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Many moons ago, when I was a lacklustre film student, I woke up the afternoon after a party with my head on the floor, my feet on the sofa, and the entirety of Rutger Hauer’s ‘Tannhauser Gate’ speech from Blade Runner sharpied onto my face and chest.
That alone should tell you all you need to know about Rutger ‘eyes so blue they’ll burn your skin off’ Hauer, but just in case this immensely underappreciated actor has slipped under your radar, here are five reasons why he was the undisputed king of eighties cinema.
1. Blade Runner
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way. In 1982 Hauer played Roy Batty in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, arguably one of the greatest films of all time. His character was a murderous android with super strength and major daddy issues, but he also had a deeply poetic soul, provided in large part by Hauer himself, who apparently improvised some of Batty’s final speech, including the famed line ‘All those moments will be lost in time…like tears in the rain.’
Believe it or not, Hauer was originally supposed to play the evil captain of the guard in Richard Donner’s Ladyhawke, but switched to play chivalrous hero Etienne Navarre after Kurt Russell dropped out of the role. Ladyhawke is a glorious piece of epic eighties medieval schmaltz (complete with electronic soundtrack), but Hauer still gives it all he’s got, playing opposite Michelle Pfeiffer as a pair of cursed lovers.
3. The Hitcher
In 1986, Hauer taught us a valuable lesson about why you should never EVER pick up hitchhikers, even if they appear to be hopping to their grandma’s funeral on a fractured shin bone. Hauer’s hitcher John Ryder is a total madman, whose favourite pastimes include murder, mayhem, blowing things up and playing nasty tricks with severed fingers. The movie as a whole is pretty grim, but Hauer’s performance sticks in the memory like a butcher knife in the sternum.
4. Salute of the Jugger
Salute of the Jugger was David Peoples’ crack at a futuristic, Mad Max-esque, post-apocalyptic – well, you know the rest. Hauer starred as the eye-patched leader of a rag-tag team of so-called ‘Juggers’, playing an extremely violent gladiatorial version of football, after having fallen out of favour in the higher echelons of this broken future society. It is absolutely as ridiculous as it sounds – but then, so were most films made in the eighties.
5. Wanted: Dead or Alive
In Gary Sherman’s 1986 film Hauer played Nick Randall, a CIA operative turned L.A. bounty hunter. He’s hired to track down a terrorist (Gene Simmons, no less) who blew up a cinema full of people (while they were watching Rambo). The brilliantly overblown action sequences, Hauer’s harmonica blowing, the bright blonde eighties haircut you could set your watch by – what’s not to love?
Hauer’s eighties heyday may be over and done with, but the 70 year old is still popping up all over the place (including in Lee Tamahori’s Emperor, which is now in pre-production).