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Rutger Hauer, the man who gave life to Roy Batty

The film everybody remembers is the one where he isn’t even human.

Ladyhawke. Blind Fury. Batman Begins. Rutger Hauer has 172 acting credits to his name, but the one everybody remembers is the one where he isn’t even human: the 1982 Ridley Scott film, Blade Runner.

Everyone knows this, has seen the movie, or has at least heard of it. On the surface, a hero on a mission, a world full of color and light hiding shadows and secrets and mysteries. Beautiful people, and a despair for life. Most people talk about Rick Deckard, played to perfection by Harrison Ford, and the beauty and conflict within Sean Young’s Rachael. There’s the joie de vivre of Daryl Hannah’s Pris.

And there’s Roy Batty, and the scene nobody will ever forget: “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”

Much has been written about how that scene came to be, and Hauer himself has spoken about the little bit of dialogue that he wrote the night before the shoot. Really, it’s just a few lines. But how can five sentences be etched so clearly in our collective memories? How can these words, written hastily by a frustrated actor, cut so deep?

Hauer as Roy Batty, in this scene, has come to personify the question that hounds much of science fiction, much of cyberpunk: where, amidst all this advancement and technology, is our humanity, our poetry? Can machines have souls, feelings? Do androids dream (you know the rest)?

Hauer, in those five sentences, asked those questions, makes us question our existence, crushes us. Hauer, with those five sentences, made us all doubt, despair, weep.

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It wasn’t just those words. It was those unfathomable eyes, that looked as though there were a universe of thought within, a galaxy of emotion, layered with fire and steel. It was his entire physique, for how could a machine vibrate with so much life? It was his unnerving smile, making you wonder if he would let Deckard live or die. It was the rhythm in his voice, the pause for breath he doesn’t need, the quiet fade as he ceases to speak.

Rutger Hauer is lost to us now, passing away in his home at the age of 75. But Roy Batty will live forever.

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