Rutger Hauer, a Memorable Villain in ‘Blade Runner,’ Dies at 75


Rutger Hauer, the ruggedly handsome Dutch actor who brought a sinister intensity to villainous roles in “Blade Runner,” “Nighthawks,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and other movies, died on Friday at his home in the Friesland province of the Netherlands. He was 75.

A posting on his website said he died after a short illness.

Mr. Hauer’s best-known role was in “Blade Runner,” Ridley Scott’s 1982 futuristic thriller, which today doesn’t seem so futuristic — it was set in 2019. Harrison Ford starred as a man tasked with tracking down humanoid creatures called replicants; Mr. Hauer played the most menacing replicant of the bunch.

“Mr. Hauer is properly coldblooded here,” Janet Maslin wrote in her review in The New York Times, adding that “he is by far the most animated performer in a film intentionally populated by automatons.”

Though most of his previous credits had been in Dutch movies, “Blade Runner” was not Mr. Hauer’s first Hollywood film. The year before, there was “Nighthawks,” in which he was a terrorist pursued by a police officer played by Sylvester Stallone, a pairing that Ms. Maslin found appealing.

“Mr. Hauer is so sleekly diabolical,” she wrote, “Mr. Stallone so bearish and enraged, that their antagonism works in physical terms even if it hasn’t been keenly established in dramatic ones.”

His appearance as a vampire lord in the film version of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1992) was part of a string of vampire- and horror-related credits. He also had a vampire turn in episodes of the HBO series “True Blood” this decade. And, he told The Hollywood Reporter last year, his favorite role — because of the reaction it got from audiences in theaters — was as a murderous hitchhiker in the 1986 horror movie “The Hitcher.”

Mr. Hauer was matter-of-fact about his tendency to be cast in such roles in Hollywood films.

“If you’re a foreigner, that’s how you start,” he told The Times in 1991. But he was hoping to branch out. “In the last couple of years,” he said, “I’ve been looking for some material where I can use my wit.”

He did manage to broaden his résumé. In 1994 he was a monk in “Nostradamus” and a family patriarch in “The Beans of Egypt, Maine.” In 2005 he played a bishop in a made-for-television remake of the disaster yarn “The Poseidon Adventure.” In 2011 he was the title character in “Hobo With a Shotgun,” a comic homage to vigilante action movies.

In one of his last roles, in the 2018 biblical drama “Samson,” he played the father of the title character.

Playing villains has its benefits for an actor — “Part of the freedom you have as a bad guy,” he told the journalist Douglas Thompson, “is that you can go anywhere, especially if it’s a psychotic bad guy” — but Mr. Hauer always bristled a bit at being stereotyped by Hollywood decision makers.

“They want to put you in a box,” he said. “It makes for short-term security, I guess, but the problem is that people don’t come in boxes. We’re more like bubbles of water.”

Rutger Oelsen Hauer was born on Jan. 23, 1944, in Breukelen, near Amsterdam. His father, Arend, and his mother, Teunke (Mellema) Hauer, were actors who also ran an acting school in Amsterdam. Rutger, though, didn’t go into the family business immediately; he left home as a teenager and got a job as a cleaner on a freighter.

“I really was crazy about the sea,” he told The Times in 1981. “There were all kinds of strange people — freaks and criminals and very individualistic sorts.”

But the attraction wore off after about a year.

“I think it’s rather stupid to be a grown-up male going from harbor to harbor spending your time with hookers in bars,” he said. “I thought there might be more interesting things than that.”

Back home, he took some drama classes and worked with a theater company. In 1969 he was cast in the Dutch television series “Floris,” playing a Robin Hood-like character. The series was directed by Paul Verhoeven, who later made his mark with movies like “Total Recall,” “RoboCop” and “Basic Instinct.” Mr. Verhoeven cast him in “Turkish Delight,” an erotic 1973 film, as well as in the Dutch war film “Soldier of Orange” (1977).

“Nighthawks” and “Blade Runner” gave Mr. Hauer his first major exposure in the United States.

One of the most memorable parts of “Blade Runner” comes when Mr. Hauer delivers what has become known as the “tears in rain” monologue, his character’s death scene. Mr. Hauer adapted the famous dialogue himself from the script the night before the scene was shot. His replicant character recites some highlights of his life as rain pours down, and then says, “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”

Mr. Hauer’s survivors include his wife, Ineke.

Mr. Hauer had more than 170 film and television credits, but he maintained a practical view of his profession.

“An actor is a clown who does his trick, and the audience pays to see your trick, and that’s it — you shouldn’t go beyond that,” he told The Times.

“We are a luxury,” he added. “We’re just like paintings on the wall, except we’re moving.”

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