EXCLUSIVE: As Hans Gruber, his brother Simon and several other supervillains can attest, it is hard to kill NYPD cop John McClane, despite that underwhelming last film. Fox is making a deal for Live Free Or Die Hard helmer Len Wiseman to return and develop with producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura a sixth installment of Die Hard, the venerable action series that overnight transformed Bruce Willis from a TV to a movie star back in 1988. All of this is early, but they are referring to this as Die Hard Year One, and I’m told that Wiseman and di Bonaventura are looking for a screenwriter to script a reinvention of the venerable action series, one that is sort of a prequel while still leaving room for Willis to play McClane as well. Basically, he’ll bookend a story line that will set much of the action in 1979, when McClane was a cop in gritty New York City and showing how he became a die hard kind of guy.

While di Bonaventura is Paramount-based, he’s involved here because Fox sought to convert one of his projects into a Die Hard movie (same as was done with 1995’s Die Hard: With A Vengeance, which came from a spec script titled Simon Says). Wiseman came up with a new angle that he pitched to di Bonaventura, who’s staying involved here and will produce with the director. Di Bonaventura is certainly adept at tent poles and he also has a strong relationship with Willis, who doesn’t have a deal but has been kept in the loop every step of the way.

die hardThe idea of Willis working with a younger actor playing the same character is not unprecedented as Joseph Gordon-Levitt played the young version of him in Rian Johnson’s Looper. Wiseman did a good job giving the Die Hard franchise a second wind in 2007’s Live Free Or Die Hard, which grossed $383 million with a $134 million domestic gross. The most recent installment, the John Moore-directed A Good Day To Die Hard, though not a crowd pleaser, did gross just north of $300 million in 2013, showing the viability of the franchise. I’m told a lot of screenwriters covet this movie, because let’s face it, McClane is one of the great action movie characters of the past 40 years. Wiseman’s repped by CAA.