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Remembering Rutger Hauer (1944-2019)

by Nathaniel R

"All those moments will be lost like tears in the rain."

Thus went the immortal words of Roy Batty, in Blade Runner (1982) as he breathed his last, betrayed by the cruel brevity of life. Rutger Hauer improvised one of cinema's all-time greatest death scenes when he was just 38. The actor, who turned 75 this past January, has now passed on, dying at his home in The Netherlands after a short illness.

Rutger Hauer first came to worldwide fame in 1973 as the star of Paul Verhoeven's Oscar-nominated sexually provocative Turkish Delight (the most successful Dutch film of all time). More buzzy international hits from his home country followed. Hollywood soon came calling as they usually do when someone who can speak English fluently has multiple imported hits...

In American films he was usually asked to play villains or tertiary characters but the Dutch star had more range than that. Some of his most indelible performances were in headlining sympathetic roles as tragic heroes such as Ladyhawke in which he is cursed to be a wolf by night, forever separated from his lover Isabeau (Michelle Pfeiffer) who is a hawk by day. 

Il Futuro

As with most Hollywood careers the A-list status didn't last and soon Hauer was relegated to headlining roles in B movies or small roles in mainstream gernre fare. Nevertheless his career endured as he aged, thanks in part to his multilingual flexibility. The last movie I personally saw him in was the Italian picture Il Futuro (2013) in which he affectingly played a retired actor and blind hermit who becomes the target of a desperate brother and sister eager to free him from his rumored heaps of money. Coincidentally it wasn't his first time playing a blind character. One of his more popular B-movies was Blind Fury (1990) an action film in which he played a blind swordsman (a loose English language remake of Zatoichi, essentially) 

Hauer's most famous character, Roy Batty, resonated so well because he spoke truth about our temporal nature and the existential conundrum of our existence (though Batty's personal God was a flesh and blood scientist rather than a higher power or belief system). Our lives are temporary but great cinema can, when its lucky, live forever. Roy Batty, the most memorable character in a hugely influential classic will live on. So will, at least in flickering images, the actor who inarguably granted him a soul and elevated him into the realm of the truly iconic. Rest in peace, Rutger. And thank you.

15 key Rutger Hauer roles for your queues:

TURKISH DELIGHT (1973, Oscar nominee Best Foreign Film) served as his feature film debut, though he was already in a star in the Netherlands for the leading role in a TV series called "Floris". 

SOLDIER OF ORANGE (1977, Golden Globe nominee Best Foreign Film and an Oscar submission from The Netherlands but it was not nominated) in which he resisted the Nazis in World War II.

SPETTERS (1980) in which he played a legendary motorcross champ.

NIGHTHAWKS (1981) In which he terrorized Sylvester Stallone and Billy Dee Williams.

BLADE RUNNER (1982) In which he pummeled Harrison Ford, cuddled Daryl Hannah, and killed his Creator.

LADYHAWKE (1985) In which he yearned for Michelle Pfeiffer, his similarly cursed soulmate. 

THE HITCHER (1986) In which he terrorized C Thomas Howell and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

ESCAPE FROM SOBIBOR (1987, Golden Globe winner Best Supporting Actor in a Miniseries) in which he played a Russian Jew and Nazi prisoner.

THE LEGEND OF THE HOLY DRINKER (1988, Italy's Oscar submission that year) *possibly his best reviewed performance* in which he plays a homeless man in Paris.

BLIND FURY (1989) in which he played a blind swordsman.

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (1992) In which he sucked blood as local vampire boss Lothos.

SIN CITY (2005) in which his icy blues were rescued from the black and white.

BATMAN BEGINS (2005) In which he helped run Wayne Enterprises.

TRUE BLOOD (season 7, 2014) in which he played fairy grandfather to the Stackhouse kids. 

SISTERS BROTHERS (2018) his most recent American picture to be released in theaters.

