On Wednesday, July 24, 2019, the world learned that five days earlier that the inimitable Rutger Hauer died from complications from a short illness. The actor from a number of beloved geek culture franchises passed away in his home in Beetsterzwaag, Netherlands, and his family put him to his final rest at a service there on Wednesday. He is survived by his wife Ineke ten Cate, his daughter, with first wife Heidi Merz, Ayasha Hauer, and his grandchildren. An avowed environmentalist, he famously advocated to keep Canadian Greenpeace activist Paul Watson out of jail. He also started an organization to raise awareness about AIDS called the Rutger Hauer Starfish Association. Along with this legacy, he leaves behind a long legacy of iconic acting performances.
Truly a man from another time, Hauer’s parents lived in Breukelen while Germany’s Nazi soldiers occupied the land in the latter days of World War II. Hauer was born more than a year before the war ended. His parents were well-to-do drama teachers, leaving Hauer and his three sisters in the care of nannies. Wanting nothing to do with his parents’ chosen profession, he ran off to sea and scrubbed the decks to make ends meet. When he returned to Amsterdam, he worked as both a joiner and an electrician while he finished up his high school education. A veteran, he served as a combat medic in the Royal Netherlands Army, then he finished up his studies at the Academy for Theater and Dance in Amsterdam.
How Do You Know Rutger Hauer?
People of all ages and generations reacted with sadness when hearing that Rutger Hauer died, but how they know this incredible actor varies. For some, he might be Niall Brigant, the Faerie king and progenitor of Anna Paquin’s Sookie Stackhouse from True Blood. To others, he might be the hideous Cardinal Rourke from the iconic film adaptation of Sin City, Frank Miller’s ultra-violent noir saga. Maybe you first think of him as the unnamed Hobo from Hobo With A Shotgun. He also appeared as Mr. Earle, the man who tried to wrest control of Wayne Enterprises from Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins. People of a certain age may think him of first as Lothos, the villain from the film adaptation of Joss Whedon’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer. He also delivered some incredible performances as John Ryder in The Hitcher and as Navarre in Ladyhawke.
As an accomplished actor, Hauer likely had his choice of roles. He could turn down or accept a part based on whatever criteria that was important to him. Except, he wasn’t choosy at all. His IMDB page features 172 credits, including four projects currently filming or in post-production. When promoting Hobo With A Shotgun, he spoke on his process for choosing a role and why he plays so many villains.
From The Toronto Star:
“’I don’t really give a f–k!’ Hauer thunders, laughing.
‘I don’t care if I play a rapist or a pedophile. We don’t shoot people, we shoot movies. Movies are stories. We tell stories. It’s not us. I’m not trying to make a personal statement here; I’m part of a project that ventilates an image or a feeling or whatever, and it’s not that I have a hobby of killing flies at home, or something. It’s about what (the film) wants from me, and what the director wants from me. My goal is to basically empty myself as much as I can, which is not easy, and to be available for that part, and then I’ll suck it up somehow. And even that is an illusion. But I’ll suck it up as much as I can. I love to play; I am a kid.’”
Rutger Hauer’s ‘Tears in the Rain’
Though, if Rutger Hauer’s career would be defined by a single role, as most actors’ careers tend to be, it would be Roy Batty. Hauer spent a decade working in films and series in his native Netherlands, but he made the transition to American film in the early 1980s. Cast as the leader of the “villains” in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, Hauer imbued Roy Batty with a manic madness typical of villains in action movies of the time. He was brutal and careless with human life, but that’s because his life wasn’t human. As a replicant, an artificial life form with a limited life span and no liberty, Hauer’s Batty was the sort of villain you couldn’t help but root for.
At the end of the film, Rutger Hauer delivered an iconic speech before his character died about what he’d seen in his life. Much of it came from the script, which he delivered amazingly. In a documentary about the film, David Peoples and Ridley Scott spoke on how Hauer improved the monologue. Originally a few sentences longer, Hauer shortened it without telling them. Then he added the line, “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.” It gave the character the emotional foundation he didn’t really have before. Yes, Batty wanted to live a life and get a little revenge, but like all of us, he wanted to be remembered. Well, there is no question that even though Rutger Hauer died, he will be remembered. Like so many great artists, through his work, he is an immortal.
Featured image via ABC Networks
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.