Rutger Hauer thinks he twirls too much
You know who Rutger Hauer is. He's a badass. He's played in over 100 movies, and here's a list of our favourites: Blind Fury, Wedlock, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Sin City and Blade Runner. That's right, Blade fucking Runner. Luckily for film as a genre, Rutger's now spreading his awesomeness around by giving yearly master classes for groups of professionals and students of film at the same time. They're held in the city of Rotterdam, in Rutger's home country the Netherlands. If you're one of the Chosen Ones to attend, you'll not only make a short movie under Rutger Hauer's tutelage, you'll also be given lectures by people like Paul Verhoeven and Roberto Rodriguez, and in the past, Chris Nolan as well. All right, enough name dropping, here's the interview.
Vice: Why are you such a badass?
Rutger: Ah, am I? I'm not sure. I'm an actor. I do parts. It's what people ask me to play. It's a boring question though, journalists always ask me that. I don't get it. I don't always play the bad guy!
Wait, no, I meant badass, not bad guy! Bad ass, as in: extremely cool person!
Oh. Uh, I don't know. But thanks, that's a nice compliment.
Are you a film nerd?
No. I don't know a lot about movies. I don't watch that many movies, and when I do, I forget the titles.
Do you think being a film nerd can make you a better actor? Or does nothing matter besides a love of acting itself?
I don't think you have to be a film nerd. You don't even have to know everything about acting to be a great actor. But there are 100,000 ways to do it. I'm not going to tell people that such and such ways are the only ways to do it. What I can tell you about is one of my own flaws. I twirl around too much.
Well, perhaps not twirling, but I do fly too much. When I'm working on a movie, I take an idea and run with it, even though it's not scripted and it's not in the movie's interest. You get these ideas, but then before you know it, you're flying ahead of everybody else.
Including the director and the writer?
Yes. But not during preparations for a movie. You should follow a director. I really like being directed. I need it. I don't want to have to think of everything myself, that's why.
How did you prepare for your role in Blade Runner? Did you read everything by Philip K. Dick, everything about androids and philosophy on life and death?
No. I read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and I saw that it was indeed hard to make a movie out of that script. So the movie's different from the story. But I don't think that's bad, you need to get your inspiration from somewhere. I talked to Ridley Scott, the director, as well and we decided to base my part in that film on the idea of the ubermensch. That's reflected in the fascism that's in the movie--me being a muscled blond guy, a true Arian.
What else did you talk about?
The feeling of poetry and the humanity the character should have, and the topsy-turvy sexuality. It was one of the first times I was in LA and I was very impressed by the place and the confused sexuality of it as well. So I thought, I'm playing Roy in a way that he doesn't care who he kisses and loves, and give him a real big heart. Him kissing his father in the movie is part of that.
What's wrong with LA?
The place has a frustrated sexuality. The people there all think they should have what they want to have, and that they should be whatever they think they should be. I don't understand that, because I think that makes you very unhappy. You should never have exactly what you want. Wanting that seems so stupid to me.
OK, one last question about Blade Runner please, because we're all huge nerds about it at Vice?
Great! So about the scene in which your character Roy Batty dies. He says, "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. C beams glittering on the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain." Can you tell us how that line came to be in the movie the way it was?
When I first read the script, my character's death scene consisted of 300 words of techno babble. I thought it was bad timing to start preaching at that point in the movie. I didn't think it would be good drama. Also, when the battery of an android dies, it dies. It doesn't have time left for an entire page of chit-chat. I thought it would be nice to have Roy say in one sentence what he will miss about life instead. I kept two sentences that were in the original script and added one: "All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain." I made that up. Next day on the set I told Ridley: "I lost everything besides these three lines, what do you think about it?" And he liked it, 'cause he said: "That's a good idea."
I can imagine. It's pure poetry.
You've said that luck plays an important role in your career, but how did you choose your next roles and projects? What kind of things did you look for in roles? And what kind of advice do you give to others?
The most important thing you must get as an actor is getting the chance to practice a lot. There isn't an actor or director alive who says, "I've made enough movies, I totally get the way it's being done right now." So you have to seize every opportunity to play parts. But those opportunities are scarce. Everybody wants to be an actor. That's why it's so nice for me to give those master classes. It gives me the opportunity to let others practice as much as they can.
What are the things you try and teach the students in your master classes?
That they should follow their feelings. What I see a lot of times is that the brain power holds a lot of people back. They don't follow their hearts and intuition. I try and teach them to do that in my master classes. It was funny to see that in the two groups of students I had--one consisting of professionals, the other of amateurs--the amateurs immediately understood what I meant with following their feelings. I had two groups making movies with simple handheld cameras. The amateurs went along with my instructions; the professionals were stuck for a week. But after that, they got the hang of it. The professionals produced two very good movies, and I mean very good. The amateurs produced one brilliant film. And they only received pointers from some professionals, like Roberto Rodriguez and Lech Majewski. That was the only thing they'd ever learned about film. And still they made something great. All in all, 35 short films were made.
About acting itself, you recently said, "I hate it when I see it." What did you mean by that?
It reflects on a particular style of acting that I like. I like it when I don't have the feeling I'm seeing an actor acting, and I feel it like a membrane between the story and the audience. You shouldn't tell too much. I want to be sucked into the story, not into the actor.... In a strange way, there's a lot of similarities between a clothing model and a film actor. An actor is a kind of model. It's not about you. It's about you being a model for the role. And then you should put some meat on it and give it the illusion of life, but you shouldn't overdo it. Guys like Edward Hopkins and Sean Penn are perfect examples of actors that are doing it right.
How was it to do those master classes?
Great. All the people who attended were really good. And there was one really gifted film maker this year. This person was so good. And I also noticed that it's possible to create a good movie with a really simple camera.
Are there people you don't like as well?
I wouldn't tell. That wouldn't be nice. Besides, my opinion isn't that important anyway.
But how did you grow up to be such a cool guy? What's the worst thing you did when you were a kid?
I set fire to a haystack once. It wasn't on purpose though. I was just playing with matches. I was four years old. I never did anything worse than that.
And after that? I read you worked on a merchant ship and sailed around the world from your 15th untill your 18th. Were you mischievous then? Drink a lot when you came on shore?
Not really. I drank, but I always kept my intake in check.
And when you started getting successful as an actor, were there stints of alcohol and drug abuse?
Well, again, not really. I'm drinking a Sneeuwwitje [beer mixed with soda] now, and that's dangerous enough, ha ha. And about drugs: I've tried them, but I've never gotten into it. The truth is they scared me. So I'm really straight.
I'm asking all this because I've got this 25-year-old friend who has been drinking for years now and basically hasn't done anything in terms of school or work accomplishments since he was 19. However, he is one of the most charismatic, nice guys you'll meet and someone who turns living into an art form. And when he's in a room, everybody's looking at him, wanting to know what the next thing will be he'll say or do. And this guy has now applied for acting school, and he got hired. Do you think living like that for a while, getting experience with life and people, help you as an actor?
Life certainly is what teaches you things, not school. School just gives a structure to the way you're playing. And it learns you to think conventionally. I never learned to think that way, because I never went to acting school. I never felt the need either. But by pure luck I landed in a line of work where you can do without conventional thinking.
JAN VAN TIENEN
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