P.S. According to IMDb he has five more pictures or TV series in some stage of post production though we don't fully know if he completed work on each of them: British crime drama Break, Lee Tamahori's action epic Emperor, the Schwarzenegger/Chan picture The Mystery of Dragon Seal: Journey to China, Michael Almereyda's relationship drama Tonight at Noon, and a new TV miniseries version of A Chrismas Carol in which he was set to play the Ghost of Christmas Future. At the very least we'll be able to see him a couple of more times onscreen. 

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Reader Comments (18)

Flesh + Blood is missing from that list. He reunites with Verhoeven (in his first English-language movie) and plays opposite Jennifer Jason Leigh for the first time (it calls for a double feature with The Hitcher, released the following year). I love how amoral and daring this movie is. Definitely destined to become a cult movie.

July 24, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJared

So many great appearances. Thanks for this piece. I thought Il Futuro was wonderful. It’s from Chilean auteur Alicia Scherson.

July 24, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterpzingg

He fell out with Verhoeven during the making of Flesh + Bone (1985). I don't believe they ever reconciled. But there were no harsh feelings from Verhoeven's end.

The original Blade Runner takes place in 2019.

July 25, 2019 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Truly an unforgettable figure as he was someone I always enjoyed watching. He will be missed as I hope he is chatting with my dad right now.

July 25, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

He's good in Flesh and Blood and given the paucity of great movies on his CV post Hollywood Arrival, it makes sense to include. However, the centerpiece of that movie is a profoundly disturbing (and long) scene where he rapes Jennifer Jason Leigh. So maybe it's best not to call too much attention to that performance.

July 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

I miss Flesh + Blood from this list....

RIP Rutger...thanks for everything...

You were not just "tears in the rain"....

July 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLuiz Carlos

Turkish Delight is an excellent and disturbing film. I even tracked down the novel, which is also excellent. It should have won Best Foreign Film - yes, I like it better than Day for Night.

July 25, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

@ Peter
Well, it may start that way, when she is being forced to have sex with him, but then Agnes turns the table and forces herself into him. The look on his face when that happens is priceless.

July 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterGio

Soldier of Orange. I loved that film and saw it at least twice. I'd like to see it again and see if I still feel the same..

July 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDO

I remember watching "The Hitcher" on an appropriately rainy afternoon, and it scaring the hell out of me. Rest in Peace.

July 25, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

Although I love Ladyhawke, The Hitcher and Flesh and Blood, I think he should never have come to Hollywood, should have stayed in Europe like Mastroianni. Hollywood is no longer for people with charm, charisma and talent like him.For a long time.See what happens to Mads Mikkelsen and Matthias Schoenaerts.

July 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDoodie

Thanks for this. I need to see more of his films (though I agree his reputation would endure based on BLADE RUNNER alone), especially Ladyhawke!

In some of those older/later shots, he starts to look like a cross between Anthony Hopkins and Ian McShane.

July 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLynn Lee

Sometimes all you need is that one role and you'll be everlasting.

July 25, 2019 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

Gio, true but still that only happens after she’s raped for a while with the camera ogling her.

July 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

He would be an icon just based on "Blade Runner" (still hard to believe that iconic line was improvised) but did a lot more. RIP.

July 26, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

He got what every actor wants: a killer role with a killer monologue in a movie that gets better and better with time. That's the closest thing to eternity that I can imagine.

July 26, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I seem to recall reading that Anne Rice always envisioned the Vampire Lestat looking like him when she wrote Interview with the Vampire and her subsequent novels (that is, the ones before Tom Cruise portrayed him).

July 26, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDoctor Strange

Just had to say the rape scene, hard to watch, is sadly accurate for the time. He keeps her from being raped again. Please get the "Tears in rain" part right. It has no "the" in it. Not being mean but it was something he often had to correct. He is more than Blade Runner, so much more. Thanks to all for remembering him as so few did. Most of Hollywood ignored him and his death and that is a sad fact. Check out his Starfish foundation and other good works off the screen. I met him in 2012 and conversed with him for years off and on and he is truly an amazing human being and will be missed. Thanks again.

August 22, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterbrenda

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