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Classically handsome, physically impressive, and emotionally intense, Dutch actor Rutger Hauer first achieved fame in his homeland of the Netherlands before exploding on U.S. screens as some of cinema's most memorable villains. Determined to not fall victim to Hollywood typecasting, he went on to portray heroes, misfits and scoundrels in an incredibly prolific career that spanned decades. After gaining recognition in several films with Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven in the 1970s, he debuted on American screens as a psychotic terrorist in "Nighthawks" (1981). As impressive as that performance was, Hauer was unforgettable as the homicidal android Roy Batty opposite Harrison Ford in Ridley Scott's influential science fiction thriller "Blade Runner" (1982). Major film roles followed, with memorable turns in films like "Ladyhawke" (1985) and "The Hitcher" (1986). Although Hauer continued to work relentlessly in the years that followed, many of his choices seemed questionable, such as the blind swordsman comedy "Blind Fury" (1989). There would, however, be small gems of performances amongst the subpar efforts, with cameo roles in films like "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" (2002) and "Sin City" (2005), proving that he still had much to bring to the table as an actor. As uneven as Hauer's body of work had become, it was, nonetheless, admirable, not only for its sheer volume, but for the diversity of the characters he played and the commitment that he brought to every role.
Born to his actor parents Arend and Teunke Hauer on Jan. 23, 1944 in Breukelen, The Netherlands, Rutger Oelsen Hauer grew up in the city of Amsterdam in the years after the Second World War. Following in the family tradition, he began acting at the age of five, appearing in theater productions and television by the time he was 11. An exceptionally precocious boy from the start, he eventually became disenchanted with school, and at the age of 15 - after lying about his young age - signed on to a freighter in the Dutch Merchant Navy. After traveling the world for a year, during which time he experienced a vast array of cultures and learned several languages, Hauer returned home and attended night school. Following an aborted stint in the military, he attended acting school in Amsterdam, honing his craft and later working with a traveling theater company throughout Holland. Hauer's big break in his homeland came with the lead on the local television series "Floris" (1969), an Ivanhoe-like period adventure. Significantly, this would also mark the first of many collaborative efforts with show creator and director Paul Verhoeven. Not long after, Hauer made his screen debut in Paul Verhoeven's erotic drama "Turkish Delight" (1973). More projects with Verhoeven followed, such as the biopic "Keetje Tippel" (1975), a superb portrayal of a resistance fighter in "Soldier of Orange" (1977), and the controversial "Spetters" (1980), as a champion racecar driver idolized by a group of Dutch teens.
Hauer made his explosive Hollywood film debut in Sylvester Stallone's adrenaline-fueled thriller "Nighthawks" (1981) as Wulfgar, an international terrorist as suave as he is insane. The following year, he graced U.S. television screens for the first time as an equally despicable character, Albert Speer, Hitler's personal architect, in the acclaimed docudrama miniseries "Inside the Third Reich" (ABC, 1982). But it was his sophomore American film effort that would leave an indelible mark upon the genre film landscape for decades to come. In director Ridley Scott's visionary science fiction noir "Blade Runner" (1982), Hauer breathed life into rogue "replicant" Roy Batty, a murderous android out to take his revenge on an inhumane creator before his own brief lifespan comes to an end. In the climactic scene where Batty plays cat-and-mouse with a terrified Decker (Harrison Ford), Hauer brought a brutality, dignity and pathos to his character, character traits rarely seen in the pantheon of cinema villains. His stock now on the rise, Hauer began working with some of the most talented directors of the time, including Sam Peckinpah in his the spy thriller "The Osterman Weekend" (1983), and Nicholas Roeg in his psychodrama of greed, lust, and betrayal, "Eureka" (1983). Hauer returned in back-to-back medieval adventures; first as a lycanthropic warrior in Richard Donner's fantasy tale "Ladyhawke" (1985), starring opposite Matthew Broderick and Michelle Pfeiffer, followed by a turn as the leader of a ragtag gang of mercenaries in Verhoeven's violent "Flesh + Blood" (1985).
