Nobody really knows how to “make it” as a writer, especially when the only advice that people ever give just amounts to suggesting that you keep at it, and eventually things will either work out or you’ll die miserable. (Not that you won’t die miserable even if you become a writer, but it’s a different kind of miserable.) That goes double for Hollywood, where countless really good scripts and ideas go wasted every year in favor of another crowd-pleasing superhero movie or powerful indie drama, leaving undiscovered writers with nowhere to turn.
The trick is that this works both ways, and nobody knows which wacky stunts will actually get attention from one of the big studios, so sometimes you just have to go for broke and buy a full-page ad in The Hollywood Reporter to try and pitch your idea for a Die Hard sequel. That may sound like a very specific example, but that’s because an independent film writer and producer named Eric D. Wilkinson literally just did that exact thing. Wilkinson’s ad was noticed by people on Twitter, and it’s framed as an open letter to Bruce Willis, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, and Len Wiseman. In it, Wilkinson explains that he’s a huge Die Hard fan, and when he heard about the plans to make the next sequel an origin story for John McClane, he wanted to come up with an idea for how to make that work.
That idea is officially titled Die Hard: Year One, and rather than make you read the whole ad, we’ll just give you a synopsis here: It opens with a 60-year-old McClane being shipped off to a federal prison for reasons the audience doesn’t know yet. It then flashes back to the ‘70s, where young McClane is investigating the murder of a little boy. Because of his propensity for breaking the rules, McClane accidentally lets his only suspect get away, and the trail goes cold. Fast forward 34 years, and while McClane is in Russia during the events of A Good Day To Die Hard, the body of that suspect is discovered along with DNA evidence pointing to—dun dun dun—John McClane.
Upon returning to the U.S., McClane is arrested and convicted of the murder, at which point he’s sent to a huge prison full of super-criminals—most notably a pair of Middle-Eastern terrorists. McClane’s wife then finds some evidence that proves he didn’t do it, but when she goes to the prison to show it to him, a riot breaks out and the prison goes on lockdown. Eventually, the rioters take over the prison and capture a bunch of hostages, at which point it’s revealed that the riot was part of a scheme to break the terrorists out so they could pull off some kind of attack in New York. This is where it gets good, so we’ll just quote Wilkinson’s whole line: “However, the one thing [the] terrorists didn’t count on was the one man who is always in the wrong place at the wrong time…and when it comes to John McClane, old habits die hard.”
Assuming you’re a film producer or Bruce Willis, Wilkinson included a phone number and e-mail address where he can be reached. Sadly, he did not include a street address where a truck full of money could be delivered to him, but he’ll probably give you one if you call.