How ‘Die Hard With A Vengeance’ Caused The FBI To Re-Think The Federal Reserve’s Security

05.19.15 3 years ago 21 Comments
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Twenty years ago today, one of the best (and arguably last) films in the Die Hard franchise was released in theaters. Die Hard With a Vengeance featured the return of John McClane (Bruce Willis), again separated from his wife Holly and the kids after moving back to New York City. Throw in a random bystander-turned-partner in Zeus Carver (Samuel L. Jackson) and a faux-terrorist plot to rob the Federal Reserve Bank of all its gold bullion, and you’ve got yourself the franchise’s Lethal Weapon-inspired “buddy cop” installment.

I grew up watching the Die Hard trilogy with my brothers. (It became something of a Christmas tradition to marathon all three.) But it wasn’t until the 2007 release of the Die Hard Collection on DVD that I became fascinated with the movie’s major set piece — the robbery of the Federal Reserve Bank. That’s when I first listened to the commentary, which featured screenwriter Jonathan Hensleigh’s story about his being questioned by the FBI regarding his intimate knowledge of the Federal Reserve and the antagonist’s methods for robbing it.

Sure, whenever the film airs on AMC, its Story Notes program mentions it in the trivia blurb. The film’s IMDB page includes a brief mention in the “Trivia” section, too. But there’s nothing quite like the full story from Hensleigh himself.

Just read Hensleigh’s description of the “incursion into the basement” scene, after Simon and his goons take out the guards and the bank representative in the lobby:

This is now the incursion into the basement of the Federal Reserve. These are Jack De Govia’s designs. All of this was built on a stage — these cages here, with the gold behind it. This is very, very much the way the basement vault of the Federal Reserve in New York actually looks. This actually looks a little sexier, a little more interesting, but it’s kind of like that. It’s kind of low-tech hallways. It’s not all chrome or stainless steel. It just looks like regular hallways and corridors. The vault itself has those cages. It really does look like that.

His knowledge of what the Federal Reserve Bank’s basement vaults look like, or at least his confidence in the matter, seems circumspect. Sure, Hensleigh is a professional writer and filmmaker, and the more research he and his ilk do, the better. But don’t you think something like a government bank would have better control over its layouts?

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