Q&A: Rutger Hauer

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“I‘ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe." So says Rutger Hauer, as the dying replicant Roy Batty, in Ridley Scott’s classic Blade Runner. Like his famous character, Hauer has seen a lot in his life, but his memories will not be "lost in time, like tears in rain" — they’re collected in his new memoir, All Those Moments. Out this month from HarperCollins, it’s an inside look at a remarkable career.

Picked up from the Dutch stage by a young Paul Verhoeven, Hauer rose to fame in Verhoeven’s Turkish Delight and Soldier of Orange, voted the first and second best Dutch films ever made in a recent poll. After Blade Runner, his American career leaned towards action, often of the low-budget variety. 1989’s Blind Fury is essential viewing for understanding the intelligence Hauer brings to even the most lightweight roles. This movie should be unwatchable, but it’s actually kind of great thanks to Hauer’s physical wit — he actually makes you believe he’s both blind and a swordsman of uncanny skill.

Hauer has never stopped working; he’s made more than thirty movies in the past seven years, with well-received appearances in Batman Begins and Sin City. But his seemingly boundless energy now has another outlet: the Rutger Hauer Starfish Foundation, a non-profit raising money for AIDS research and education. All proceeds from All Those Moments go to the Starfish Foundation. Still, it’s no act of charity to pick up this book — any fan is well advised to grab a copy and spend some time with Hauer, as Hooksexup did last week. — Peter Smith

The press release that comes with your book talks about this new cut of Blade Runner that’s finally coming out. What would you like to see in a new version of the film?
I know there’s going to be a box with three different versions, three DVDs. But what I’m delighted for is the theatrical rerelease. People should see the film on the big screen, because it is different. This is big time. What would I like to see different? I think there’s two things that didn’t quite seem to make sense, and I understand that Harrison Ford didn’t even think it made sense. One is the voiceover. That sort

of dilutes the film, and suggests that Deckard is the main character and you need to know what’s going on in his head — and what’s going on in his head is really not much. I understand that people like that, but I’m not one of them. And the other thing is, the ending doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense in either version.

You’ve made different statements on your feelings about the replicants. In some interviews you’ve said Deckard is a fool, a guy who "fucks a blow-up doll or a dishwasher." But in your book, you also say Deckard is "a guy who shoots a woman in the back." Are replicants blow-up dolls or people?
Well. . . if you shoot one machine in the back and then take the other one for a woman, you’re really screwed up — you know what I mean? Deckard starts to believe that machines are better than people. And of course the Tyrell Company slogan is "More human than human," I get that, but in the end, for the main character to go Hollywood on his vibrator that way, that doesn’t make sense. And when we get the feeling that Harrison Ford might be a replicant himself. . . For me, it just feels wrong. It bombs the story between a machine and a man, which is ancient. Where the machine, in this case, is teaching the man to enjoy life more, and step up to the plate. If Deckard’s a replicant, then that’s not the battle anymore, and I just don’t like that.

But by making Deckard a replicant, it points out that we’re all machines on some level, collections of cells and organs, and all we have is this moment-to-moment experience.
You know what the funny thing is? The really nice thing, also? In the end, you’re talking about what’s in the film. And you debate what it does. It’s all about interpretation and what you want to believe. Funny enough, I don’t think it matters in the end, because the film will still be the film. It addresses all these thoughts, and basically, if you want to go a little farther away from it, the film really says, "Why don’t you look at humanity from a bit more distance? We’ll give you some really funny aliens to make you rethink." People say Blade Runner was ahead of its time, and that’s funny because we are there and we were there then.

You left the Dutch army after a few months. How did that shape the way you portrayed Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema in Soldier of Orange?

He’s sort of a reluctant soldier himself. We became great friends, and we still are. The army, I just realized, wasn’t for me. Of course, it’s ironic because a lot of my career, I walk around with a gun and shoot people, as either the hero or the bad guy. I’m still a soldier of sorts. But thank God, I don’t have to do it for real. I wouldn’t know how to fight for my country. I’m sorry, I would be a bad soldier. As an actor it was a part that wasn’t as comfortable or easy for me. I had to really stretch myself and find a different character.
Soldier of Orange
I see it as my first film acting role, and I’d already done about seven films.

Soldier of Orange was one of many times you worked with Paul Verhoeven. What did you think of Black Book?
Who, me? Well, I thought it was a spectacular show of force. I had a bit of a déjà vu feeling; I made five films with him and the television series, so there were a few things where I thought, well, I’m not sure if that works in this film. But you know, he always does something interesting. And our relationship is always a bit full of love, full of hate. He’s sardonic to a point where I can’t quite follow him sometimes. But it’s a show. I am trying to go the other way if I can help it, in my films. I just want to make it as real as possible. I don’t want to feel myself as an actor or as a director that much.

Your first American film was Nighthawks, where you played a German terrorist fighting Sylvester Stallone as a cop. Have you and he reconciled at all since your notorious tension on the set? Because Stallone recently said, in an interview with Ain’t It Cool News, "Nighthawks was even a better film before the studio lost faith in it and cut it to pieces. What was in the missing scenes was extraordinary acting by Rutger Hauer."

Ahh, that’s nice. I don’t take it personally, it was just a hard movie for me to make. I don’t intend to dwell on the harshness of the business or the harshness of life, because I don’t really think the audience needs to know. As far as my experience, you make a movie, and then you walk away from it. It was my first time out, and my best friend died, and my mother in the same period, two weeks later or something, and I was just having a hard time.

