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Ryan Dean Tucker turns love of ‘Die Hard’ into one man show

UPDATED: Thu., Jan. 4, 2018

 (Lindsay Tucker)
(Lindsay Tucker)

When Ryan Dean Tucker was in the eighth grade, he and a friend skipped school, went to the movie theater and bought tickets to a film called “Fluke.”

But instead of watching the Matthew Modine vehicle about a man who is reincarnated as a dog, the pair snuck into a showing of the recently released “Die Hard With a Vengeance.”

The only ones in the audience, Tucker and his friend enjoyed about 10 minutes of the film before an usher came into the theater and kicked them out, telling them they had to see “Fluke.”

The pair watched the movie (“It was horrible,” Tucker said) and eventually rented the “Die Hard” sequel.

Not letting that slight setback stop him from expressing his love for the “Die Hard” series, Tucker recruited his eight-year-old brother to play Bruce Willis’ John McClane in a recreation of “Die Hard With a Vengeance.”

Tucker recalls using coffee grounds to recreate Willis’ five o’clock shadow.

Though his art budget is still small, Tucker’s love for the series hasn’t waned, and he’ll perform “Die Hard: The One Man Show” at the Bartlett on Friday.

In 2015, Tucker spearheaded a live reenactment of “The Contest,” a popular episode of “Seinfeld,” with a group called Re-Run Theatre.

But now with three kids at home, organizing another large production just wasn’t feasible, so he began to brainstorm projects he could do on his own while his children were asleep.

Inspired by a scene in “Parks and Recreation” in which Andy Dwyer, played by Chris Pratt, reenacts “Rambo” after he forgets to pay the cable bill, and an episode of “Bob’s Burgers” in which Gene Belcher (voiced by Eugene Mirman) creates a musical mashup of “Working Girl” and “Die Hard,” Tucker decided to do a reenactment of his own.

“All those elements, I just combined them all together,” he said. “I was like ‘Oh, this would be so much fun. That would be hilarious.’ ”

He announced his intentions on Facebook in September and, after receiving positive feedback, set to work.

During “Die Hard: The One Man Show,” Tucker will portray McClane on stage. Behind him will screen the movie, starring himself in the roles made famous by Bonnie Bedelia, Reginald VelJohnson, Alan Rickman and Alexander Godunov. He even plays McClane’s young daughter Lucy.

To achieve this effect, Tucker set up a green screen in his basement and recorded himself acting out each role, then superimposed himself into the film.

Tucker estimates he watched the film eight to 10 times in a two-week period to get each character’s part down.

“I originally thought about (acting alongside the movie),” Tucker said. “Then, because I’m aiming more for a comedic version of it, the whole idea of it being a one-man show is it should be truly a one man show.”

And when Tucker says “one man show,” he means it.

He plans to run backstage and pour fake blood on his feet to match the scene in which McClane runs over broken glass, and he has multiple tank tops he’ll change into as the movie progresses, each one dirtier and more torn than the last.

Tucker used Final Cut to edit himself into the film, which proved to be one of the most difficult parts of the project.

The Final Cut software wouldn’t let him drag the completed movie into the program and an MP4 version of the film didn’t work either.

Tucker eventually digitally converted his VHS copy of “Die Hard” and edited that, cutting most of the scenes in which there were multiple characters on screen to make the finished product about an hour long compared to the two-hour long movie.

“It’s actually VHS quality that you’ll be watching,” he said. “The production values are through the roof.”

Driving that point home, Tucker has covered a box in tin foil to emanate the air duct McClane crawls through, and at one point in the show, he’ll tie a garden hose around his waist and jump off the stage.

He had fun portraying the evil mastermind Gruber and he kept a few scenes featuring Harry Ellis (Hart Bochner), who Tucker called the epitome of a sleazy ’80s businessman.

He’s also excited for his starring role as McClane, a part he hasn’t gotten to rehearse much yet because the Bartlett is booked leading up to his show.

“Anytime McClane fights somebody, it’s going to be really hard. I’m fighting nothing,” he said. “Also the other really funny thing is I really never noticed that Bruce Willis doesn’t really say much throughout the whole movie. It’s just going to be me onstage, running around pointing a gun back and forth onstage.”

Before the show, Tucker will share some of the movie’s history with the audience.

“Die Hard” is based off a book by Roderick Thorp called “Nothing Lasts Forever,” itself a sequel to Thorp’s “The Detective,” which was made into a movie of the same name starring Frank Sinatra in 1968.

He will then encourage the audience to recite the lines with him, warning that he may not get them exactly right.

“There’s going to be flubs, there’s going to be mess ups,” he said. “But it’s more about the fun and how silly we can be.”

He hasn’t put much thought into recreating the other films in the “Die Hard” series, which he considers films one through three, though he is in the early stages of writing a musical version of “Con Air” and, a big fan of “Lethal Weapon,” isn’t opposed to reenacting the film in the future.

No matter what he gets up to next, he appreciates how open Spokane audiences are to his out-there ideas.

“So many people in town have let me do so many silly crazy things and I love it so much that everybody is just as excited to try something new as I am,” he said.

Oh, and for the record, Tucker sides with those who see “Die Hard” as a Christmas movie.

“It’s pretty much ‘Home Alone,’ ” he said. “Some terrorists try to break into your place and you’ve got to keep them out. There’s a lot of screaming. No tarantulas. Equal violence.”

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