Thursday 22 August 2019

Obituary: Rutger Hauer

Actor who found lasting fame as the replicant Roy Batty in the science fiction classic 'Blade Runner'

'Like tears in rain': Rutger Hauer starred as Roy Batty in the blockbuster 'Blade Runner'
'Like tears in rain': Rutger Hauer starred as Roy Batty in the blockbuster 'Blade Runner'

Rutger Hauer, who has died aged 75, was an actor who made his name as the replicant in Blade Runner, Roy Batty, who makes life so difficult for Harrison Ford's character, Rick Deckard.

His dying speech, after he has spared Deckard's life, has become one of cinema's most cherished moments: "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe," he tells Deckard. "Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die."

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Appearing in one of a series of Guinness ads
Appearing in one of a series of Guinness ads

It was, unsurprisingly, Hauer's favourite role. In 2001 he remarked: "Blade Runner needs no explanation. It just is. All of the best. There is nothing like it. To be part of a real masterpiece which changed the world's thinking. It's awesome." He wrote the closing speech himself, presenting it to Scott just before the scene was due to be shot.

Rutger Oelsen Hauer was born at Breukelen in Holland on January 23, 1944, but grew up mostly in Amsterdam. Both his parents, Arend and Teunke (nee Mellema), were drama teachers, and as they devoted more time to their careers than to their family, Rutger and his three sisters were largely brought up by nannies.

At the age of 15, Rutger ran away to sea, returning home after a year to work as an electrician and joiner while taking evening classes to gain his high school diploma. He attended the Academy for Theatre and Dance in Amsterdam, interrupted by a brief stint as an army medic.

After spending five years with an avant garde theatre company, Hauer was introduced to the director Paul Verhoven, who gave him the lead role in the medieval action drama, Floris (1969). The person who made the introduction reportedly told Verhoven that Hauer was "maybe not such a good actor, but he will do and dare anything". Hauer reprised the role a few years later for a German television version.

Floris had made Hauer's name, and he worked again with Verhoven on Turkish Delight (1973), the story of a love affair between a sculptor and the woman who picks him up while he is hitch-hiking. The film's international reach boosted Hauer's career, and in 1975 he made his English-language debut in the apartheid-era thriller The Wilby Conspiracy, starring Michael Caine and Sidney Poitier.

He was back working with Verhoven, in Keetje Tippel (1975), in which he played a 19th Century banker; Soldier of Orange (1977), a World War II drama co-starring Jeroen Krabbe; and Spetters (literally, "Mud splashes", 1980), also with Krabbe and set in the world of dirt-bike racing.

His American debut was in the Sylvester Stallone film Nighthawks (1981), in which he played the first of his psychopathic roles, a cold-blooded terrorist. The following year came the part that inserted him indelibly into the minds of cinema-goers the world over, Roy Batty in Blade Runner.

The film's director, Ridley Scott, cast Hauer without having met him, based on his work with Paul Verhoven. Batty is at once violent and philosophical, and Philip K Dick, author of the film's source novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, described Hauer as "the perfect Batty - cold, Aryan, flawless".

His reputation firmly established, Hauer next made Eureka with Nic Roeg (1983), playing a dissolute adventurer, Claude Van Horn, scheming to acquire the fortune of his gold-prospector father-in-law (Gene Hackman). The same year he was an investigative reporter alongside John Hurt in the thriller The Osterman Weekend.

In 1986 he was terrifying as another psychopath in The Hitcher, in a role that had been turned down - wisely, the critics thought - by Terence Stamp and Sam Elliott. Hauer saw the script on a trip to Los Angeles and jumped at the chance, later remarking: "I thought, 'If I do one more villain, I should do this'. I couldn't refuse it." It was, however, a success neither at the box office nor in the review sections.

Many more film roles followed, but none could match the depth of Roy Batty, and Hauer became, perhaps, better known for a series of humorous television ads for Guinness, in which he deftly nodded to the personae of his best-known parts, adding a wryness to his default air of menace. There were also later ads for Lurpak butter.

There were, however, some highlights beyond Blade Runner, such as the 1987 television film Escape from Sobibor, for which he received a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor, which told the true story of the mass break-out from the eponymous concentration camp. But the promise shown by Hauer as Roy Batty found fulfilment increasingly rarely in a string of forgettable movies. In 2004 he was a vampire in a mini-series adaptation of Stephen King's Salem's Lot, and in 2012 he played Professor Van Helsing in Dracula 3D; his final role was in the yet-to-be-released Viy 2: Journey to China, a Sino-Russian fantasy thriller.

Off screen, Hauer was an environmental activist, and also established the Rutger Hauer Starfish Association to raise awareness about Aids.

The foundation received all the proceeds from his 2007 autobiography, All Those Moments: Stories of Heroes, Villains, Replicants, and Blade Runners.

In 2013 he was made a Knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion.

Rutger Hauer, who died on July 19, married, first, Heidi Merz. That marriage was dissolved and he married, secondly, Ineke ten Cate. She survives him along with a daughter, Ayesha, an actress.

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