- "I'm an exceptional thief, Mrs. McClane. And since I'm moving up to kidnapping, you should be more polite."
- ―Hans Gruber [src]
He was the mastermind behind the Nakatomi Plaza heist, where he used a gang of heavily armed terrorists to take over the company Christmas Party and attempt to steal $640 million in negotiable bearer bank bonds inside the building's vault. Gruber disguised this as a terrorist incident to distract the police from their robbery. Hans met his end after underestimating the courage of one John McClane, who, despite being outmanned 13 to 1, managed to save the hostages of Nakatomi.
The character has since been listed on one of cinema's best villains of all time.
Not much is known about Gruber's early life except that he enjoyed making models in his youth and in later life was a member of the radical West German Volksfrei movement. However, Gruber was later expelled from the movement, presumably for being too violent and extreme with his terrorism methods. Gruber later used his past affiliation with the movement as a means to further fuel his ruse of a terrorist takeover. He presumably still maintains these cold war era extremist viewpoints but abandoned them in favor of capitalist spoils.
Arrival at Nakatomi PlazaEdit
As mentioned before, Gruber was originally a member of the German terrorist organization the Volksfrei movement, until he was expelled. Now only concerned with personal gain, he concocted an elaborate robbery scheme using a terrorist pretense as a cover to manipulate the authorities in his plan. He led his gang of 12 thieves to Los Angeles on Christmas Eve where a party of employees was being held to take control of the Nakatomi Tower and steal the $640 million in negotiable bearer bonds that was being held in a high-security vault, protected by various codes in addition to one last code which was electromagnetically sealed.
The gang arrived in a Pacific Courier truck, while Karl and Theo, two of his gang, took out the Guards manning the desk. Theo then locked out all elevator motion from the 29th floor downwards using the computers. Hans then locked the front entrance. The gang cut off all phone lies and arrived at the party, making their presence known by firing their guns. Hans then furthered his act as a freedom-fighter by making a short speech about the Nakatomi corporation's legacy of greed around the globe. He then flaunted his knowledge of the president of Nakatomi trading, Joseph Takagi, in order to draw him out. Once he had Takagi, he led the president of trading to a board room where he then made his true intentions known.
Still believing him to be a terrorist, Takagi continued to make assumptions about the purpose of the takeover to which Gruber impatiently told him to sit down. He then continued to question Takagi over the code. After repeatedly denying that he knew the code, Takagi bravely asserted that they were just going to have to kill him. Unfortunately, Gruber agreed, and killed Takagi by a single shot to the head from his weapon of choice, a Heckler & Koch P7M13 semi-automatic pistol. Gruber ordered Theo, his technical expert, to break through the locks on the vault. Theo reminded Gruber that the final lock is powered by circuits that cannot be cut locally. Gruber promised to handle the last lock.
Gruber was unaware, however, that observing them through the glass door from the outside was John McClane, who had slipped through the hands of the terrorists. John had stopped over at the tower to pick up his wife Holly. After killing Karl's brother, Tony, John used Tony's walkie-talkie to radio for help. This resulted in a cop car being sent over. The officer, Al Powell, did a quick check over, and left. John saw this and after having dispatched two more of the terrorists threw the body onto Powell's car. These were the first omens of the trouble to come.
While acquiring a two-way radio, C4 explosives, and detonators from the body of one terrorist, McClane explained the situation via the two-way radio as the police, led by Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson, arrived. The police sent in a SWAT team and an armored vehicle. John and Powell aware unable to prevent the SWAT team from being ambushed, but John managed to kill the terrorists attacking the SWAT team. One of Holly's coworkers, Harry Ellis, tried to negotiate with Gruber and John for the return of the detonators. John helplessly tells Ellis that Gruber would kill him to which the terrorist leader proves when Ellis fails. The FBI arrived, and took control from the police. They ordered the power to the building shut down, which deactivates the vault's final lock as Gruber had intended. Theo ransacks the now-open vault, loading the bearer bonds into an ambulance to be used as their getaway vehicle.
John continued to sneak through the building to kill the terrorists. When he found Gruber working at the explosives planted on the roof, Gruber passed himself off as an escaped hostage. McClane appeared to let down his guard, and gave Gruber a gun; when Gruber attempted to fire the weapon, however, it is discovered that there were no bullets in the gun. As this happened, Gruber's men appeared from an elevator and fired at John, who was forced to flee, leaving behind the detonators. The roof was rigged to explode with the detonators, and Gruber lured the FBI into the trap by asking for helicopter transport for him and his men to Los Angeles International Airport in exchange for the hostages; Gruber planned to use the roof explosion to make the authorities believe him to be dead and allow him to escape with the bonds. As the helicopters travelled to the scene, Gruber observed a television news story from investigative reporter Richard Thornburg that Lucy mentions that Holly Gennero is John's wife. With the helicopter nearing with Special Agent Johnson and Agent Johnson on board, Gruber ordered the hostages to the roof, taking personal control over Holly.
