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John McTiernan

John McTiernan
File:John McTiernan at the Cinémathèque Française 2.JPG
John McTiernan at the Cinémathèque Française in 2014.
Born John Campbell McTiernan, Jr.
(1951-01-08) January 8, 1951 (age 69)
Albany, New York, USA
Occupation Filmmaker
Spouse(s) Carol Land (1974–?)
Donna Dubrow (1988–1997)
Kate Harrington (2003; separated 2005; divorced 2012)
Gail Sistrunk (2012–present)
Children Isabella Ruby Montecelli McTiernan (b. 1985)
Truman Elizabeth McTiernan (b. 2000)
John "Jack" Clarence McTiernan (b. 2003)
Parent(s) John McTiernan, Sr. (1921–2008)
Myra McTiernan (1922–2011)

John Campbell McTiernan, Jr. (born January 8, 1951) is an American filmmaker, best known for his action films and most identifiable with the three films he directed back-to-back: the science fiction action film Predator (1987), the action film Die Hard (1988), which has sometimes been called one of the greatest action movies ever made,[1][2][3] and the action thriller The Hunt for Red October (1990). He is also known for later films, such as the action-comedy-fantasy film Last Action Hero (1993), the action film sequel Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995), the heist film-remake The Thomas Crown Affair (1999) and the mystery-thriller Basic (2003).

He was convicted of perjury and lying to an FBI investigator after hiring the private investigator Anthony Pellicano in late 2000 to illegally wiretap the phone calls of two people, one of whom was Charles Roven, a co-producer of his dystopian science-fiction action film remake Rollerball (2002).[4] He was incarcerated in federal prison from April 2013 to February 2014. During his imprisonment, he declared bankruptcy amidst foreclosure proceedings for his ranch residence and struggles to pay legal fees and IRS tax debt.[5]

Background and career

McTiernan was born in Albany, New York, and attended the Juilliard School before graduating with a Master of Fine Arts from the AFI Conservatory. In 1986, he wrote and directed his first feature film, Nomads, starring Pierce Brosnan. While not commercially successful, it did land him the job of directing the science fiction action hit Predator starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. In the wake of that film's success, he went on to direct two more hits – Die Hard in 1988 starring Bruce Willis and The Hunt for Red October in 1990 with Alec Baldwin and Sean Connery.

He then produced Flight of the Intruder, a 1991 film about an American bomber crew in Vietnam starring Danny Glover, Willem Dafoe and Brad Johnson, which was poorly received, and directed Medicine Man, a 1992 film about a medical researcher in a rainforest starring Sean Connery, which managed to cover expenses but was negatively reviewed by most critics.

He directed and co-produced the 1993 film Last Action Hero, an action-comedy vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger. The film was rushed into production, and opened to generally negative reviews and poor box office results. In 1995, he rebounded with Die Hard with a Vengeance, the third installment of the Die Hard film series. It was highly successful – garnering $366M in box office receipts and becoming the highest-grossing film of the year.[6]

He directed the 1999 film The Thomas Crown Affair, a heist film remake starring Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo, which opened to solid reviews and strong box office results. In the same year was the release of the troubled production of The 13th Warrior, adapted from the novel Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton.

McTiernan then directed the 2002 film Rollerball, a science fiction remake starring Chris Klein, Jean Reno, and LL Cool J. As of early 2015, his last film to date was the 2003 thriller Basic with John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson. Neither of those films was considered a success.

Personal life

Criminal charges, felony conviction, and incarceration

On April 3, 2006, McTiernan was charged in federal court with making a false statement to an FBI investigator in February 2006 about his hiring the private investigator Anthony Pellicano to illegally wiretap Charles Roven, the producer of his Rollerball film, around August 2000.[4][7][8] McTiernan had been in a disagreement with Roven about what type of film Rollerball should be, and had hired Pellicano to investigate Roven's intentions and actions.[9] He had asked Pellicano to try to find instances where Roven made negative remarks about the studio executives or said things to others what were inconsistent with what he said to the studio.[4]

