30 Curious Facts About Movies

'Die Hard,' starring Frank Sinatra?
'Die Hard,' starring Frank Sinatra? / Twentieth Century Fox

It’s not so surprising that the role of John McClane in Die Hard (1988) was reportedly offered to actors like Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford, and Don Johnson. But what would compel producers to offer the part to a septuagenarian Frank Sinatra?

The answer, as we discuss in the latest episode of The List Show, has to do with the film’s source material and the idiosyncracies of Hollywood contracts. Die Hard is based on Roderick Thorp’s 1979 novel, which was a sequel to his 1966 novel The Detective, which was adapted into a 1968 film starring Frank Sinatra. As such, 20th Century Fox was contractually obligated to first offer the role of John McClane in Die Hard to Sinatra. According to the film’s screenwriter, Steven E. de Souza, Sinatra said “I’m too old and too rich to act any more.” That turned out to be fortunate for Bruce Willis and action (and Christmas?) movie enthusiasts everywhere. 

That odd casting what-if is just one of 30 fascinating facts about the history of movies covered in Mental Floss’s latest video, produced to celebrate the release of our newest book, The Curious Movie Buff: A Miscellany of Fantastic Films from the Past 50 Years.

You’ll learn which legendary film managed to get a PG rating despite double-digit “F-bombs,” how Bend it Like Beckham (2002) made history in North Korea, and why Baz Luhrmann was committed to “smashing” what he called “Club Shakespeare” with his 1996 adaptation of Romeo and Juliet.

Looking for a new movie to watch, or at least a movie that’s new to you? Mental Floss’s new book,The Curious Movie Buff, offers behind-the-scenes details and amazing facts about some of the greatest movies of the past half-century. Find it at your favorite place to buy books, or online right here.

And subscribe to Mental Floss on YouTube for more fun facts and interesting lists.