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Rutger Hauer

Articles - Directing

Rutger Hauer doesn’t look comfortable in his hotel

room chair. It looks a little small for him, made for smaller boned

people than him, and he’s restless, lighting cigarettes and hunching

forward to drop pellets of sugar substitute into his coffee and

to think out loud. A couple of inches over six feet, his

head looks to be cut from wood, his hands from polar bears.

At 50, Rutger Hauer has a star’s aura,

but he is a little unsettled and you get the impression that it

is not just the chair. Known 10 years ago as a gruff interview (he

would give one word answers like "yes" or "no"

to most questions), he is now positively garrulous, though still

guarded, struggling a little at times with what he wants to say.

Rutger Hauer was first introduced to American

film audiences through two Paul Verhoeven films in the late 1970s, Turkish Delight and Soldier of Orange. Lean and muscular,

with northern European handsomeness, he quickly became an international


He followed up his Dutch successes in America

with chilling performances as the replicant in Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner (1982), and as the low plains drifter in Robert Harmon’s The

Hitcher (1986); but he also revealed a skill with lighter roles,

as in Richard Donner’s Ladyhawke (1985) in which he played

a storybook hero. More recently, in films like Blind Side (1992)

and Blind Fury (1993) Hauer has seemed to be coasting with

two dimensional material.

With this year’s The Beans of Egypt,

Maine, a small-budget film directed by Jennifer Warren about

a poor, scandal-plagued family, Hauer is slowing down. He plays

Reuben Bean, the patriarch of the Bean family, who is absent for

most of the film, in jail for a vicious assault.

It is Hauer’s 52nd film and, at mid-century,

Hauer still plays the heavy pretty convincingly. But with his hair

darkened, his face hidden by a shaggy moustache, and carrying 30

or 40 extra pounds, he is, for the first time in memory, not larger

than life.

In Seattle to promote the film during its

appearance at Seattle’s International Film Festival, Hauer talked

about how he prepares for his roles, his own ambitions as a director

and his despair about American ignorance of other cultures and languages.

Hauer as Bean: Heavier and older, but still "the kid

from behind the dike."

He begins to talk about directing. He says

he is an actor who has "never needed a director" because

"I am the director, I have a director inside of me who’s always

with me and who’s always talking."

He has been developing a film for seven

years entitled Paradise Pages which he describes as a "psychological

Western." When asked to clarify he explains that there are

no guns: "It’s a Western in the way they think, like John Wayne."

For that, he says, "I need secure actors who don’t go crazy

when something different happens in a scene."

The "something different" is

his own presence in scenes, and his plan is to direct himself in

the lead. Hauer has a vivid gravitational force, both in person

and on screen. When in The Hitcher his nameless sunken-eyed

drifter first gets in C. Thomas Howell’s car and asks for a light,

he utterly redirects the scene and the film.

If a significant part of directing is knowing

the weight of character and the destiny of each as issues/09/images in the

larger action, there is plenty of evidence in Hauer’s career to

suggest that he has an intuitive understanding of directing. "I

think I understand certain things, what to do, what not to do. To

me, film is about movement."

It’s an idea he may have learned from Paul

Verhoeven, with whom he has worked on four movies and whose density

of action he clearly admires. What people love about Paul, he suggests,

is that "he puts it all on the screen… what he wants to tell

he puts in his movement, in his action more than anything else.

He says, ‘I don’t know what you mean, but show me."’

Turning to the film he is in town to promote,

I ask him what it was about Jennifer Warren’s low-budget, rainy, The Beans of Egypt, Maine that appealed to him. He replies

that it is two things, the first being that it gave him a new challenge

to create a character largely out of "bits and pieces."

The second was that he wanted to play Reuben

Bean after he returns from prison, "as a, liar," but to

put in something else he tentatively calls the whole "tone"

of the story.

"That’s the Guy de Maupassant element

in Carolyn Chute’s novel: everything is so light like that, like

‘nothing matters.’ I think that’s amazing, since these people are

kind of helpless. In essence it’s a tragedy… about loggers. It’s

about a dying craft, and about isolation." He plays the patriarch

as a sort of feral liar, appearing in the film for ten or twelve

minutes in the beginning and five or seven at the end.

I suggest that Ruby Bean is also the one

character who, with a trace of an accent and a Lech Walesa moustache,

seems out of place in a story so bound to the specificities of Maine

logging families. Does Ruby Bean’s out-of-placeness, like the replicant’s,

like the hitcher’s, draw on some of Hauer’s own experiences in America?

He quickly says, "Well, I’m not homeless." Then, after

a pause, he says more seriously, "I’m still the kid from behind

the dike."

His is a spectator’s place, and he clearly

relishes an opportunity to speak heatedly about the American reluctance

to engage foreign ideas, films, even subtitles. "Don’t think

of foreigners as idiots," he says excitedly. "Language

comes from a place in the gut, from a place in the human fucking


Americans ought to "read the goddamn

language … get a feel for the language," meaning even their

own. "But people are lazy … they’re trained to be lazy and

they fucking allow themselves to be lazy. It’s sad."

With our time up, he is still pushing his

hair back, focusing his thoughts, crossing and uncrossing his legs,

contested, getting himself ready to direct.

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