New Blade Runner Review

 

 

Time to die … again
As a new cut of Blade Runner hits the big screen, Rutger Hauer is happy to replicate Roy Batty’s final moments
By James Mottram

 


THERE ARE many misconceptions surrounding the turbulent making of Ridley Scott's cyberpunk classic Blade Runner. One of the most popular is that Rutger Hauer ad-libbed the film's entire ending, as his character Roy Batty - the out-of-control replicant being pursued by Harrison Ford's detective - realises his life force is about to expire.

"No, no, no," says Hauer, in that syrupy lilt of his. "I just made up one line: All those moments will be lost in time.' That's all I just came up with one line that nails the essence of Roy." Whatever the truth, Hauer has been credited as the author of one of the most famous pay-offs in film history, concluding the soliloquy with the immortal phrase "time to die".

Twenty-five years on, and despite having more than 100 credits to his name, Hauer is still haunted by those words. Everyone, from taxi drivers to mechanics, quotes them back to the man who has been called the Dutch Paul Newman. Running his hand through his scarecrow-thatch of blond hair, he shakes his head, marvelling at how a film that was slammed by critics and flopped at the box office refuses to die.

No other movie has had that kind of lifespan, while at the same time being about the idea that life's short'." What Hauer calls an "improved version" of the film is about to be released in cinemas, and soon after on DVD. "Now we're going to hit another audience," he says.

We meet on a hotel terrace at the Venice Film Festival, where Hauer, wearing a dusty-looking suit to match his creased face, has accompanied several of his fellow cast members to bang the drum for Blade Runner: The Final Cut.

Despite scenes added or extended and special effects glitches ironed out, in truth the film seems simply a more polished version of the 1992 Director's Cut. Hauer disagrees. "This is a new cut and it's quite different," he argues. "It's a more grown up film and it's more powerful. It seems to be very rich. I get a lot of enjoyment out of it, more now than then. Maybe I changed, I don't know."

Now 63 and no longer boasting the athletic physique he revealed in Blade Runner, time has inevitably changed him. Yet back then Hauer was no Schwarzenegger, who arrived from Europe with muscles and not much more. After a hugely successful career in Holland, where Hauer had collaborated with director Paul Verhoeven on films such as Soldier Of Orange and Turkish Delight, he made his Hollywood debut in 1981 in Nighthawks, in which he played an international terrorist opposite Sylvester Stallone.

"I'd been spoiled playing leading roles in Europe," he says. "Then I came and did a movie with Sly Stallone it was the worst experience of my life, with an ego-tripping Stallone who was doing all kinds of manipulating. Nobody was listening. I was totally on my own."

After Blade Runner, he worked with some major directors in the 1980s - Sam Peckinpah (The Osterman Weekend) and Nicolas Roeg (Eureka) among them - but never quite made the breakthrough. Verhoeven wanted him to play the lead in his 1987 studio movie RoboCop, but was overruled. By this point, after winning a cult following for his psychopath in The Hitcher the year before, Hollywood had typecast Hauer as a bad guy - something that evidently still irks him. "To me, they're all people," he shrugs. "I play people. I don't play scary." Curiously, he seems equally annoyed that The Hitcher was recently remade with Sean Bean taking his role. "My first feeling is How dare they?'. The second is, Why didn't they f***ing ask me?'"

At least Hauer has experienced a re-emergence of late, with hip directors such as George Clooney (in Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind), Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins) and Robert Rodriguez (Sin City) all calling upon his services.

"It's wonderful to work with people that aren't afraid. So many of them are." It also means he won't be best remembered - in Britain at least - for selling Guinness. Supposedly chosen to front the company's advertising campaigns between 1987 and 1994 because a black coat and almost-white hair made him look like a pint of the stuff, he never liked to drink it, but found the persona agreeable. "The character in those ads was sort of strange, wicked, arrogant, stupid and philosophic, all at the same time."

Some of that description might fit Hauer himself, who frequently speaks in non-sequiturs. There's something quite bizarre about him. It's not hard to picture him during teenage years spent in Amsterdam coffee shops, when he fancied himself as something of a poet.

Born in Breukelen, Holland, despite being the son of two theatre actors Hauer did not immediately take to the profession. With his parents often touring the country, leaving he and his three sisters in the care of a nanny, Hauer developed a rebellious streak at an early age. When he was 15, he ran away to work on a freighter for a year, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, who had captained a schooner.

