Rutger Hauer, the Dutch actor who made a career playing menacing characters has died at the age of 75. He was most famous to me for playing opposite C. Thomas Howell in the horror classic “The Hitcher,” but for most others playing opposite Harrison Ford in “Blade Runner” as a murderous android.
Hauer’s agent, Steve Kenis, says the actor died July 19 at his home in the Netherlands from an undisclosed illness, and the funeral was held on Wednesday. “He was a wonderful man and terrific actor,” Kenis said.
His most cherished performance came in a film that was a resounding flop on its original release. In 1982, he portrayed the murderous yet soulful Roy Batty, leader of a gang of outlaw replicants, opposite Harrison Ford in Ridley Scott’s sci-fi noir opus “Blade Runner.” The picture became a widely influential cult favorite, and Batty proved to be Hauer’s most indelible role.
More recently, he appeared in a pair of 2005 films: as Cardinal Roark in “Sin City,” and as the corporate villain who Bruce Wayne discovers is running the Wayne Corp. in Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins.”
In “True Blood,” he played Niall Brigant, the king of the tribe from which the Stackhouse family is descended and the faerie grandfather to Sookie, Jason Stackhouse, and Hunter Savoy. Hauer also recurred on ABC’s medieval musical comedy “Galavant” as Kingsley in 2015.
Hauer’s roles included a terrorist in “Nighthawks” with Sylvester Stallone, Cardinal Roark in “Sin City” and playing an evil corporate executive in “Batman Begins.” He was in the big-budget 1985 fantasy “Ladyhawke” and won a supporting-actor Golden Globe award in 1988 for “Escape from Sobibor.”
In “Blade Runner,” he played the murderous replicant Roy Batty on a desperate quest to prolong his artificially shortened life in post-apocalyptic, 21st-century Los Angeles.
In his dying, rain-soaked soliloquy, he looked back at his extraordinary existence. “All those moments will be lost in time. Like tears in rain. Time to die,” he said.
“It’s so much fun to playfully roam into the dark side of the soul and tease people,” the actor told media outlets in 1987. “If you try to work on human beings’ light side, that’s harder. What is good is hard. Most people try to be good all their lives. So you have to work harder to make those characters interesting.”
Hauer’s ruggedly handsome face, blue eyes and strong physique drew the attention of American producers in such international successes as “Turkish Delight,” ″Spetters” and “Soldier of Orange.” The offers from the United States came as a surprise to Hauer, who faced the same uncertain future experienced by other Dutch film actors.
In Germany, “Turkish Delight” played next to “Cabaret” and “Last Tango in Paris,” and it outplayed them!” Hauer said in an interview. “At first, I couldn’t understand it. Looking back, it was the start of the sexual revolution, and I was on the cusp of that. I’m naked for three-quarters of the film. In Hollywood, they called it pornography. I saw it 25 years later, in the Directors Guild [theater]. And the audience was still shocked. I come from Holland. We’re not shocked.”
“We make about 10 films a year, all in Dutch,” he recalled. “You act for your own community, basically, which is fine. But you can’t live on it. There is also the danger of overexposure; you can’t be too greedy.” After the world recognition for “Soldier of Orange,” a friend suggested Hauer might be able to find work in American films.
He was born Jan. 23, 1944, in Breukelen, the Netherlands, near Amsterdam. Though both his parents were acting teachers, he took a circuitous route to the craft. He ran away from home at 15 to join the Dutch merchant navy; after returning to Amsterdam in 1962 he briefly studied acting, but exited school again for a stint in the army.
Finally committing himself to the stage, he became a member of the touring experimental troupe Noorder Compagnie, in which he acted, directed and served as costume designer and translator for several years.
Earlier in his career, a Hollywood agent suggested changing his name to something easier for the American public to learn. The actor declined. “If you’re good enough, people will remember your name,” he explained.
His major break came in 1969 when Verhoeven cast him in the title role of “Floris,” an Ivanhoe-like knight who becomes embroiled in court intrigue upon his return from the Crusades. The show proved wildly popular, and Hauer reprised the part in a 1975 revival of the series, “Floris von Rosemund.”
By that time, the steamy, affecting “Turkish Delight” had firmly established him as the Netherlands’ top B.O. attraction. He reunited with Verhoeven and his co-star van de Ven for the period drama “Katie Tippel” (1975); he renewed his collaboration with the director with the World War II saga “Soldier of Orange” (1977) and the bold contemporary drama “Spetters” (1980).
Hauer made an almost immediate and intense impression as Batty in his sophomore American feature “Blade Runner,” an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” He wrote his own dialog for the film’s climactic face-off with his adversary Ford. Though the film swiftly fell off screens, it remains a genre landmark today, in no small measure because of Hauer’s electrifying performance.
“Rutger read that speech and then went on with a couple of lines about memories in the rain,” co-screenwriter David Webb Peoples said in 2017. “And then he looked at me like a naughty little boy, like he was checking to see if the writer was going to be upset. I didn’t let on that I was upset, but at the time, I was a little upset and threatened by it.
“Later, seeing the movie, that was a brilliant contribution of Rutger’s, that line about tears in the rain. It is absolutely beautiful.”
Hauer said he turned down a role in Wolfgang Petersen’s “Das Boot” (1981) to work on “Blade Runner,” which he noted “wasn’t about the replicants, it was about what does it mean to be human?” The late Philip K. Dick, whose novel served as the basis for the film, called the actor “the perfect Batty — cold, Aryan, flawless.”
Olmi’s “The Legend of the Holy Drinker” brought him possibly the best notices of his career, but it failed to attract great attention beyond art-house audiences, and Hauer soon became a familiar and prolific supporting player in a variety of genre pictures, several of which went direct to home video. He shot seven features in 2001 alone.
He was active in social causes as an outspoken sponsor of the environmental organization Greenpeace and the founder the Starfish Association, a non-profit devoted to AIDS awareness.
He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Ineke ten Cate, and daughter, actress Aysha Hauer, from his previous marriage to Heidi Merz. He met Ineke in 1968 and they married in 1985.