It’s been 29 years since Die Hard exploded into theaters, inspiring any number of arguments about whether it counts as a Christmas movie, plus a whole genre of “Die Hard, but on a _______” action films. Now, the film’s co-screenwriter, Steven E. De Souza, has revealed the answer to one of the film’s most nagging questions: What tips Bruce Willis’ John McClane off that “Bill Clay”—a.k.a. Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber—isn’t really the terrified office worker he pretends to be?
It all comes down to a series of deleted scenes, says De Souza, which served to establish that the faux-terrorists were all wearing fancy timepieces. In the original cut of the movie, Gruber and his team all synchronize Tag Heuer watches at the start of their heist; once McClane starts taking bad guys out, he quickly realizes that they’re all similarly equipped. In the original script, John notices “Bill” is wearing the exact same watch when he hands him a cigarette, which is why he hands him an empty gun a minute later in order to lure him into dropping the ruse.
Unfortunately, all the watch bits were ultimately cut out of the film to cover another continuity error: The ambulance Gruber’s crew intend to use to escape the Nakatomi building was a late addition to the movie, and thus wasn’t present in the earlier “synchronize your watches” scene. Director John McTiernan ordered the exchange—and all other watch talk in the movie—cut short to hide the error, and thus a billion questions about John McClane’s superhuman bullshit-detecting instincts were born.