Enjoying his hot streak, Hauer once again tapped into his dark side as a psychotic killer obsessed with a young traveler (C. Thomas Howell) in the cult favorite "The Hitcher" (1986). Next came the lead in the shoot-em-up "Wanted: Dead or Alive" (1987), as a descendant of Steve McQueen's bounty hunter character from the 1950s television series of the same name. In a return to television, Hauer turned in an impressive performance as a sympathetic Russian officer in the harrowing concentration camp docudrama "Escape from Sobibor" (CBS, 1987), for which he won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Mini-Series. In the Italian-made drama "The Legend of the Holy Drinker" (1988), he gave what he considered his most nuanced performance as a vagrant struggling to repay the life-changing kindness shown to him years earlier by a stranger. Hauer continued to capitalize on his considerable physical abilities in the post-apocalyptic gladiator adventure "The Blood of Heroes" (1989), opposite Joan Chen. Some film choices were questionable, however, such as the critically panned Depression-era farce "Bloodhounds of Broadway" (1989), alongside co-stars Madonna and Matt Dillon, and the bewildering comedy adventure "Blind Fury" (1989), in which he played a sightless sword fighter. Somewhat more memorable was Hauer's turn as an ancient vampire with sinister designs on the titular heroine in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (1992), a film that enjoyed a highly successful second life as a television series of the same name. Other roles in a growing list of B-grade films included a wealthy hunting enthusiast stalking the ultimate prey in "Surviving the Game" (1994), co-starring rapper Ice-T as the hunted.
Hauer followed with several forgettable television and direct-to-video movies before joining an impressive ensemble for the highly-rated fantasy miniseries "Merlin" (NBC, 1998), alongside veteran actor Sam Neill in the title role. He took part in another epic miniseries cut from much the same cloth, "The 10th Kingdom" (NBC, 2000) which also attracted high ratings. Hauer returned to high-profile Hollywood fare when he was tapped by first-time director George Clooney to appear in "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" (2002) as a menacing but weary hit man who bonds with professed game show producer-turned-assassin Chuck Barris (Sam Rockwell). In 2003 he had a recurring role as ruthless gangster Morgan Edge on the teenage superhero adventure series "Smallville" (The WB, 2001-06/The CW, 2006-2011). The following year, Hauer played the part of vampire master Kurt Barlow in the horror remake "Stephen King's Salem's Lot" (TNT, 2004). Back on the big screen a year later, he landed two roles that were smaller parts than he had enjoyed during his heyday, but were much more higher-profile and considerably more successful than the substandard projects Hauer had been appearing in for more than a decade. First came a turn as the morally decayed Cardinal Roarke in director Robert Rodriguez and writer-artist Frank Miller's visually stunning adaptation of Miller's noir comic book series "Sin City" (2005). Hauer next had a brief cameo as a power hungry CEO looking to take control of Wayne Enterprises in the massively successful super hero reboot "Batman Begins" (2005), directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Christian Bale as the Dark Knight. Hauer continued to work on projects of varying quality and budget over the next few years, in such films as the indie romantic comedy "Moving McAllister" (2007), cast as the gruff, attorney father of wild child Mila Kunis. He also appeared in the supernatural horror tale "The Rite" (2011), starring Sir Anthony Hopkins as a Catholic priest mentoring a young American seminary student (Colin O'Donoghue) in the ways of exorcism.
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Toured Dutch farmlands with a theater group for six years
Made film debut with "Turkish Delight"; first film with Dutch director Paul Verhoeven
First English-language film, "The Wilby Conspiracy", a British feature set in South Africa starring Sidney Poitier and Michael Caine
Starred in his international breakthrough role, Verhoeven's "Soldier of Orange"
Made American film debut in "Nighthawks"
Made American TV debut as Hitler's personal architect, Albert Speer, in "Inside the Third Reich", an ABC docudrama miniseries
Had breakthrough screen role as replicant leader Roy Batty in "Blade Runner"
Starred opposite Michelle Pfeiffer in "Ladyhawke"
Co-starred in the TV-movie "Escape From Sobibor"
Played one of the undead in the film "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"
Featured opposite Diane Keaton in the TNT biopic "Amelia Earhart: The Final Flight"
Starred in the HBO movie "Fatherland"
Starred in the thriller "Bone Daddy"
Appeared in the acclaimed NBC miniseries "Merlin"
Played a mysterious assassin in director George Clooney's "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind"
Starred as Earle, a businessman who has designs on Wayne Enterprises, in "Batman Begins," which stares Christian Bale as Batman
Had a cameo as a Waynecorp executive officer in "Batman Begins"
Starred in "Sin City," the adaptation of comic book icon Frank Miller's uber-noir series of graphic novels
Co-starred with Tom Hardy in fantasy horror "Minotaur"
Starred as Detective John Criton in horror flop "Dead Tone"
Starred as the title character in romantic comedy "Moving McAllister"
Co-starred with F. Murray Abraham in historical drama "Sword of War"
Starred as the titular Hobo in the cult classic "Hobo with a Shotgun"
Played Sonderman in TV mini-series "Flight of the Storks"
Had a multi-episode arc on HBO's vampire drama "True Blood"
Guest-starred on Elijah Wood comedy "Wilfred"
Co-starred with Tom Sizemore and Sean Patrick Flanery in WWII actioner "Beyond Valkyrie: Dawn of the 4th Reich"
Starred as the President of the World State Federation in Luc Besson's "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets"