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Film: reflecting on Rutger Hauer's work 

Dutch actor Rutger Hauer passed away in his Netherlands home on July 19 at the age of 75. The versatile actor left behind an impressive body of work (racking up more than 170 credits throughout his career), though he was perhaps best known for his indelible performance as replicant Roy Batty in Ridley Scott’s influential science fiction classic, “Blade Runner.”

A singular screen presence on screen, Hauer was a staple of genre movies like Richard Donner’s sword and sorcery fantasy “Ladyhawke” (1985), the sci-fi thriller “Split Second” (1992), and gritty neo-noir “Sin City” (2005). Hauer made a great psychopath in films like “Nighthawks” (1981) and “The Hitcher” (1986), but he also played his share of straight dramatic roles too, turning in wonderful performances in “The Legend of the Holy Drinker” (1988) and WWII drama “Escape from Sobibor,” (1987) for which he won a Golden Globe award.

Hauer’s earliest roles came from working with fellow Dutchman Paul Verhoeven, who cast him in the TV series “Floris” (1969). Hauer would go on to act in Verhoeven’s films “Turkish Delight” (1973), “Keetje Tippel” (1975), “Spetters” (1980), and “Soldier of Orange” (1977), in which he gave what’s widely considered one of his finest performances — though that film is frustratingly hard to get a hold of in the US these days.
click to enlarge Rutger Hauer. - DWDD / WIKIPEDIA / CREATIVE COMMONS
  • DWDD / Wikipedia / Creative Commons
  • Rutger Hauer.

With a prolific and versatile career, Hauer was an actor with the unique ability to make a movie better simply by being in it. He mastered the art of delivering legitimately great performances in even the schlockiest of films.

It’s hard to single out the best work within such a varied career filled with so many wonderful roles, but here are just a few of my favorite performances from Hauer over the years.

“Turkish Delight” (1977): Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film, Paul Verhoeven’s counter-culture drama is most definitely a product of its time — one would call it “problematic” today. But Hauer brings his trademark charisma and brooding intensity to the role of sculptor Eric Vonk as he engages in a manipulative and disturbing affair with rebellious rich girl Olga Stapels (Monique van de Ven).

“Blade Runner” (1982): Villainous synthetic human Roy Batty is Hauer’s most beloved role for a reason, and he turned what could have been a standard antagonist into a compelling and ultimately tragic figure. His immortal “tears in rain” final monologue, which Hauer later admitted to significantly rewriting himself, has earned its place among the all-time great film speeches.

“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1992): Hauer could do sensitive and subtle if he wanted, but he was often at his best when he went big. I’ve got a soft spot for this goofy horror-comedy, which would go on to inspire the fantastic television series of the same name. Hauer gives a gloriously hammy, scenery-chewing performance as the film’s bloodsucking big bad. This one’s just pure fun.

“The Hitcher” (1986): Hauer plays the stone-cold psychopath that C. Thomas Howell’s character has the misfortune to pick up one rainy night while on a cross-country road trip. Hauer’s John Ryder is a mostly blank slate, which gives Hauer plenty of room to play. The result is a bone-chilling performance, and one of my very favorite movie villains.

“Hobo With a Shotgun” (2011): Sure, this grimy black comedy is a gleefully transgressive and gratuitously gory throwback to grindhouse cinema (it’s a feature-length adaptation of one of the trailers seen in Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s 2007 “Grindhouse” double feature). And it’s admittedly not one of the best movies Hauer ever appeared in, but there’s a real gravitas to his portrayal of the film’s homeless man turned vigilante title character. It’s a sincere, genuinely heartbreaking performance.

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