Back to One: Directors – John McTiernan

Yippee ki-yay, motherfuckers!

One of my favorite directors is John McTiernan. He hasn’t made anything in a few years so a lot of you may not know who he is. He actually served time in federal prison because of the Anthony Pellicano wire tapping scandal – where he hired Pellicano to wiretap a producer of his least promising flick, Rollerball, the 2002 crap version. But, back in the late 80’s /early 90’s when he was at the top of his game, he made a trio of movies that were the pinnacle of action films. Predator(1987), Die Hard(1988) and The Hunt for Red October(1990) still hold up today as a master class in ratcheting up tension and building suspense all the way to the end. He likes to keep the camera moving and there’s even a lot of energy in the way he frames his static shots, which just keeps the story moving forward at a steady almost unrelenting pace.

The three stories couldn’t be any different – Predator was part sci fi action/slasher flick that helped make Arnold Schwarzenegger a bonafide action hero. McTiernan let each actor have some good character moments and the story moves along at a great pace. There are some really surprisingly beautiful shots and it feels like the camera is constantly moving – giving the movie a lot of energy. It’s a great action film if not a little gruesome in parts and it’s a product of the 80’s so some of the dialog is off color to say the least.

Die Hard is probably McTiernan’s best known film. It introduced us to the amazing Alan Rickman and made Bruce Willis a film star. It’s actually based on a book called Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp, which I didn’t know until today. The director of photography is Jan De Bont – who became the director of one of my other fave films – Speed. McTiernan and De Bont didn’t storyboard the film, opting to decide on shots on the day – which probably was a pain in the ass for the crew, but helped the overall feeling of creativity and spontaneity in the scenes. It starts out slow, but becomes a thrill a minute roller coaster ride til the very end.

The Hunt For Red October was the first film in the Jack Ryan franchise from the Tom Clancy novels. Alec Baldwin got to play him first and he’s actually my favorite. I love submarine movies so even if this movie was crap, I would probably still think it was awesome. This film is more of a psychological cat and mouse game than out and out action piece. But, McTiernan builds the tension so subtly that by the time Jack gets onto the Dallas – the US sub trailing the Red October – the story is moving at such a break neck speed – that you can barely catch your breath.

So, Deadsplinterers – do you have any favorite directors and what is it about their films you like? As always, thanks for your support and stopping by.

So, last week everyone was correct – JBJ was never late and never made the crew sit around. He was just a great person all the way around. He did like to wear his pants super tight though.

This week’s poll:

Which one of these things did an actor who’s name is similar to Dom Bruise* do to me on the set of a film with a title similar to Paternity Retort?
18 votes · 18 answers


  1. i quite like luc besson…dude knows how to make a popcorn flick..but dont expect much more of an indept analysis than that…i dont typically think too hard about my movies..i just likes what i likes
    anyways taxi is one of my favourite movies

    (partially coz i too ride like a lunatic..but mostly coz its really funny..and has some blues brothers like police pile ups..just…in french)

    • Is that the guy that did The Fifth Element? He gets a vote from me, too. This is way out of my realm, I usually have no clue who is directing the movie. No wait! I lie!
      Fucking John Waters is my favorite all-time director and Divine is my favorite actor.

    • I love The Professional and loooove The Fifth Element. I actually really liked Valerian even though I don’t know why people cast Cara Delevingne.

    • …taxi had me in stitches the first time I saw it…& still made me laugh last time I watched it…apart from anything else the running gag about why he spends so much of the movie in a hurry is something I think would get worn out in a hollywood-style movie but somehow works in a french one

      …& although I did like leon a lot I think jean reno  as a grumpy but self-satisfied italian free diver in le grand bleu might be my favourite role of his?

        • …the long cut is better (imho) but it’s old…jean reno is basically a supporting character since it’s really centred around another free diver…it’s also not as funny as taxi…it does have some bits I think of as funny but I don’t know how much of the dialog would be as funny in translation…so ymmv & all that?

          • i should be okay with it…my spoken french is crap but i understand it pretty well
            anyways from the snippet i checked out on youtube its up my alley 🙂

    • I love Taxi, 5th Element, Leon, Banlieue 13, The Transporter, Taken, but then along came Lucy, Valerian, and Anna.
      I can’t ignore the sexual misconduct and rape allegations (which I believe). So I won’t be supporting him anymore.

