I’m going to jump past the usual intro for a figure like John McTiernan, clichéd platitudes even for someone as infamous as he would take us a while. Instead we should get to the point; McTiernan has had an embattled career, stretching back even to the 1990’s before one Anthony Pellicano and the Feds showed up. No-one has ever really delved into this other side of McTiernan’s career and even less so since he has been effectively blacklisted. That has changed now, as Larry Taylor’s book, John McTiernan: The Rise and Fall of an Action Movie Icon collates and dissects the real career of John McTiernan.
The earlier parts of the 222 page book delve into the early life and career of McTiernan. From his early exposure to film to making his way up to his first feature film with Nomads. These are interesting pages and will be even for big McTiernan fans, after all there is only so much information that will be gleaned for Google, YouTube etc — this is what biographies are for. Early on, we learn that McTiernan is a head strong rebel, a theme that will recur throughout the book and a disposition that may have aggravated later troubles for him. A good portion of the book is then dedicated to Predator and Die Hard, although there was little new to me about these movies.
Following some interesting Red October analysis (reading about Sean Connery’s casting is a fun read), the book for me began to hit a stride of interesting revelations, for example the trouble with the filming of The Last Action Hero, from studio interference to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s difficult behavior on set. The 13th Warrior especially has long been a cult classic, but also covered in a fog of vague controversy, with studio interference once again showing its ugly head. On this, I found satisfying and eye opening information, but also saddening and frustrating.
Finally, in probably the real meat of this work, we get to the wiretapping case. The notorious spider’s web that McTiernan just so happened to get caught up in, but along with other high profile celebrities (major A-list actors) who just so happened to get a pass. This was real dirty business, dirtier than we knew and extending all the way up to the tip of the United States establishment, and as we all expected, McTiernan was used to set an example, to be publicly flogged and figuratively executed. And again, new information is dragged up by the book and other info you probably never even heard of. For example, did you know that McT made his own 50 minute documentary on this scandal, which no distributor would touch with a barge pole? The doc, finally only finding a temporary home on the director’s own website? Neither did I.
This is a book that all John McTiernan fans will devour quickly. From canceled sequels you’d probably never heard of, to how he got on in prison. You should buy it.