jokes.
Kevin Smith rewrote the lines for his Warlock character. Bruce Willis thought the rewrite was too funny and did not follow the serious mood of the movie. Smith then rewrote the part to what Willis requested.
The stunt featuring McClane driving a police car into a helicopter took three weeks to rehearse. The shot was accomplished by suspending the helicopter in the air with cables and combining two separate shots; one of the stuntman leaping from the helicopter and one of the car colliding with it. CGI was then used to delete the support cables and add rotor blades.
When McClane is driving toward the helicopter, he says, "You think a traffic jam, throwing a car at me is gonna stop me, huh?" Len Wiseman dubbed the last part of this line ("Gonna stop me"), imitating the voice of Bruce Willis.
When filming the scenes of John walking through the corridors talking to Gabriel on the two-way, there were no written lines of dialogue for Bruce Willis, according to Len Wiseman on the DVD commentary. So what they did on set was have Willis hold the two-way up to his mouth and speak gibberish so it looks like he's talking to Gabriel. If you'll notice, there are a couple of times where the two-way isn't all the way up to Willis' face and you can see his mouth doesn't match the dialogue being spoken.
A water treatment facility near Los Angeles doubled as the film's Woodlawn Social Security Administration building. The facility has miles of underground tunnels, and was also used in Die Hard 2 (1990) when Bruce Willis runs through tunnels under the airport.
This film addresses the apparent continuity error in earlier installments - McClane is afraid of flying in Die Hard (1988) and Die Hard 2 (1990), but not Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995). Here, he explains that he took flying lessons in order to "face his fears."
In the elevator shaft scene, where Mai Lihn swings on the wire, and flies into the truck and hits McClane, the stunt double accidentally cut Bruce Willis' eyebrow with her spiked heel, and according to Len Wiseman in the DVD commentary, she jabbed Willis hard enough that when medics examined the injury, the brow bone was exposed.
In the opening credits, when Kevin Smith's name comes on the screen, the "m" in Smith disappears and you see "Sith" for a few seconds, paying homage to Kevin Smith's love of all things Star Wars, which also reflects in his character in the movie.
The bad guy, Thomas Gabriel, points a gun at McClane and declares, "On your tombstone it will say 'Always in the wrong place at the wrong time'." "John McClane is back in the wrong place at the wrong time!" was a tagline used for Die Hard 2 (1990), and the character is told that he is "the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time!" by Major Grant in that movie.
In addition to the 'Agent Johnson' reference, several other elements from the first Die Hard (1988) film are revisited as series trademarks. Among them are: crawling on broken glass, use of air-ducts, elevator shafts, and maintenance areas in corporate buildings, a henchman falling down stairs, an inquiry on the E.T.A. of a helicopter, and McClane's "Yippie-Ki-Yay' catchphrase, (heard in its uncensored glory in the unrated version).
The first sequel in the series where no character mentions John McClane's encounter at the Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles, in Die Hard (1988). However, visual references to Nakatomi Plaza are seen while Thomas Gabriel is looking at John McClane's dossier.
The first Die Hard film that is set in multiple locations (New Jersey, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, and Baltimore). The first three were all set in and around (or above) primarily one location throughout most of the movies.
This is the first Die Hard film without the music of film composer Michael Kamen, who died in 2003. Portions of Kamen's previous "Die Hard" scores, however, were incorporated into the score by Marco Beltrami.
The movie was filmed in two versions, one for an R rating and the other for a PG-13 rating. It was edited to a PG-13 rating for commercial reasons, making it the first film in the series not rated R upon its theatrical release. The DVD contains the theatrical version and the unrated version. The unrated version restores much of the profanity and violence that was cut for the PG-13 version, making the film the equivalent of an R rating.
The name "Tovarek", which Mai Lihn uses as an FBI agent, is a Polish word and one of its meanings is "hot chick" (the correct Polish word is "towarek", but it's pronounced like this). Tara Tovarek is also the name of producer Michael Fottrell's assistant.
When Gabriel is talking to McClane over the phone and pulling up his information on the computer, Bonnie Bedelia makes a cameo appearance in the form of her character Holly McClane's driver's license photo. The photo appears as though it may be either a publicity shot from a prior "Die Hard" film or a still photo (i.e. family portrait) from one of the movies.
The fighter jet is a F-35 fighter (sometimes called JSF or Joint Strike Fighter). At the time of the movie this type of fighter jet wasn't operational yet, the very first F-35 maiden flight was in June 2008. In this film the variant is an F-35B which can hover and take off or land vertically as depicted.
Prints were sent out to UK cinemas under the fake name "New Hampshire" - a reference to the state's "Live Free or Die" motto and the movie's original title - in spite of the title being changed to "Die Hard 4.0" in European territories.
While in early development with a script that was eventually discarded, the movie had been given the subtitle "Tears of the Sun". Bruce Willis told the studio he would commit to a Die Hard 4 if he could use the title for Tears of the Sun (2003).
