As 6,000 fans waited for the start of “Live Free or Die Hard” at the Gotham preem on Friday, many rose to their feet and faced the back of Radio City Music Hall, searching for their action hero, John McClane. “Where is he?” one wailed.
At 9:15 p.m., more than an hour after the screening was to start, the indestructible cop arrived in the guise of Bruce Willis and the lights finally went down.
“It’s great to be here at Radio City, in the official home of John McClane!” director Len Wiseman called from the stage. Willis then took the mic and ran through brief cast introductions and acknowledged the 500 off-duty policemen in attendance. The event was part fan convention, part revival meeting and part old-school Friday-night film spectacle. Beer flowed at the concession stands; applause came early and often. The adroit resurrection of the franchise after 12 years in hibernation seemed, by Hollywood’s diminished standards, somewhat miraculous.
“Tonight, you felt all that affection for John McClane,” said Tom Rothman, co-chairman of the Fox studio. “This is a ‘movie’ movie. In a CGI summer, this is pure analog action.”
After the movie, as the clock hurtled toward midnight, the massive invite list at Radio City slimmed down for a party at tony Times Square karaoke club Spotlight Live. Joining Willis for his victory lap were 400 guests, among them Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore, Kate Beckinsale and Fox production chief Hutch Parker.