He was arraigned and pleaded guilty on April 17, 2006, as part of an initial plea bargain agreement to cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for lenient treatment.[10] Prosecutors said they then became convinced that he was continuing to lie to them and that he had also hired Pellicano to wiretap someone else – probably his estranged wife Donna Dubrow during their 1997 divorce, and they decided to seek a prison sentence.[8] He then hired new counsel and tried to withdraw his guilty plea – saying his prior counsel had not conducted a proper discovery in the case and had not presented him with the available defense approach of suppressing as evidence the conversation with him that Pellicano had recorded on August 17, 2000, but this bid was denied by the Federal District Judge, Dale S. Fischer, who immediately proceeded to sentence him to four months in prison and $100,000 in fines.[7][4] The judge characterized McTiernan as someone who thought he was "above the law", had shown no remorse, and "lived a privileged life and simply wants to continue that".[8] He was ordered to surrender for incarceration by January 15, 2008, but was allowed to remain out of prison on bail pending an appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.[8][11]

In October 2008, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated McTiernan's four-month sentence and ruled that Judge Fischer had erred and he was entitled to a hearing as to whether his plea could be withdrawn.[4] The prosecution (and the judge) then agreed to allow McTiernan to withdraw his plea rather than proceed with such a hearing, and his plea was withdrawn on February 24, 2009.[4][12]

With the case reopened, the prosecution was no longer bound by the prior plea agreement, and filed additional charges against McTiernan, charging him with two counts of lying to the FBI (one count for claiming he had hired Pellicano only in connection with his divorce proceedings and another for denying he had ever discussed wiretapping with Pellicano) and one count of committing perjury during the previous court proceedings by denying he had been coached by his attorney on what to say during his previous guilty plea hearing (a denial that he later signed a declaration saying was false).[4][13] After some adverse rulings on his attempted defense arguments, and facing the possibility of a prison sentence of more than five years on the various charges, McTiernan eventually entered another guilty plea (on all three counts) in a second plea bargain in 2010, conditioned on his plan to appeal the earlier rulings against his defense approach, and Judge Fischer sentenced him to one year in prison, three years of supervised probation, and a fine of $100,000.[14] The judge said that the increased length of the prison sentence was related to the additional, more serious charge of perjury before her court, that McTiernan's crimes were more than just a momentary lapse of judgment, that he still did not seem to have really accepted responsibility for his actions, and that she would have issued an even more lengthy prison sentence if the prosecution had not recommended less.[14] McTiernan was then released on bail pending an appeal of the adverse rulings.[14]

On August 20, 2012, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court judgment, but allowed McTiernan to address the U.S. Supreme Court regarding his attempt to suppress the recorded conversation before being required to report to prison.[4] McTiernan's defense had tried to argue that Pellicano had made the recording for an unlawful purpose and that this made it inadmissible, but the district and appeals courts disagreed with that interpretation of the rules of evidence.[4] On January 14, 2013, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.[15]

McTiernan surrendered to federal prison on April 3, 2013, to serve a stated 12-month sentence in the Federal Prison Camp, Yankton, in Yankton, South Dakota, a minimum-security former college campus holding about 800 male mainly white-collar criminal offenders.[16] His Bureau of Prisons registration number was 43029-112.[5][17] Although the Yankton facility was rated by Forbes magazine as one of "America's 10 cushiest prisons", during his incarceration his wife said it was very hard for him and that he had lost Script error: No such module "convert". and was suffering from depression and completely emotionally "disintegrating" there.[9] His supporters created a "Free John McTiernan" campaign page on Facebook, including expressions of support from notable Hollywood figures such as actor-producers Samuel L. Jackson and Alec Baldwin and director Brad Bird.[9][5][18] He was released from prison on February 25, 2014, after 328 days of incarceration, to serve the remainder of his 12-month prison sentence under house arrest at his ranch home in Wyoming until April 4, 2014.[17][18]

Invasion of privacy civil suit

On July 3, 2006, McTiernan's former wife, film producer Donna Dubrow, filed suit against him for invasion of privacy and other claims arising from her belief that he hired Pellicano to wiretap her telephone during their divorce negotiations.[19] As of May, 2014, the lawsuit remained active, with a trial scheduled for December 2014 but likely to be postponed.[5]

Debts and bankruptcy

In October 2013, while in prison, McTiernan declared chapter 11 bankruptcy amidst foreclosure proceedings for his 3,254-acre (1,317 hectare) ranch residence in central Wyoming (valued at $8–10M), struggles to pay his past legal bills and IRS tax debts, and ongoing expensive disputes including the lawsuit by his ex-wife, a $5M claim against him of liability in a 2011 automobile accident, and his ongoing effort to reverse his felony conviction.[5] The bank holding the mortgage on the ranch said the filing was a bad-faith tactic only intended to stall the foreclosure proceedings, and requested the presiding judge to convert the case to a chapter 7 bankruptcy – a more drastic form of bankruptcy that would give the bank the power to demand the liquidation of assets rather than requiring them to negotiate with McTiernan.[5][20] McTiernan's lawyers countered by saying that his potential for generating additional future income from new projects could enable him to eventually repay his debts, so a rapid liquidation of assets would be unnecessary and unjustified.[5][20] In the bankruptcy proceedings, he identified two likely future film projects with Hannibal Pictures, with working titles Red Squad and Warbirds, with large budgets and significant likely future income and planned to star major well-known actors.[20]


