Rutger Hauer was the sort of actor who could give even the worst film a touch of true class
The late actor will forever be known for his incredible performance in Blade Runner - but he improved every film he appeared in
The great Dutch actor Rutger Hauer, who has died aged 75, didn't always appear in the highest quality of film. Of course, there are plenty of beloved movies in his filmography: Batman Begins, Sin City, The Hitcher - he also featured in just as much straight-to-video genre claptrap. But every time Rutger Hauer turned up in a movie, it just gave everything an extra ten per cent more gravitas, even if he was surrounded by wobbly sets or wooden B-movie co-stars.
Rutger Hauer made his breakthrough in 1969 when he was cast in the Dutch TV show Floris by his fellow countryman (and genius provocateur auteur) Paul Verhoeven. Hauer and Verhoeven would collaborate on several acclaimed movies during the 1970s, including Turkish Delight and Soldier of Orange, which would get them both Hollywood's attention.
Hauer made his American in 1981's Nighthawks alongside Sylvester Stallone, but it would be 1982's Blade Runner that would secure his immortality. Hauer played the rogue replicant in Ridley Scott's influential cyberpunk sci-fi, giving a career-best performance and evening writing the superlative, bone-chilling "Tears in the rain" speech.
Blade Runner made him a star, but in truth, he would never hit those heights again. Throughout the 1980s, he had a string of starring roles in action movies that were beneath his talents, but still a lot of fun. 1989's Blind Fury particularly stands out, where he played a sightless Vietnam vet who was still able to decimate his opponents. And he was unforgettable in The Hitcher, being utterly terrifying as the hitchhiker obsessed with murdering C Thomas Howell.
As he entered the 1990s and the new millennium, he found himself in a series of less and less prestigious movies, often appearing in cheapo sci-fi flicks. As a character actor, his later CV is all over the place. He played the Real Madrid coach in Goal! 2: Living The Dream. He was Van Helsing in Dario Argento's disastrous Dracula 3D. He fought a monster serial killer in the future in Splitt Second. Sure, he'd appear in a lot of rubbish. But even the cheapest piece of rubbish got that bit better when Rutger Hauer turned up.
He still got roles in bigger movies, including Sin City, Batman Begins, George Clooney's Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Luc Besson's Valerian. And one of his best later-day performances came in Hobo With A Shotgun of all things, giving the titular character a real sense of dignity and nobility, in what should have been a jokey gore movie.
Ultimately though, it will be Blade Runner which we will all remember him for, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Hauer was a screen presence of such natural power, that when you looked into his eyes, you truly believed that he'd seen attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion, and things people like us wouldn't believe.