Rutger Hauer: An Iconic Career and Legacy

Author Adriana Pacheco

Rutger Hauer was an actor that you most likely saw in many television series and movies from the1970’s, up until 2019 shortly before his death. He had the kind of face that stood out to you, that would have you commenting to whomever you were watching with, “I know that actor. Who is that?”

Hauer is probably best recognized for his role in the now cult classic film Blade Runner,but this Dutch actor’s roles were wide and varied, including a musicologist in Kevin Sullivan’s fantastical musical Mozart’s Magic Flute Diaries , a cursed knight in the 80’s classic Lady Hawke, a vampire in the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a deranged killer in The Hitcher and a cunning prince in the musical series Gallivant. His most famous role is that of Roy Batty, the rebellious replicant in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.  With his combination of menace and anguish, he created an unforgettable character that made the movie the classic it remains today.

 

By his own admission, he was more drawn toward the types of characters who would be considered villainous and he enjoyed taking risks in his portrayal of them. “I think in my darker characters I go a little further than most American actors,” he said.“Maybe it’s because I’m not afraid of that side of myself.”

Hauer was born in 1944, in Breukelen, the Netherlands, to actor parents. Despite the fact that his parents were both actors, becoming an actor was not something that he considered for a career right away. At the age of 15 he ran away from home and enlisted in the Dutch Merchant Navy where he remained until 1962. He briefly considered acting after leaving the navy, even going as far as to study in Amsterdam, but abandoned it to join the army. Still, it seems the call of the theatre persisted. After his stint in the army, Hauer joined a touring troupe of thespians, called Noorder Comagnie, and found his calling in acting,directing and even costume designing for their productions.

In 1969 he was cast in his first on screen role, in a Dutch TV-series called Floris.Hauer played the title character, best described as an Ivanhoe-like knight who becomes embroiled in court intrigue upon his return from the Crusades. The show was wildly popular, and Hauer reprised the role in the 1975 revival of the series,Floris von Rosemund.

His first big Hollywood role came in 1981 when he was cast as a terrorist in the Sylvester Stallone thriller Nighthawks. Shortly after this, he made Blade Runner which was followed by roles in big-budget films like Flesh &Blood, Ladyhawke and The Hitcher.

You may also recognize Hauer from the series of Guinness commercials that ran from 1987 to 1994 called “Pure Genius”. Hauer was chosen to be the spokesperson for the Irish Beer because the company felt he best exhibited what Guinness was all about. It probably didn’t hurt that this was also during a period where his career exploded in many big-budget Hollywood films.

 

During the 1990’s,Hauer began gravitating more toward appearing in movies  and miniseries like the critically panned,but now cult classic, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where he played an ancient vampire,  and The Tenth Kingdom, a fantastical modern day fairy tale miniseries, in which he played a version of the infamous Huntsman character from Snow White.

In 1999, he was named by the Dutch public as the Best Dutch Actor of the Century.

Hauer was the kind of actor that never seemed to cease working. In the year 2001 alone, he appeared in seven films. In the entire span of his career, he is credited in appearing in 173 films, series and miniseries.

In 2008, Kevin Sullivan cast Hauer as musicologist Dr. Richard Nagel in Mozart’s Magic Flute Diaries his musical reworking of Mozart’s famous opera “The Magic Flute”. Hauer was intrigued by the role and by the film as a whole, “I thought it was a very interesting undertaking; an opera movie-fantasy being made like a musical in CGI,” he said.

“And the character of an academic acting almost like an agent of an opera singer, in a kind of Svengali-like manner, struck me as maybe something I could really play with. The character is a real enigma and I love mysteries. I know where a character like this thrives… and yet his mysterious presence in the film is very much open to the viewer, so they can fill in the blanks. I love the blanks. There’s so much to read into this story,buoyed up by Mozart’s lavish score; I think that’s what really makes this movie.”

Aside from his acting endeavors, Hauer was an extraordinary humanitarian. He was an advocate for Green Peace and founder of the Starfish Association: a non-profit organization devoted to AIDS awareness and to assisting children and pregnant women with HIV/AIDS.

Hauer continued working right up until his death in July 2019; he was a cunning corporate villain in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, a faerie-king in the tv series True Blood, a prince in the musical comedy Gallivant and The Commodore in the movie The Sisters Brothers to name some of his latest few roles.

 Rutger Hauer passed away at the age of 75 on July 19th,2019 at his home by the sea in his beloved Friesland in Holland. Through years of acting and a prolific array of roles he amassed a quiet, but highly-devoted fanbase. He remains cemented into the memory and hearts of legions as a result of his iconic on-screen performances and his enormous generosity.

To learn more about Rutger Hauer's career, watch our interview from the filming of Mozart's Magic Flute Diaries.

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