Bad Movie Superstars: Rutger Hauer

“Maybe not such a good actor, but he looks good and will do and dare anything.” – Hauer’s reference for his breakthrough role in Floris

He was an android supersoldier built to win, not to last; he hunted Satanic rat-monsters through the flooded streets of London and held a plane hostage for Satan. He’s a Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominee (well, he was in a nominated best foreign film), and tried to hit on my ex on the set of the Sam Neill-starring Arthurian event miniseries Merlin.

He is, of course, Rutger Hauer.


Now, that picture is from back in the day, because while with some bad movie superstars there’s just no telling why they have a career, with Hauer we can say it in two words: Blade Runner. Whatever you may think about Ridley Scott’s adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, its status as a cult classic is unassailable, and Hauer’s depiction of a military ‘replicant’ driven to psychosis by the impending end of his purposely truncated lifespan – including the famous, largely improvised, tears in rain speech – is a big part of it. The wild eyes, the platinum-pale hair, the soft voice and barely-human body language all combine to demand to know why in the hell the only other thing he did for twenty years was a line of Guiness adverts?

The answer is that it wasn’t. Despite the fall-off of higher profile material, he’s rarely been out of work for long: just take a look at his Filmography on Wikipedia.

Of particular note are some of his European films:

  • Escape from Sobibor (1987 TV) for which he won a Golden Globe for best actor
  • Legend of the Holy Drinker (1988), which won multiple awards and nominations. Hauer won Seattle’s Golden Space Needle Award for best actor, the film won the Venice Film Festival Golden Lion (it was never released in the US unfortunately)

Pre-Blade Runner he also had two critically acclaimed collaborations with a young Dutch director named Paul Verhoeven.

  • Soldaat van Oranje (1977) (Soldier of Orange) which won the LA Film Critics Award for best foreign film, with Hauer nominated for another Golden Globe
  • Turks Fruit (1973) (Turkish Delight), which was voted best Dutch film of the the 20th century, while Hauer was voted best actor; nominated for Oscar for best foreign film

My original bad movie superstar entry for Hauer received a scathing condemnation for ignoring these works.

Also worth attention are Split Second, where Hauer battles giant rat-beasts and angry British character actors, and Ladyhawke, ill-advised electro soundtrack aside.

His big break was playing the lead in Floris, a mediaeval adventure serial directed by Verhoeven in 1969. Check this shit out:


So why, I hear you ask, is this titan of the European cinema a bad movie superstar and not the Dutch Gerard Depardieu? Well, again in two words, Albert Pyun. More expansively, a great deal of Hauer’s bad movie cache comes from his frequent collaborations with Pyun and other low-budget directors as he passed his prime, filled out from the lissom figure he cut in Blade Runner and started taking work to pay the bills (such as the Guiness ads, in which his white-blonde hair saw him costumed in black to represent a pint of Guiness).

He mostly plays grizzled veterans these days, and growls his way through roles that a lesser man might balk at. There is, it seems, no dialogue so trite that he won’t have a go at it, and he’s usually a game performer – although occasionally even he seems to be plodding through a particular stinker – whatever else may be wrong with the films he is in.

He’s also a bit of a sleaze who hit on my ex on the set of Merlin, but you can’t have everything.


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