With his blond hair and his black clothing actor Rutger Hauer was an obvious choice for advertising art directors to hire him for Guinness adverts which made him a fortune when he fronted their campaign from 1987 to 1994. But he was much more than that.
Born on 23rd January 1944 in Breukelen, Amsterdam he ran away from school at 16 and scrubbed the decks of naval freighters before he moved on to work as an electrician as well as a carpenter before signing up for acting classes at a drama school. However he was expelled as he was frequently absent. It was a similar to fate to his brief sojourn in the army where he was discharged as he was deemed psychologically unfit. It was something that would serve him well for future acting roles when he took up acting classes again this time taking it seriously and completing a three year course and joined a theatre company soon after.
It was a role as a Robin Hood type figure in a 1969 TV series that made Rutger Hauer a star at home appearing in a film version in 1975. The TV series had been directed by Paul Verhoeven who, when he made his cinema directorial debut feature ‘Turkish Delight’ in 1973 cast Hauer in a role that had him naked for most of the film and had in typical Verhoeven style caused him trouble with US censors. For Hauer it would be the first of five films he would make with Verhoeven, all controversial especially 1980’s ‘Spetters’ which was sexually explicit but for Hauer it caught the eye of Hollywood where agents had wanted him to change his name which he refused to do and he landed his first US role in an underrated Stallone film ‘NightHawks’ as a enigmatic but brutal terrorist. Rutger Hauer reportedly didn’t see eye to eye with Stallone yet went on to say about the film, “I don’t think I’ve been more motivated or done better work’.
It was after this that he made probably his defining role as the replicant Roy Blatty in Ridley Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’ a box office failure but now regarded as a classic in the sci-fi genre. Much like Robert Shaw’s USS Indiannapolis speech, Hauer’s death monologue was perceived as being improvised whereas actually he had significantly cut it down and added the now prescient and enigmatic line ‘Time to die‘ about his character’s fate . After this he worked for a number of respected director’s including Nicolas Roeg in ‘Eureka’, and Sam Peckinpah’s last film ‘The Osterman Weekend’.
It was in 1986 that he returned to popular success in ‘The Hitcher’ again as a psychopath in some particularly brutal moments in an effective and memorable thriller. From here on he continued to alternate between high art (Woody Allen’s ‘Bloodhounds of Broadway’ )and instantly forgettable straight to video trash too numerous to mention. Though he did win a Golden Globe for 1987’s ‘Escape form Sobibor’ as a Nazi camp inmate and ironically having made adverts for Guinness he would also appear as a homeless drunk and petty criminal who finds redemption in Paris in the film ‘The Legend of the Holy Drinker’ and carried the feature, which collected the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.
By the latter stages of his career he was taking smaller roles in respectable films such as George Clooney’s 2002 ‘Confessions of a dangerous mind’ as well as 2005’s ‘Sin City’ and ‘Batman Begins’ and more recently ‘The Sister Brothers’
Rutger Hauer learnt to speak 6 foreign languages and was active in social causes as an outspoken sponsor of the environmental organization Greenpeace and the founder of the Starfish Association, a non-profit devoted to AIDS awareness. Despite his frequent violent on screen roles he regarded himself as very non-violent and led a quirky existence living partly on his potato farm in Holland and a boat that that was anchored off the coast of Los Angeles.
Twice married his first marriage ended in 1985 and he is survived by his second wife, the artist Ineke ten Cate, and a daughter, actress Aysha Hauer, from his marriage to Heidi Merz
Rutger Hauer died on 19th July 2019 aged 75 from a short illness.