As you say in your book, you tried in that film to give your character motives and intelligence, and the producers wanted nothing to do with it.
The more dangerous the villain, the more it gives credit to the hero. I read a book by the real terrorist who the character was based on, and it was pretty scary. And it wasn’t a stupid book. The whole idea was, as a bad guy, you don’t look like the devil and you don’t behave like an idiot. You know, I think the devil is very smart, probably smarter than all of us.

You were often called on for action roles. Did you feel frustrated by being typecast?
No, I didn’t. You can’t get that far away from who you really are on the screen. Typecasting is done for all kinds of reasons, but they’re not all bad. At the same time, I’ve done a lot of different projects. In America, people tend to talk about the bad guys, because I’ve done some really nice ones. But I’ve directed fifteen plays that I don’t even mention on my website, and a few short films, and I’ve done about fifty good guys, fifty bad guys.

But you know, I’m an actor — I work as much as I can. I try to put the human in whatever character I’m playing. And if I can, I’ll give him some humor. I think a lot of things are way more funny than people are willing to see. And then if I can give him some wit, that’d be nice too.

Your best-known role from after Blade Runner might be in The Hitcher, where you play a mysterious killer who gets into a cat-and-mouse game with a kid who picks him up. There’s a moment in The Hitcher where the kid, Jim Halsey, spits on your character, John Ryder, and Ryder seems to savor that moment.
I think Ryder feels he’s lost contact with the kid there. And so when the kid, being very strange, decides to put a gun on a cop and go back for him, Ryder’s a happy camper. While he’s in handcuffs and totally isolated. There’s a psychic element in that film that I like. I’ve always felt this guy was a nightmare, a sort of fiction or imagined story, and Halsey is the kid who dreams him up. He comes from dust and he goes back to dust.

I love that film so much, and I’m so happy it became one of the films that just kept traveling underground. The choice for me at that time was done quickly. People were saying, "Oh, you’re going to be a major star now, you’ve got to forget about the bad guys," and I thought, "What the hell are they talking about?" As an actor, that really doesn’t mean anything to me. I’m in it for exercise, stretching, having some fun.

Ryder’s such a sinister character —
But he’s so funny! He’s so compassionate in many ways, especially for the
Batman Begins
kid. He understands more than the kid does, and tries to coach him. Knowing how it’s going to hit home when he tells him there’s no bullets in the gun.

You repeat in this book how anti-war you are, and you come across as a peaceful and humane guy. When you’re playing a sadistic role, how does your own non-violence shape your approach?
It’s fiction, everything we do is fiction. I’m not Van Gogh, and I’m not Rembrandt. I’m not the hitcher, for Christ’s sake, I’m an actor! So don’t take it out on me, please.
The imaginary and your talent can have a ball together, without you being very personally attached. Method acting, to me. . . if you think about your father who died, or your mother, or whoever, when you have to play a scene about somebody who dies, I think you’re whoring your own life. I don’t know, it just gets sticky. But I know people think about it in different ways.

You recently co-directed a well-received short film, The Room. Do you have concrete plans to direct more?

I just started an event in Rotterdam where filmmakers get together, borrow each others’ minds, write a short film, and shoot it, in eight days. In eight days all of this happens. And it was a major success. It’s called Rutger Hauer Film Factory. I’m trying to get a community together in Europe that will make short films every year. We’ll find distribution, people who are interested, we’ll put them on DVDs, that sort of thing, and we’ll create a window into the world, I hope.

You seem to be having sort of a resurgence — directors who grew up on Blade Runner are making big films like Batman Begins and Sin City.

Yeah, but you know, it’s a one-time deal. Christopher Nolan is wonderful, and Robert Rodriguez is wonderful, and I hope they will not fly away! Because once that big-time stuff happens, success is very seductive and has many sides to it. I’ve invited Rodriguez to come to my master class next year, and I hope he has the time.

What inspired you to write your memoir now? What made you decide this was the time?
I felt I should because the twenty-fifth anniversary of Blade Runner is such a celebration, and maybe it will help the book sell, for a good cause. I’m not making money, I’m doing it for AIDS. That’s my objective. I don’t think I will write another, but what interests me is a blog version. And I’m working on that. I’m going to spend the next five years giving you little blogs, where my dentist plays the guitar while I’m waiting to be numbed — silly stuff, but real stuff. I think it’s fascinating. It’s all digital. I’m really charmed by the whole digital thing, because I feel like I’m only one digit [laughs].

What drew you to the issue of AIDS in particular?
I took AIDS to my heart because I felt I could actually do something I could see. I talked to a guy in Italy, who put a hospital for kids with AIDS in Romania. Romania doesn’t really admit that it has a problem, and it does, of course. The moment people don’t admit, you know there’s a problem. It’s always the same. And this guy built a village for the kids, the orphans. The new orphans of the world. There are going to be millions of them. He brought Italian builders into the country, the government couldn’t stop him, and he built this village. And I was there. And one thing he said was, if you want to do something for people with AIDS, you’ve got to do it now. You can’t wait forever. It takes five years to set up a charity — I didn’t have the time. I was in Turks and Caicos, and you can do it in a day there, and I did it that way. Life is about giving. I’ve taken a lot, and I’m giving something back.

©2007 Peter Smith & hooksexup.com