I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.
Let’s be honest: it’s the greatest death soliloquy in cinema. Delivered by Roy Batty, the hero (YES, HE IS!) of my favourite movie, and classic SF dystopia, Blade Runner. Now the actor who delivered it, who created it as perhaps the most brilliant ad-lib ever devised, has died. 2019. The year of Blade Runner. The year Batty died.
Hauer was a frustrating actor, and perhaps that’s why I have always been so fond of him. I first saw him in the vastly underrated Sylvester Stallone cop thriller Nighthawks, and was an instant fan: that look; that accent; that slow, lingering burn that seems to have been copied by every bad guy in every cop movie ever since…… I was thirteen, and was instantly in love. There was something about Hauer that stood him apart from the rest of the cast, that made me want more of him and less of, well, everyone else, really. Later, I’d recognise it as a sort of luminous intelligence: in his best roles, he portrays a self-awareness that transcends the world around him, as if his characters know they are merely players, and delight in the futility of their own inevitable demise. It’s just a shame he brought so much to so many unworthy roles.
For every Blade Runner, Ladyhawke, or The Hitcher, there’s a string of equally mesmerising performances in tripe that doesn’t deserve him, watchable only because you could enjoy wondering aloud what the hell he was doing here. And okay, all great actors do work that is beneath them– rent needs paying, dealers don’t have a layby plan, alimony is monthly– (check out Al Pacino in 88 Minutes if you don’t believe me. Or John Malkovich in Eragon. Or anything Robert DeNiro has done since 2007…) but even Jeremy Irons might think twice about The Scorpion King 4, Turbulence 3, or that lord of all Hauer low points, Hobo With a Shotgun. Throughout all of them, no matter the level, no matter who was the nominal star (side eyeing you, Matthew Broderick…), Hauer stood above.
How they made 900 million billion trillion Alien movies and never found a role for him I’ll never know. You think Michael Fassbender is eerily almost-not-quite-human-enough? Picture prime Hauer.
For all that, there is still one moment that stands above all, that will be remembered long after other work– and other actors– is forgotten. It is magnificent. It is — ironically, given the content and the character — immortal.
RIP, Rutger Hauer.
Incept date: 23 January 1944. Retirement date: Today.