Why Die Hard With A Vengeance's Bank Heist Caught The Real FBI's Attention

There is nothing more painful than a predictable heist in a movie. When a bunch of characters try to steal something with a plan both unimaginative or overdone — because you've seen it in a dozen other movies — it really stalls the plot. The thieves feel neither competent or formidable, which in turn, lowers the stakes for the whole movie. A great heist movie needs to remain grounded in realism while also continuing to surprise everyone from the characters trying to catch the criminals to the audience to ... the Federal Bureau of Investigation?

It's true that "Die Hard with a Vengeance" isn't simply a heist movie. Just as the first "Die Hard" disguised a robbery behind terrorism and hostages, the film's antagonist Simon Gruber (Jeremy Irons) pretends to seek revenge over the death of his brother Hans through a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with John McClane (Bruce Willis). All the while, he's distracting the authorities from his real target: $140 billion in gold bouillon. But Simon's plans originated in the mind of screenwriter Jonathan Hensleigh — which is probably why he was the first one questioned when the FBI turned up during pre-production for the film.

A screenwriter walks into a vault...

Both the heist and the filming of "Die Hard with a Vengeance" were ambitious affairs, if only because they involved so much of New York City. Simon holds an entire city hostage, sending McClane and shop owner/worried father Zeus Carver — played by Samuel L. Jackson, aka the self-sustaining best part of this movie — on a wild goose chase. Over the course of the film, a department store and subway are blown up, the duo dodge pedestrians driving through Central Park, a dam is destroyed and aqueduct flooded, oh, and the entire city's police department starts a school-by-school bomb search. 

But as reported by Uproxx, when certain officials looked over Hensleigh's script, the one thing that really concerned them was the writer's knowledge of a certain vault — or more specifically — how to get into it:

"When the script was being vetted by all the authorities in New York, obviously the New York Police Department had to read the script for a number of reasons. One day I got a call from the FBI. They were extremely concerned about how I knew so much about the Federal Reserve, and how the Federal Reserve's vaults were really close to a subway spur, and logistically about the aqueduct tunnel, etc. I said, 'Well guys, the reason why I know what the vault looks like in the Federal Reserve is because they let us down there. They showed it to us. The reason why I know that a subway spur is very close to the vault and that you could actually tunnel through it is because they showed us the plans and the layout. And the reason why I know there is an aqueduct tunnel coming down through Manhattan that you can drives these trucks through is because I read about it in the New York Times Sunday Magazine. I really don't have any kind of secret proprietary knowledge that I shouldn't have.'"

Imagine the face-palm whatever agents questioning Hensleigh might've given themselves after his answer. It's just both hilarious and a little bizarre that he penned a heist that put the FBI on alert with just a magazine and a "May I see the vault, please?" In fact, it's not too different from the way Simon himself enters the bank under the pretense of a currency exchange, but not even he makes it to the vault without some help. If the Grubers have a third brother, he should plan a heist under the guise of a screenwriter trying to get accurate details for his movie — that's what gets you on the vault floor.

Die Hard with a change to FBI security

So you're probably asking yourself: if the FBI was so concerned over the heist in "Die Hard with a Vengeance," does that mean they truly thought it was plausible? Could someone actually have planned a heist like the one in the film and gotten away with it? As they say life imitates art — and according to Hensleigh at least, that includes the FBI taking some pointers from the film:

"This one scene, our FBI guy said, 'You know it sounds crazy, but somebody could actually pull this off. We're going to actually have a sit-down [meeting] and talk about how we can improve the facility so that it could never happen.' That pleased me, actually."

You read that right, the FBI had a meeting over a heist in a "Die Hard" movie and made improvements on security to prevent the plot of an action movie from really happening. We're not sure if it's impressive or a little unsettling, but at the very least the window for breaking into the Federal Reserve building in New York using the plot from "Die Hard with a Vengreance" is most likely closed. Though we imagine any would-be thieves modeling their heist after only a movie might be putting all their eggs in the wrong basket.