“I Saw the Future”: Rutger Hauer (RIP) Remembers His Most Memorable Role in Blade Runner

Rut­ger Hauer died last Fri­day at the age of 75, which means he enjoyed a life more than sev­en decades longer than that of Roy Bat­ty, the char­ac­ter he played in Rid­ley Scot­t’s Blade Run­ner. As a repli­cant, an arti­fi­cial human being engi­neered to per­form intense phys­i­cal labor, Bat­ty has immense strength but an exis­tence delib­er­ate­ly lim­it­ed to a few years. Seek­ing an escape from his immi­nent demise, he and a group of his fel­low repli­cants escape from their off-world min­ing colony to Earth, specif­i­cal­ly Los Ange­les, where they intend to seek out their cre­ator and demand an exten­sion of their lives. And so it falls to Har­ri­son Ford’s detec­tive Rick Deckard, trained as a repli­cant-hunt­ing “Blade Run­ner,” to hunt them all down.

Hauer’s per­for­mance is arguably the film’s most mem­o­rable, not least because of the man­ner in which Bat­ty final­ly accepts his own death even after spar­ing the life of the man tasked with ter­mi­nat­ing him. “I’ve seen things you peo­ple wouldn’t believe,” Bat­ty says. “Attack ships on fire off the shoul­der of Ori­on. I watched C‑beams glit­ter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”

Hauer, as Indiewire’s Zack Sharf not­ed in a remem­brance, rewrote that short mono­logue him­self, hav­ing “believed the orig­i­nal speech was writ­ten in a way that was too oper­at­ic, a tone he felt a repli­cant would nev­er use.” He kept the scrip­t’s “attack ships” and “C‑beams,” sens­ing in them a kind of tech­no-poet­ry, and added the tears in the rain, an image visu­al­ly res­o­nant with the scene in which he deliv­ers it.

“It did­n’t come from me,” Hauer says of the “tears in the rain” line in the inter­view clip above. “It came from the poet in me, and there was a poet in Roy.” In using those words “to con­clude Roy’s quest,” he says, “I was also anchor­ing myself, as an actor, in my own inse­cure way. And for an audi­ence to car­ry that for 30 years was such love.” That audi­ence, he acknowl­edges, kept Blade Run­ner alive even after its fail­ure to per­form back in 1982: “When the film came out, it was out of the cin­e­ma, I think, in a week,” and some crit­ics dis­missed it as a waste of time. But Hauer under­stood its appeal as “a real­ly sexy, erot­ic, car­toon-opera inter­est­ing movie, but it was ahead of its time.”

Blade Run­ner has long since tak­en its place in the pan­theon of sci­ence fic­tion cin­e­ma, but Hauer’s fil­mog­ra­phy con­tains pic­tures of every oth­er sort of rep­u­ta­tion as well. A pro­lif­ic per­former giv­en to uncon­ven­tion­al choic­es and dis­tinc­tive turns of phrase, he was remem­bered on Twit­ter by pro­duc­er Jonathan Soth­cott as “one of those great actors who made rub­bish watch­able.” Though Hauer’s turns in pic­tures a var­ied as Lady­hawke, Blind FuryThe Hitch­er (in which hor­ror-mode Hauer, writes Stephen King, “will nev­er be topped”), Sin City, and Hobo with a Shot­gun won’t soon be for­got­ten, it will be as Roy Bat­ty — the repli­cant he has described as want­i­ng to “make his mark on exis­tence” — that he’ll be remem­bered. “At the same time I was doing this film, I saw the future,” he says of Blade Run­ner. And he lived to 2019, the once-dis­tant year in which Blade Run­ner is set, to see that future in real life.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

An Ani­mat­ed Ver­sion of Rid­ley Scott’s Blade Run­ner Made of 12,597 Water­col­or Paint­ings

Watch Tears In the Rain: A Blade Run­ner Short Film–A New, Unof­fi­cial Pre­quel to the Rid­ley Scott Film

How Rid­ley Scott’s Blade Run­ner Illu­mi­nates the Cen­tral Prob­lem of Moder­ni­ty

Blade Run­ner: The Pil­lar of Sci-Fi Cin­e­ma that Siskel, Ebert, and Stu­dio Execs Orig­i­nal­ly Hat­ed

Philip K. Dick Pre­views Blade Run­ner: “The Impact of the Film is Going to be Over­whelm­ing” (1981)

The City in Cin­e­ma Mini-Doc­u­men­taries Reveal the Los Ange­les of Blade Run­ner, Her, Dri­ve, Repo Man, and More

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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