Rutger Hauer, who starred in Hollywood classics such as “Blade Runner”, passed away last week in Friesland at the age of 75. Although Hauer was born in the province of Utrecht, the famous Dutch actor had strong connections to the north throughout his life and career.
By Hans de Preter
The news of Hauer’s death following a short illness was international news: although the actor passed away last week in the Frisian town of Beetsterzwaag, his death was publicly announced on Wednesday afternoon.
As well known as Hauer was both domestically and abroad, what was less known about him was his enduring links to the Northern Netherlands. He fell in love with a Frisian woman – Ineke ten Cate, the daughter of the editor-in-chief of the Leeuwarder Courant, whom he married in 1985 – and with the province of Friesland itself, once telling the Algemeen Dagblad that he “needed to feel the Frisian clay under his feet.” Hauer began his career with a theatre company in Groningen.
By the 1970s, Hauer (Breukelen, January 23, 1944 – Beetsterzwaag, July 19, 2019) had been famous in The Netherlands for thanks to his role as Knight Floris in the television series, “Floris”. With his shock of white blond hair and striking blue eyes, he became famous in the Netherlands with his leading role in the film “Turkish Fruit”, based on the book by Dutch writer Jan Wolkers. His notoriety in the country was firmly established by his leading role in the film “Soldier of Orange”.
Those stand out performances caught the eye of sci fi director Ridley Scott: The Guardian reports that he was cast “sight unseen” for the role of the replicant named Batty in Scott’s seminal film, “Blade Runner”. Over the course of his career, Hauer won a Golden Globe for his role in the television series “Escape from Sobibor”, two Golden Calves (the Dutch equivalent of the Oscars) and the Dutch film award, the Rembrandt Award.
Hauer was the son of Arend Hauer and Teunke Hauer-Mellema, both of whom were prominent in amateur theatre education. When he was about ten years old, he took to the boards himself, making his debut in 1955 as Eurysakes in Sophocles’ “Ajax”. Shortly thereafter, he made his unofficial film debut in 1956 in “Rest and Space”, which was commissioned by the municipality of Schiermonnikoog.
After graduating from the Toneelschool, he played various pieces with Toneelgroep Noorder Compagnie in the Northern Netherlands, including Shakespeare’s “Richard III” and Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men”. In 1981, Hauer broke through in the United States with his role in the film “Nighthawks”.
Hauer was also a philanthropist who worked with the Red Cross, the AIDS Foundation and his own Rutger Hauer Starfish Association, an organization to help children and pregnant women with HIV and/or AIDS. Hauer also supported Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and was a member of it board of advisors.
Hauer died on 19 July 2019 after a short illness at the age of 75 in his hometown of Beetsterzwaag in Friesland. A private funeral service for the actor was held on the 24thof July.