Film Feature: Remembers Rutger Hauer

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CHICAGO – Cult character actor Rutger Hauer passed away late last month, but the mark he made with his array of performances carried through two generation of admirers, even receiving the honor of Best Dutch Actor of the (20th) Century in 1999. He died on July 19th, 2019, in his native Netherlands. He was 75.

He was born in Breukelen, the Netherlands, to actor parents. After a couple stints in the military, he graduated from the Academy for Theater and Dance in Amsterdam in 1967, and made his TV debut two years later when director Paul Verhoeven cast him in the Dutch medieval action drama “Floris.” His film debut came in 1973 with “Turkish Delight,” and he performed mostly in Dutch films during the 1970s, including work with Verhoeven again on “Solider of Orange” (1977) and “Spetters” (1980).

Although Hauer made one international English language film previously, his American debut came in 1981 with “Nighthawks.” His was unforgettable one year later as replicant Roy Batty in “Blade Runner,” and rounded out the decade with memorable appearances in “The Osterman Weekend” (1983), “Ladyhawke” (1985), “The Hitcher” (1986) and the Italian film “The Legend of the Holy Drinker” (1988), which won him Best Actor at the Seattle International Film Festival.

The rest of his career was split between B-movies and supporting appearances in films like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1992), “Sin City” (2005), “Batman Begins” (2005), “Hobo with a Shotgun” (2011), HBO’s “True Blood” (2013) and “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” (2017). Hauer was a “working actor,” he had over 170 TV and film credits from 1969 to his passing.

Spike Walters, Patrick McDonald and Jon Lennon Espino of wrote about three Rutger Hauer roles, and pay tribute through the following mini-essays…

StarBLADE RUNNER (1982) by Spike Walters

Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty in ‘Blade Runner’
Photo credit: Warner Home Video

Rutger Hauer managed to be a memorable film presence despite neither starring or appearing in many memorable movies. He was a familiar face to bad movie fans, frequently turning up in 1980’s era B-Movie schlock like “Blind Fury” and “Wanted: Dead or Alive”. But the movie that headlines his obituary is “Blade Runner.” Although it received mixed reviews at the time and had its share of behind the scenes tumult, it has come to be highly regarded and deserves its place in the top ranks of sci-fi canon. Hauer had the role that would define his image for decades, that of blonde-haired replicant Roy Batty, who led a rebellion against their creators in a dystopian future. His eyes showed the real emotional complexities even when his dialogue didn’t match up. He basically portrayed a relatable and understandable villain, managing to be just as interesting a character as lead actor Harrison Ford’s Decker. It would not be the last time he would wear the cinematic black hat, but it was the best.

HAUER POWER: One of the film’s most poignant moments was Hauer’s concluding “tears in rain” monologue, a moving soliloquy. Hauer cut several lines from screenwriter David People’s dialogue the night before the scene was shot, and wrote the key line, “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”

StarTHE LEGEND OF THE HOLY DRINKER (1988) by Patrick McDonald

Rutger Hauer is the title character in ‘The Legend of the Holy Drinker’
Photo credit: Schröder Media

I have a feeling that the casting director came to writer/director Ermanno Olmi and said, “I managed to score an actor for the title role from ‘Blade Runner!’ Olmi no doubt said, “Harrison Ford!” “Nope.” “Sean Young?” “Nope … it’s Rutger Hauer!” Hauer carried this whole Italian film on his back, an allegory about a homeless alcoholic in Paris whose life is flashing before his eyes, somewhat like a Jesus figure trying to climb his own Mount Calvary. Filled with European style slow pacing and dreariness, Hauer manages to turn in a decent performance, mostly befuddled, while director Olmi uses a good half hour of screen time on static establishing shots and following Hauer as he’s walking. There is one very interesting element … Hauer speaks English, and none of the Parisians speaking French at him are translated. “The Legend of the Holy Drinker” is a genuine curiosity from a bygone era of filmmaking.

HAUER POWER: The concluding scenes, the height of the character’s desperation, is virtually communicated through Hauer’s intense disintegration, both physically and emotionally.

StarHOBO WITH A SHOTGUN (2011) by Jon Lennon Espino

Rutger Hauer is a ‘Hobo with a Shotgun’
Photo credit: Entertainment One

Rutger Hauer will easily be remembered for bringing to life some of the best villains in cinematic history, but I will always remember him as the gritty anti-hero from “Hobo with a Shotgun.” This gore-filled and grungy grindhouse film – actually adapted from a fake trailer in the 2007 film “Grindhouse” – might seem like it only delivers on what the title promises … but thanks to an all-in performance from Hauer, there is more left to pump from its pulp. Despite the messy technical nature, the performance is the only part that remains untainted. Anyone can play a pure hero, but here we witness Hauer tackle the complexities of the anti-hero, whose morality remains gray when you compare his results to his methods for getting them. Among the carnage and oceans of blood, Rutger Hauer is still able to fill his character with enough pathos to not only keep him compelling, but to keep us rooting for him every bloody step of the way.  

HAUER POWER: RH as the Hobo speaking to newborn babies: “A long time ago I was one of you. You’re all brand new and perfect. No mistakes, no regrets. People look at you and think of how wonderful your future will be. They want you to be something special, like a doctor or a lawyer. I hate to tell you this, but if you grow up here, you’re more likely to wind up selling your bodies on the streets, or shooting dope from dirty needles in a bus stop. And if you’re successful, you’ll make money selling junk to crackheads … Or, maybe you’ll end up like me – a hobo with a shotgun! I hope you can do better. You are the future.”

Source material for this article is from Wikipedia. Rutger Hauer, 1944-2019. senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Editor and Film Writer

© 2019 Patrick McDonald,

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