After half a century as an actor, Rutger Hauer has finally realised a childhood fantasy. He has of course, enjoyed an impressive career that spans nearly 50 years and over 131 different roles, including parts in critically-acclaimed movies such as Blade Runner, Nighthawks and Escape from Sobibor. But until now one part has eluded the Dutch actor – a childhood dream that is coming true thanks to The Last Kingdom. Finally, Hauer gets to be a Viking.
“I thought being a Viking was a good profession, let’s put it that way,” the 71-year-old actor says of a childhood obsession that was nurtured by graphic novels featuring the Danish warriors. “Pilot, Viking, you know… all that stuff,” he says, running through his dream careers. “And I didn’t think I was gonna be an actor; that came later.”
But unlike most kids, Hauer actually lived his fantasy. Aged 15, he ran away from school to sail the high seas like the Danes of old – though in this case he ended up scrubbing the deck of a freighter rather than pillaging.
Hauer as Viking soothsayer Ravn in The Last Kingdom
“I went halfway round the world, then a bit further,” he remembers fondly. “That was hard work, but it was worth it.”
Later, when he became an actor, he still remembered his old fantasy, but sadly nothing came of it despite the odd moment of hope.
“In my acting career there were a few times where there was a film that I was interested in set in the Viking period. But they never happened.”
Hauer had pretty much given up on the idea until the part came up for Ravn, a blind soothsayer and father to Viking chief Ragnar (Peter Gantzler) in The Last Kingdom. Caked in facial tattoos, hunched and blind, the actor is almost unrecognisable from his movie roles as he dispenses advice to lead character Uhtred (played by Tom Taylor as a child, Alexander Dreymon as an adult).
Hauer confesses that he hadn’t read Cornwell’s books by the time he started in the role, but his lack of interest in the source material isn’t entirely surprising. The actor is notorious for reworking the scripts of his projects, most famously in Ridley Scott’s sci-fi epic Blade Runner where his tweaks are credited with creating the iconic “Tears in rain” soliloquoy his character replicant Roy Batty gives before his death (see video above).
“You know, I think a lot of scripts are overwritten,” Hauer says. “Even the best actor cannot sell me with language that is overwritten. I am allergic to that. So I look at the script, I look at my part and shave everything I feel you don’t need.”
He’s coy as to whether he’s applied the same treatment here; but then again he might have been more sympathetic to the project that made a childhood dream come true.
Rutger Hauer is in The Last Kingdom tonight (Thursday 22nd October) on BBC2 at 9.00pm