The first film in the series where the antagonist does not use a fake accent. In Die Hard (1988), Hans Gruber faked an American accent to fool McClane; in Die Hard 2 (1990), Colonel Stuart fakes a Midwestern accent while guiding an airline pilot into crashing into the ground; and in Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995), Simon fakes an American accent while posing as a city engineer.
On the DVD commentary, director Len Wiseman discusses the "back yard Die Hard (1988)" he shot when he was younger. At least one of the shots from it was used in this film, and Wiseman acted it out for Bruce Willis during filming so that Willis could duplicate it.
The movie's title, "Live Free or Die Hard", is a reference to New Hampshire's state motto "Live Free or Die". Consequently, the New Hampshire state film office received several phone calls asking where in the state the movie was filmed.
When McClane is driving in Jersey and talking to the chief captain of Camden, the guy's name is Wiseman, same name as the director, Len Wiseman, although pronounced 'Wheezeman', as this was how most crew-members thought his name should be pronounced. The voice is that of the director himself.
One of Matt Farrell's hacker pals is named Clay, a clear nod to the alias Hans Grüber uses when he accidentally stumbles across McClane unarmed whilst searching for the detonators at the Nakotomi plaza in Die Hard (1988). The name Grüber uses to fool McClane was Bill Clay.
The car that is stolen in the film by McClane and Farrell is a 2006 E60 BMW 5 series, which was chosen due to a poll that found that people wanted films that had more BMWs in it. The main reason given was that the alternatives (Audis and Mercedes-Benzes) were too common and not bold and imposing enough to go with the characters in the film. The particular BMW model (5 series) was chosen because the director, Len Wiseman, found "the 3 series too common, the 7 series too uptight and every other car either too feminine or compensating for a midlife crisis... Everything McClane isn't, yet".
In the beginning of the film, John McClane and Lucy have an argument that eventually leads to them discussing her use of her mother's last name, "Gennero". A similar argument takes place in Die Hard (1988), when McClane is searching for the location of his wife, Holly, in the Nakatomi building. He does not find her under "McClane," but does find her under her maiden name "Gennaro", which is misspelled.
All the IP-addresses shown in the movie are legal ones. However, most start with either 10, 172.16 or 192.168. Those numbers are reserved for local traffic only. At 02:04, one of the hackers transfers data with scp to 220.127.116.11, which is owned by a Japanese company.
This is the only installment of the series where John McClane doesn't carry his Beretta 92FS. Instead he carries a SIG-Sauer P220R. The 92FS does appear in the film, wielded by one of Gabriel's henchmen.
The screen to the far left of all of Warlock's hacking screens has the auction website eBay open with a Boba Fett action figure being watched. Later, in Warlock's basement sanctuary we see a large cardboard cut-out of Boba Fett, reflecting Kevin Smith's Star Wars fandom.
According to the files that Thomas Gabriel pulls up on Holly Gennero, her driver's license records list her address as the fictitious 9975 Geyser Way East, San Francisco, California, 9424- (the smaller picture on her license obscures the final ZIP code digit).
The exterior of the Social Security Administration building in Woodlawn, Maryland, is Diamond Ranch High School, located in Pomona, California. In the original Die Hard, John McClane tells his wife he is staying with his friend Cappy Roberts in Pomona, California.
This is the first Die Hard film not to have an R rating. Bruce Willis was not happy about the studio's decision to have a PG-13 movie but later admitted that he loved the finished result, even preferring it to the first in the series.
Bruce Willis had to be briefly hospitalized when a stunt double accidentally kicked him in the face, lacerating him just above the eye. He required stitches, though he dismissed the injury as being no big deal at the time.
The three top billed cast members, Bruce Willis, Justin Long and Timothy Olyphant, all have connections to Jennifer Aniston, Bruce played in a few episodes, season six, of "Friends" ('94-'04), as Rachel's boyfriend; Justin played her assistant in "The Break Up" (2006); and Timothy was the lead guitar player in the band she managed in the film "Rock Star" (2001).
Because of Len Wiseman and Bruce Willis' insistence on using practical effects as much as possible instead of an over-reliance on CGI, post-production on the film only took 16 weeks instead of the usual 26.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Director Len Wiseman credits actor Timothy Olyphant (Thomas Gabriel) with coming up with the idea of how McClane kills Gabriel. In order to keep it a secret, the scene was not included in the film's shooting script.
The film's climax originally involved McClane racing alongside an exploding gas pipeline on a motorcycle with Matt in a sidecar. The idea evolved into Gabriel trying to kill McClane and Matt by routing gas to their location through the pipelines.
When Lucy informs John McClane that there are five villains left, she actually miscounts because there are six: Thomas Gabriel, Trey, Emerson, Rand, the truck driver (Robinson) and the one that would later guard her in the Hazmat truck. This is probably the reason, that after killing four of them, McClane was not aware of Emerson's presence in the warehouse at the end, until he is shot by him.