In the clip above, Rutger Hauer appears on David Letterman’s talk show back in 1990. The actor talks about his upbringing in the Netherlands where he swam in the canals and skipped school. Unsurprisingly, Letterman introduces him as a “scary” guy, a persona the actor cultivated onscreen many times. Still, it’s clear that Hauer is uncomfortable with being typecast as a bad guy; he feels the need to point out that he has a comedy coming out. We lost him a few days ago at the age of 75.
Born outside of Utrecht in the Netherlands during the German occupation, Hauer grew up in Amsterdam where he also studied acting. His first taste of success came when Paul Verhoeven cast him in Floris in 1969, a Dutch action drama. The director apparently liked him enough to also cast him in his 1973 movie Turkish Delight, a romantic story where he played a sculptor (check out the wild trailer above). The film found an international audience, which helped both Verhoeven and Hauer.
After making two more films with the director, including the controversial Spetters (1980), Hauer was cast in his first American movie, the 1981 thriller Nighthawks, where he played a terrorist. That’s how he found his way to Blade Runner (1982), his Hollywood breakthrough, where he was Harrison Ford’s main antagonist, a replicant; his most famous scene is in the clip above.
More iconic 1980s roles came Hauer’s way after that performance, usually in thrillers or fantasy films, such as The Osterman Weekend (1983) and Ladyhawke (1985). But perhaps his most notorious role came in 1986 when he played a mysterious, murderous stranger in The Hitcher; he had a frightening, charismatic aura that served him very well.
After that, Hauer’s Hollywood career was in decline. He appeared in commercials, low-budget films and various TV projects. Occasionally, he had a small role in bigger movies, like Batman Begins (2005). He turned into one of those actors who have a certain cult following; when he appeared in the sixth season of True Blood it was surely more because of his past in thrillers, horror and fantasy than for any other reason.
Rutger Hauer remained loyal to the Netherlands, which is also where he passed away. Aside from the acting, he was also a noted environmentalist and created an AIDS awareness organization.
Guillermo del Toro honored the star’s legacy on Twitter:
RIP the great Rutger Hauer: an intense, deep, genuine and magnetic actor that brought truth, power and beauty to his films. My personal favorites: Flesh + Blood, Eureka, The Hitcher, Blade Runner, Ladyhawke and Blind Fury. pic.twitter.com/1F2Via3mLY
— Guillermo del Toro (@RealGDT) July 24, 2019