Year Film Credited as
Director Writer Producer
1986 Nomads Yes Yes
1987 Predator Yes
1988 Die Hard Yes
1990 The Hunt for Red October Yes
1991 Flight of the Intruder Yes
1992 Medicine Man Yes
1993 Last Action Hero Yes Yes
1995 Die Hard with a Vengeance Yes Yes
1996 The Right to Remain Silent
(made for television)
1996 Amanda Yes
1996 Quicksilver Highway
(made for television)
1999 The 13th Warrior Yes Yes
The Thomas Crown Affair Yes
2002 Rollerball Yes Yes
2003 Basic Yes

Awards and nominations

Year Nominated work Award Results
1988 Predator Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation Nominated
1989 Die Hard Hochi Film Award for Best Foreign Language Film (in Japan) Won
1990 Die Hard Blue Ribbon Award for Best Foreign Language Film (in Japan) Won
1990 Die Hard Kinema Junpo Award for Best Foreign Language Film (in Japan) Won
1994 Last Action Hero Saturn Award for Best Director Nominated
1994 Last Action Hero Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Director Nominated
1994 Last Action Hero Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture Nominated

Special awards

Year Ceremony Award Results
1997 American Film Institute Franklin J. Schaffner Award Won


  1. ^ "Die Hard is #1 according to". Retrieved November 2, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Die Hard is the last mentioned on Complex.". Retrieved November 2, 2011. 
  3. ^ ""Die Hard" tops magazine list of best action films". Reuters. 2007-06-15. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Court Opinion, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, August 20, 2012.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Gardner, Eriq (May 28, 2014). "John McTiernan's Prison Nightmare: 'Die Hard' Director Fights Foreclosure as He Plots Comeback". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 24, 2015. 
  6. ^ "Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 1 December 2008. 
  7. ^ a b Steinberg, Brian (September 24, 2007). "John McTiernan sentenced to prison: ‍ '​Die Hard‍ '​ director lied to FBI about Pellicano". Variety. Retrieved June 4, 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c d David M. Halbfinger and Allison Hope Weiner, Movie Director Sentenced for Lying About Detective New York Times. September 25, 2007.
  9. ^ a b c Ewen MacAskill - Hollywood director jailed for perjury 'disintegrating' in prison, admits wife. The Guardian, 4 June 2013
  10. ^ "Pellicano Inquiry Expands to Snare Director of 'Predator'"[dead link] by Kim Christensen and Greg Krikorian, April 4, 2006, Los Angeles Times.
  11. ^ "'Die Hard' Director Out of Jail Pending Appeal in Pellicano Case – Entertainment News Story – KNBC | Los Angeles". KNBC. Retrieved July 20, 2011. 
  12. ^ Die Hard Director Allowed to Withdraw Plea[dead link] Yahoo News, February 24, 2009.
  13. ^ "Public Access to Court Electronic Records". Retrieved May 24, 2013. 
  14. ^ a b c Judge Sentences McTiernan to One Year in Prison Variety, October 4, 2010.
  15. ^ Block, Alex Ben (January 15, 2013). "'Die Hard' Director John McTiernan Headed to Prison After Supreme Court Denies Appeal". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 15, 2013. 
  16. ^ Michael Hustings. Exclusive: The Tragic Imprisonment of John McTernan, Hollywood Icon, Buzzfeed Entertainment, May 24, 2013.
  17. ^ a b 43029-112 Find an Inmate, Federal Bureau of Prisons.
  18. ^ a b "Die Hard director John McTiernan released from jail". BBC NEWS. February 27, 2014. 
  19. ^, LLC (July 4, 2006). "'Die Hard' Director Sued for Invasion of Privacy". Archived from the original on January 25, 2013. Retrieved June 4, 2013. 
  20. ^ a b c Gardner, Eriq (August 29, 2014). "'Die Hard' Director John McTiernan Reveals Next Film Projects at Bankruptcy Hearing". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 25, 2015. 

External links

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