      • …lucy was kind of bad enough I sort of enjoyed it in an odd way?

        …somehow hadn’t come across the allegations you mentioned, though…so that sucks to learn…as does the fact that it’s sad how credible that would be

      • I wasn’t expecting much, but found Valerian entertaining, but I had absolutely no sympathy/approval of the main characters, they were selfish, negligent, monsters.  The special effects were neat, and although I haven’t read the source material, I think there are clear echoes of what he wanted to do in The 5th Element.
        Lucy was attrocious, and a great disappointment – I would have thought it would be nearly impossible, even if intentionally trying, to make a bad movie involving Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, and Luc Besson, but Lucy exists…
        I haven’t heard of the assault allegations.  I’m disappointed, but I guess not terribly surprised.  I’ll have to decide if I want to see some of his other stuff I’ve missed on streaming services or not, but I certainly won’t be seeing any of his future work in the theaters…  So, thanks for bearing that bad news.

    • I’m going to bet this was the basis for the bad(-looking, I didn’t watch it) American remake in the early Aughts. It starred Jimmy Fallon, Gisele, and Queen Latifah. It had a billboard on the West Side Hwy, and that’s all I needed to know it would be terrible. 

      • …yeah…I never did watch that…the original might not be to everyone’s taste…but for me that was about as good an idea as remaking get cater with stallone as the lead?

    • I loved La Femme Nikita, The Professional, and The Fifth Element.  enjoyed some of his other stuff.
      But Lucy was a major disappointment.  what the hell happened?

      • …no idea…but once morgan freeman started talking about the untapped potential of the “unused” portion of the human brain I & the people I was watching it with settled in for our own little version of mystery science theatre 3000?

  2. Stanley Kubrick is a favorite, the Shining was so well directed even if you don’t think it lived up to the book, as was Clockwork Orange & Dr. Strangelove.  Blake Edwards had a great run with the Pink Panther movies, especially A Shot in the Dark (the nudist colony scene is amazing).  I loved 10 also.

  3. I love the Honest Trailer for Die Hard where the narrator spends about 30 seconds gushing and then stops and says “wait, you thought we were going to crap over Die Hard? This movie is freaking perfect.”

  4. I don’t often latch onto films for a particular director, so I had to start looking up some of my favorite titles and one name that kept showing up over and over again is Rob Reiner.  I mean, This is Spinal Tap, The Princess Bride, The American President and When Harry Met Sally alone are enough to land someone on the All Time Greatest list.

    Can I select All of the Above for the poll?  I can see him doing all of those.

    • Every single one of the poll options actually happened – just not necessarily with him. I’ll spill the beans next week.
      I think Rob Reiner is a fantastic director. I mean Spinal Tap and the Princess Bride are two of the most iconic films out there. Early in my career out in LA – I worked on one of his films and have a pretty good Rob Reiner story – that I don’t have time to get into now. Maybe I can make a separate post. 

        • I’ve never really said. Since I talk about actors and films I’ve been on – it would be super easy to figure out who I am if I tell my actual position from IMDb or even a google search. I’m the head of one of the creative departments – I worked my way up from being a PA. I’m not a very good writer but I actually went to college for journalism – which has absolutely nothing to do with what I do now. 
          All of the big films I reference – I did when I worked on set. Now that I’m the head of my department – I mostly do tv with an occasional feature from time to time. I trust you guys – but since I’ve been telling some behind the scenes dirt – I’m a little hesitant to have my name attached to this stuff. It’s not that I don’t want to tell but my position usually gets hired by a studio exec so I don’t want a google search to cost me a job. If I could post and delete – then I could tell you guys what I do. I am not remotely a big a name in my field, but back in the day (90’s to around 2003)  – I did work on some big films and have a few really good stories from my time on set.

          • I think this is interesting and super curious about your job, but I think I can appreciate the risks involved in regards to doxxing and such.  I enjoy these anonymous anecdotes, and don’t want you to risk your reputation or your liveliehood.
            Not much else to say, just someone who enjoys reading your posts, and I wanted to be vocal in my support of you being safe and cautious.

