Wesley Snipes came close to landing a pivotal role in the first Die Hard, and it’s one that would have changed the complexion of the film altogether.
According to actor Reginald VelJohnson, who played Al Powell in the first two Die Hard movies, Snipes was in the running for the part of Powell, along with Gene Hackman.
VelJohnson offered up the revelation to Slashfilm at a special 30th anniversary screening of the first movie. According to VelJohnson, it was his audition that resulted in the writers changing the character of Powell altogether.
“I was living in New York at the time and I went in to audition,” VelJohnson said. “There was a lot of well-known actors that were there. I don’t want to name the people there, Wesley Snipes, but I was desperate.”
Prior to the casting call, the plan had been to have an A-list actor play the part of Powell. They envisioned the character more as a gruff police veteran rather than the haunted, ordinary joe, patrolman VelJohnson ended up playing.
Ultimately the strength of VelJohnson’s audition, coupled with other factors, saw producers opt for something a little different.
“The person they had before, they told me it was Gene Hackman,” VelJohnson explained. “I heard he had the role but couldn’t do it, so they decided to cast an unknown for the part and I was right there.”
VelJohnson also revealed that Joel Silver wanted Powell to feature more in Die Hard 2, but his hectic schedule on the hit sitcom Family Matters prevented his part from being anything more than a cameo.
“I must say, Joel Silver was very angry with me because I couldn’t be in the whole second film because I was doing Family Matters at the time,” VelJohnson said.
“He said, ‘That show is never going to work.’ I said, ‘Well, you know, I’m contracted to do this TV show.’ I was only in the second film for one little scene. I was very upset I wasn’t in the whole film because I wanted to be in the second film, but I couldn’t.”
The addition of Snipes or even Hackman to the cast would have completely shifted the focus of the movie. It may have improved it but, then again, it may have detracted from the action in the Nakatomi Plaza.
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