Rutger Hauer was my hero before Blade Runner – and then he became an even greater one

Paul Jones charts his teenage years through the work of the late, great Rutger Hauer

Rutger Hauer

I recently answered a thread on Twitter asking people to name the movie quote they would have on their gravestone. It only took a few minutes to come up with it and as soon as I did I knew it was right: “All these moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”

Advertisement

What line of poetry has better captured the tragedy of mortality?

It’s pretty well known that Rutger Hauer added that line himself to the Blade Runner soliloquy he delivers as replicant Roy Batty – a synthetic human whose factory-set four-year life-span means his own mortality is more integral to who he is than it is even to the average human.

Rutger has sadly now gone the same way as Roy, and the line must surely appear on anything that marks his final resting place, because it is a key part of his legacy, and Roy Batty is his greatest role.

Yet while I can chart my teenage years by Rutger Hauer’s performances, Blade Runner is not where it began for me.

In fact, my first memories of Rutger are in the Guinness “Pure Genius” TV adverts. They were filmed after Blade Runner of course – it got him the gig (although director Ridley Scott was behind the camera in both cases) – but I was 13 when they began and that was years before I saw the movie.

This was back in the days when the best TV ads were works of art, and were talked about as much as the shows themselves (in many cases, they were far superior).

Dressed all in black with his shock of blond hair, Hauer was basically the living, breathing embodiment of a pint of Guinness. But it was his ethereal quality – and the almost Zen-like nature of the ads – that stuck with me.

The best remembered of them features Rutger relaxing in a chair, legs outstretched, sipping a pint of Guinness, in front of the window to an aquarium. Mournful sonar notes ring out as a dolphin hovers by the glass looking in.

“It’s not easy being a dolphin,” drawls Rutger.

They’re intelligent animals, you see – and they’ll never get the chance to drink Guinness.

A year or two deeper into my teens, me and a friend discovered Rutger’s 1986 movie The Hitcher, in which he plays an equally enigmatic, equally wry but far more violently psychotic character – the eponymous hitchhiker, who for no obvious reason decides to make one young man’s life hell.

We rented that VHS tape over and over again from the local video store, until – believe it or not, kids – certain sections became so worn out that they were barely visible. I can’t remember exactly what our fascination with the film was now – or rather, I can: it was the mesmeric blonde-haired, icy-eyed Dutchman.

Once I was hooked on Rutger, I watched all kinds of stuff. I have fond memories of him slicing up water melons in mid-air in big-hearted action-comedy Blind Fury, in which he plays a sightless Vietnam vet who is nevertheless deadly with a Samurai sword (I mean, any blind person could be deadly with a samurai sword but he does it on purpose).

As the movies got smaller, Rutger got bigger (possibly due to too much Guinness) but I remained as dedicated as ever.

Another one that springs to mind is 1991’s Wedlock. Rutger plays a jewel thief attempting to escape from a futuristic prison where inmates are paired up and given electronic necklaces that will blow their heads off if they stray further than a hundred yards from one another. High concept stuff.

For some reason it wasn’t until later that I first saw 1982’s Blade Runner, but maybe that was a good thing. An actor who I had grown to love for my own reasons then had another dimension added to him when he crouched down on a rooftop in the rain to deliver arguably the greatest movie speech of all time (equalled, perhaps, by Robert Shaw’s SS Indianapolis soliloquy in Jaws) and captured so eloquently the tragedy of human existence. A tragedy which has now claimed him too.

Advertisement

RIP Rutger. Your moments won’t be lost for some time to come.