DeathEditJohn arrived at the roof, dealt with the terrorists escorting the hostages, and used his Heckler and Koch MP5 to scare the hostages back downstairs before Hans detonated the C4 and the roof exploded, which unfortunately engulfed the FBI helicopters. Gruber's plan continued to fall apart when Argyle stopped Theo from escaping in the getaway ambulance by knocking him unconscious when he rammed the truck with his limousine. After getting back into the skyscraper by shooting through the window, he realized that the remaining two terrorists, Gruber Eddie were holding Holly. He quickly taped his pistol to his upper back with Christmas gift wrap tape and walked into the vault armed with his empty MP5. Gruber put his pistol to Holly's head and told John to surrender his machine gun, having finally gotten the drop on the cop. John did as he was told, and put his hands behind his back, but used the feint to grab his pistol and shoot Eddie in the forehead and Gruber in the shoulder. The bullet shot through a window, cracking it. Still holding Holly, Gruber staggers backwards, wounded badly from the gunshot, and crashes through the broken window. Gruber grabs onto Holly's watch and drags her to the floor, hanging on desperately to avoid falling off the building. John rushes to help Holly, who is inches away from falling to her death, desperately attempting to unclasp the watch while an infuriated Gruber slowly levels his P7 at John with the intention of ending his life. Luckily, before Gruber can shoot the cop and take Holly with him, John unclasps the butter hook, and a shocked Gruber plummets to his death on the pavement of the plaza, 30 stories down.
Gruber, on the night of the Nakatomi Christmas party, appeared a very well groomed man. He wore a black suit, a white shirt, and a red tie. Due to his knowledge of Takagi's expensive suit, it is likely his own suit was quite expensive. He had brown, though slightly graying hair that was combed to the right. In the file photo used in the news broadcast, detailing the Nakatomi takeover, Hans did, however, have extremely messy hair and baggy, dirty clothes.
PersonalityEditGruber preferred to switch between a casual persona and an intimidating one in order to surprise people with his next move, as he had many different tricks up his sleeve. This is the main dilemma of the film, as Gruber and John are both trying to stay one step ahead of each other in a battle of wits. Hans had a casual attitude to killing as shown when he murdered Takagi and Ellis and intended to murder the staff of Nakatomi which included a pregnant woman whom he was aware of. As shown when dealing with Holly, he also had a curt attitude to people whom he did not know. This is furthered by his apparent jokey nature with Karl and Theo, two people, he presumably knew well and liked. An intelligent man, Gruber liked to flaunt his knowledge and boast of his classical education, as shown during his conversation with Takagi. He also had knowledge in business and financial information, as well as being able to determine the type of a suit just by looking at it. Due to the horrible things he has done, Gruber was not well liked by law-abiding characters such as John or Holly. Even in the third film, Simon Gruber agrees with John that his brother was an 'asshole'. He was also the brother of Simon Gruber and was likely disliked by him, as he worked with the West German Volksfrei movement, while Simon was an "obscure colonel from the East German army".
It is implied that Gruber is far more dangerous than more people let on. He was most likely expelled from the Volksfrei movement for being too extremist and although he always maintained his calm persona, had absolutely no problem with killing innocent people and would do so if necessary. Hans, although not sadistic, had a previous history of terrorism affiliations, and although he didn't appear to be a killer upon his first glance, he is extremely rude, cold and unpredictable; far more so than any of the other terrorists in the film series, possibly with the exception of Colonel Stuart.
Despite using the "terrorist" act to hide his ultimate plan, which is the heist of the Plaza's earnings, Gruber still is committing acts of terror by going forward with said plan. In the end scheme of things, it's likely that Gruber doesn't care what other people think of him as long as he gets to run away rich as can be.
Due in no small part to Alan Rickman's performance, the character has had enduring popularity and is constantly voted one of the top villains of all time. Due to this, Gruber is often seen as John McClane's nemesis and the quintessential Die Hard villain.
Indeed, due to his acclaimed performance, Alan Rickman was often typecast as villains following this film, a role he has, in later years, swerved away from, preferring to play more complex characters, like Severus Snape in Harry Potter. The role left a huge impact on Rickman's life.
Gruber is often voted Alan Rickman's most popular role, along with the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Alexande Dane in Galaxy Quest, Severus Snape in Harry Potter and Judge Turpin in Sweeney Todd.
|Die Hard Characters|
|John McClane - Holly Gennero - Lucy McClane - John McClane, Jr. - Al Powell - Richard Thornburg|
|Die Hard||Hans Gruber - Karl - Theo|
|Die Hard 2||Colonel Stuart - Leslie Barnes - General Ramon Esperanza - Carmine Lorenzo - Major Grant|
|Die Hard with a Vengeance||Simon Gruber - Zeus Carver - Katya|
|Live Free or Die Hard||Thomas Gabriel - Matt Farrell - Mai Linh - Warlock|
|A Good Day to Die Hard||Yuri Komarov - Irina Komarov - Viktor Chagarin - Alik - Mike Collins|