Returning to Holland, his parents enrolled him in drama classes, which he was eventually expelled from, and he spent a brief time in the Dutch navy.

His nature has remained restless ever since. "I never had a problem staying busy," he says. "That's the part that sucks about me. You have to really tie me up to make me relax." He and his wife Ineke, a sculptor, have a home in Holland and keep an apartment in LA. He spends "10 months out of the year" in hotel rooms. "I'm so nomadic," he says. "There's no rock star that can compete with me."

Hauer currently has has a handful of movies ready for release, including New York drama Tonight At Noon with Ethan Hawke. I ask if he does anything but work. He nods, enthusiastically. "I like to sail, I like to dive, I like to read a book now and then. Life's so full. There's never enough time."

Blade Runner: The Final Cut goes on limited release on November 23; the special edition DVD is released on December
3.



 

Written

By Ty Burr

 
Globe Staff / November 16, 2007

 

Open the champagne: "Blade Runner" is finally just the way Ridley Scott wanted it. And it only took 25 years.


"Blade Runner: The Final Cut" - that's what the title promises, anyway - opens today at the Coolidge on its way to a full-bore DVD release, and if you've loved this movie in any of its earlier incarnations, you should do it the honour of attending to it on the big screen one last time.

Certainly the 1982 film's influence has been wide and deep over the years, with its dour dystopian visions and harrowing future-shock design casting the shadow in which much of today's darkest sci-fi fantasies work. Could William Gibson's 1984 cyberpunk classic "Neuromancer" have been written without this movie (or were both informed by the groundbreaking '70s sci-fi magazine "Heavy Metal")? Would "The Matrix" exist? Discuss.

Anyway, why should we care? It's the same story, after all. None of the iterations over the years - the original US release, the ultra-violent European version, the legendary and rarely-screened rough cut, Scott's 1992 director's cut - have monkeyed with the narrative. The setting is still 2019, and investigator Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is still charged with locating and terminating four rebellious "replicants" - androids whose programming has rendered them more human than humans and who've returned to Earth from a distant mining colony quite literally hoping to meet their maker (Joe Turkel as uber-CEO Eldon Tyrell).

The Los Angeles of the future is still an M.C. Escher nightmare of neon ziggurats, hovercraft, and Hong Kong-overdrive squalor; it's always night and it's always raining. Sean Young still exudes a narcotized Gibson Girl/femme fatale sexuality as Rachael, the replicant with whom Deckard falls in illicit love. (The film ushered in cyber sex a decade ahead of schedule.)

Deckard's leaden film-noir voiceover was already stripped away in earlier versions, and without Ford playing Bogart "Blade Runner" has an urgency that has little to do with retro. The movie inhabits its dank and busy world without apology.

What distinguishes "Final Cut" is a fresh smoothness. Scott has collated various bits from the previous versions - I'll leave it to the faithful to cite chapter and verse - but time and technology have allowed him to sand off the remaining rough edges. Newly shot footage of Joanna Cassidy, as the snake-charming replicant Zhora, has been digitally transposed onto that non-look alike stunt-woman during the character's death scene. Even eerier, Ford's son Ben has been called in to play his father playing Deckard for one sequence (the interview with the snake dealer) in which the post-dubbing had always been notoriously iffy.

The movie now plays like a dream - a troubling dream, but still not quite a perfect one. "Blade Runner" stands as a triumph of production design and cinematic mood, and the only aspect that has seriously dated is Vangelis' "futuristic" score (well, that and Sean Young's career). It's a thing of glittering pieces, though, not bravura storytelling, and if the film is possibly the truest to its source of all the Philip K. Dick movie adaptations, it also hints at the limits of that talented, tortured writer's art.

Still, it's nice to see Ford looking so young again and LA so old; the clockwork-toy sequences shot in the city's Bradbury Building, with Daryl Hannah's Pris cart wheeling through the wreckage like a homicidal wind-up doll; Rutger Hauer's gleaming, tragic Roy Batty, an automaton so much better than the humans he serves - these are all welcome attendees at a 25th reunion. "Blade Runner" has become a chilly eulogy for a future that hasn't quite happened.