IN MEMORIAM: Rutger Hauer (1944 – 2019)


A versatile actor who was known primarily for playing anti-heroes and villains; but a consummate actor who brought the roles he played a life beyond the page no matter the part.

For most, Rutger Hauer will forever be burned into their mind as Roy Batty, the leader of the Nexus-6 replicants in Ridley Scott’s consummate 1982 cult classic science-fiction noir, Blade Runner. As Batty, Hauer stole the film underneath the film’s erstwhile leading man Harrison Ford, turning the film into a play on the idea of indentured servitude of sentient beings, a theme that would define films dealing with A.I. in science fiction to the now. All this, by giving Batty a soul via a monologue explaining how in his death all the wonders he saw in his life, imperceptible to humans, would be lost, like tears in rain. His relationship with Tyrell, the creator of the Nexus-6 replicants, becomes akin to an existential quest where Batty wants more life from his father, his god, to be denied. Only to rebel. He becomes his own god having destroyed his maker. One can make the argument that Blade Runner, a film which flopped on release, really only became the film it did in its home video afterlife because of Hauer’s compelling performance as Batty which outshines Ford at every turn. Indeed, in the film’s original cut, Ford’s sleepy voiceover only serves to draw out how dazzling Hauer was in the role.

But lest you think Hauer was a one role actor, he wasn’t. He imbued Cardinal Roark, the heavy of Robert Rodriguez’ 2005 Sin City with a dark inner quest to reach God by consuming human flesh with his disciple Kevin (Elijah Wood). In a monologue given when Marv finds him ensconced in his cathedral, with a shaved head like a flagellant monk, Hauer’s character knows his time is over but explains his actions in a way that lends him gravitas and makes you see the character’s inner madness. In 2011’s Hobo with a Shotgun, his hobo is a deeply affecting character; one you feel for in what was originally a one-note joke trailer made for a contest surrounding the release of Grindhouse in 2007. He was the corporate heavy in 2005’s Batman Begins, outshining Morgan Freeman and giving his character’s arc a compelling ending. Hauer elevated the material he was given at every turn, turning what could be forgettable roles like the violin playing master vampire Lothos in 1992’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer into a compelling and charismatic villain.

Genre cinema is lessened by his loss and it’s only in his passing that we can see what he brought to film. RIP Rutger Hauer, may your roles never be lost like sea beams off the Tannhauser Gate.