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Roy Batty in Blade Runner was, of course, a definitive role. One that just like Richard E Grant and Withnail, and I’m increasingly convinced Star Lord and Worst Chris, is a something of a curse. You can spend the rest of your career doing interesting, weird fractious stuff but people will still ask for Freebird and still be weirdly annoyed when they don’t get it, even if what they get is better. In fact, Blade Runner is part of Rutger Hauer’s quadrilogy of iconic roles, including Wanted: Dead or Alive (On a motorbike! In a studio apartment!), Ladyhawke(Just IRRATIONALLY hot! Also crossbows and multi species curses and romance!) and The Hitcher (In your car! And your FACE!). all four showcased his arresting combination of charm and brutality, the sense ofan intelligence acutely aware of the mortal and moral weight of it’s actions and doing them anyway.
That self awareness carries through into his other best roles, and over time turns into something really rather lovely. Hauer looked to have made his piece with his iconic status by using it to heighten the reality of whatever role he was cast in. Of COURSE the evil Wayne Enterprises exec in Batman Begins is played by him. Of COURSE he played Morgan Edge, head of Intergang, on Smallville. Of COURSE his magnificently louche vampire in the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer takes an opportunity to give his most annoying, and loyal, henchman the best death scene ever. There are entire Hauer movies where he could be forgiven for walking on, winking to camera and mouthing ‘here comes the bad guy’.
It’s no surprise then that Hauer retires undefeated openweight ‘90s B movie champion of the world. Wedlock. Surviving the Game and the magnificent Split Second (Want to know what’s happening in that movie? So do the writers!) are all honking lumps of cheerfully bloody cheese elevated in no small part by Hauer’s presence. In fact Surviving the Game has him going toe to toe with Ice T and it is, somehow, MORE fun than you’d dared hope. He’s just fundamentally enjoyable in everything he’s in, especially if what he’s in really isn’t very good. The last movie I saw Hauer appear in was the impossibly beautiful opening sequence of Valerian,I didn’t get on with the movie but it was great seeing him again and I rather like that the last role I saw him play was Earth president. I get the feeling he would have been good at it. Or at the very least been enthusiastic and nurturing about the planets’ new found culinary bravery and fondness for Guiness.
Rutger Hauer isn’t dead, he’s just become a point on the compass. Steer towards it, discover the rich lowlands of the 1990s b-movie golden age. Any of the movies mentioned here are worth your time, but honestly start with that initial loose quadrilogy. Oh and Split Second. Everyone should see Split Second once in their lives.