  5. Phew, can’t pick one, there are just too many good answers, though I will say that I think Christopher Nolan is this generation’s Spielberg — though more cerebral and sans the sappy sentiment Spielberg always brought.

    So I’ll go in a different direction and pick a new director I like a lot: Ryan Coogler. He’s done some great stuff over the past few years and I’m really looking forward to what he does next. 

  6. Moving away from the Western canon, I’ll highlight Korean Wave directors Bong Joon Ho (Parasite, Memories of Murder, Mother, The Host), Park Chan Wook (Oldboy, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, and he’s adapting The Sympathizer into a limited series), Lee Chang Dong (Burning, Peppermint Candy, Secret Sunshine), and Kim Ki Duk (3-Iron; Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring). And, of course, Wong Kar Wai (In the Mood for Love, Chungking Express, 2046). 
    I also loved Shane Carruth’s two films, Primer and Upstream Color. But I recently heard he was abusive and stalky to his former partner and co-star, Amy Seimetz, to the point she had to file a restraining order.  Eeep. 

  7. It takes me a while to figure this stuff out, and I think my older favorites are mostly dormant, and I haven’t figured out if/who my current favorites are…
    I really liked Tom Tykwer’s stuff (Run Lola Run, The Princess and the Warrior, Winter Sleepers, some others I can’t remember but liked…)
    Maybe too niche, but I also really liked everything I’ve seen of Hayao Miazaki – I especially like how he can portray conflict without oversimplifying it into “good vs evil” – especially in movies targeted towards kids.  And, it doesn’t hurt that he often has a environmental/ecological message on the side.
    Mostly due to the people I was around and the culture I was in, I got thoroughly annoyed at The Matrix, but it’s enjoyable, and I’ve at least enjoyed watching most of the stuff the Wachowski sisters have put out, and really loved Sense8
    I’m sure I’ll think of all the ones I’m forgetting tomorrow or something…

  8. @Lymond question for the movie maven. Why does Hollywood keep remaking the same old movies over and over? I refused to watch star is born, been there, done that, not even an interesting story. How many dalmation movies can there be?

    • @Sedivilc – I really think it’s either fear of failure and/or lack of vision. With a remake – the suits think that there’s already a built in audience so why not add a new younger audience by casting whoever is considered cool for this generation. Also, the studio probably owns the property – which is also part of the lack of vision.
      Studio execs – a lot of the time are just accountants who have worked their way to the top. They’re not from the creative departments – so they aren’t creative in their thinking. It’s all about what is going to make the most money. I can’t tell you how many times one of us in the creative end comes up with something amazing – only to get shot down by the studio.    I have found that most crappy movies are because the studio(which can be a committee or can be one lone person) starts mucking things up with re writes or re casting or just a lot of opinions on anything from the script to on set things like props and costumes.
      Take Wild Wild West – I started on that film in very early preproduction. The first script I read was hilarious. As we went along though – each new draft got less and less funny til we ended up with that crap movie. Also, Barry Sonnenfeld, the director, loved Will Smith – so he would incorporate any thing Will said into whatever we were doing that day on set, but if Kevin Kline came up with anything – Barry would just roll his eyes and ignore him. I like Will, he’s a nice guy, but Kevin was really funny and if Barry had used some of Kevin’s stuff – I think the film would’ve been a little bit better. We even did four weeks of reshoots and that didn’t help it. 

      • …I don’t know if there’s anything to it but a friend once suggested the awfulness of the remakes was (at least in some cases) supposedly a feature not a bug…their theory (& I’m not sure if it was grounded in anything much but they had spent some time living in LA so it seems like they picked it up in an appropriate locale if nothing else) was that when a property is old enough it becomes public domain…but if the studio that owns the rights makes a new version then they effectively renew the copyright to the original on account of It being the same title…& if the new one sucks then there’s a fair chance a few people will look out the original & the studio gets their cut

        …it struck me that the sums involved didn’t seem likely to be enough to justify the expense of making a new version…but the whole not-letting-it-fall-into-public-domain thing sounded petty enough to be true?

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