On Rutger Hauer…

“The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and you have burned so very very brightly.” 

Actor Rutger Hauer passed away this week at 75.  His career spanned six decades, appearing in over 100 films and television series in the U.S. and his native Netherlands. Like so many geeks, and children of the 80s, Hauer holds a special place in our collective psyche. As I think about his long career, there are two films/roles that stand out, and I still draw inspiration from today. 

In Richard Donner’s Ladyhawke, Hauer plays Navarre, a former captain of the guard who reluctantly befriends a young thief (Mathew Broderick) to help break a curse that forever keeps he and his lover (Michelle Pfeifer) apart. Ladyhawke changed my definition of what fantasy could be, and was so different from the stories I was reading at the time. Magic and dragons weren’t required to tell a good story. Crossbows could be just as effective as swords, perhaps more so. Heroes were more human when they were flawed. And fantasy could be funny, as evidenced by the laughs sprinkled throughout the film thanks to Broderick’s cheeky performance as Phillipe. 

And can we talk about the music for a moment? While the score by Tangerine Dream is much reviled, I adored it for how different it was from the typical orchestral fare. 

But by far my favorite performance, and perhaps the role for which Hauer is most famous is Roy Batty, the lead replicant in Ridley Scott’s sci-fi noir classic, Blade Runner. He set the bar for all artificial life made in the image of man. His performance is a marvel filled with a raw intensity, projecting rage and rapture in equal measure. But in the end he is more human than human, and we feel only sympathy as he draws his last breath, failing to circumvent the artificial limit set upon his life by his creator. His last words in the film make for one of the most memorable scenes in science fiction cinema:

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”

Thanks for shining so bright Rutger. You will be missed.