In honor of Rickman, let us savor some of the choicest quotes from his role as the East German terrorist of Die Hard. Though he was always doomed to be vanquished by the modern-day cowboy John McClane, he managed to score a few philosophical victories along the way.
When they first talk to one another, over the phone, Gruber asks, “You know my name but who are you? Just another American who saw too many movies as a child? Another orphan of a bankrupt culture who thinks he’s John Wayne? Rambo? Marshal Dillon?” Gruber is right, of course, that’s exactly what McClane is, a pure product of a culture where identity is determined by what you have watched and consumed. But since this is a Hollywood movie, the only alternative to this entertaining if spiritually barren universe is that represented by Gruber himself: nihilism tinged with violence.
But even more damning is the line he delivers to arch-capitalist Joseph Takagi of Nakatomi Corporation shortly before his death: “Nice suit. John Phillips, London. I have two myself. Rumor has it Arafat buys his there.” The inimical subtext is that Takagi’s wealth and luxurious lifestyle amount to nothing in the face of death, which is undoubtedly true. The brilliance of the line is to throw in Arafat, whose function here is to be a symbol of terrorism, as if to say: Your view of the world is just as empty as mine.