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SYFY WIRE Blade Runner

Rutger Hauer was the reason Blade Runner was so good and so weird

By Ryan Britt
Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty in Blade Runner

The ending of Blade Runner is famous not for wrapping up Harrison Ford's iconic performance as Rick Deckard, but because Rutger Hauer steals the show with the greatest death speech in the history of science fiction cinema. Now that Hauer has sadly passed away in real life, as was confirmed on Tuesday, countless fans around the world will be quoting Roy Batty's "tears in rain" speech from the film's final moments. Fittingly, the famous scene that defined Batty's life — and Hauer's legacy in science fiction — wouldn't have happened the way we remember it had Hauer himself not interceded.

In multiple interviews throughout the years, Hauer and his collaborators on the film all confirmed that he ad-libbed the majority of Batty's speech, which begins with the words "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe" and ends with the words "Time to die." But the reason why Hauer decided to do the death speech the way he did is almost as interesting as the fact that he decided to do it. In short, the reason Rutger Hauer did the "tears in rain" speech the way he did is that he was literally thinking like a Replicant, not like a human.

In the 1996 book Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner, Hauer told journalist Paul M. Sammon that as originally written, the speech was way too long, and because the Replicants were aware that they had only a finite time to live, he knew Roy Batty wouldn't waste time on "another protracted death scene."

"If the batteries go, the guy goes. He has no time to say goodbye, except maybe to briefly talk about the things he's seen. I truly felt that the ending of this picture should be done very quickly," Hauer said. "I mean, we'd already seen this opera of dying Replicants. So I let Batty be a wise guy for a second."

Ten years after Blade Runner's 1982 release, director Ridley Scott told Starlog Magazine (in 1992) that he viewed Hauer's performance as Batty as essential to the success of the film because "Roy Batty, on the whole, was not surprised by the turn of the events of the film. One thinks one's dealing with a kind of Frankenstein Monster in the character, but he really becomes more human than the average human, and therefore, in some respect, gains more sympathy."

According to press material for Blade Runner released in 1982, Hauer ran away from his home in Breukelen, Holland, when he was only 15 years old in order to become a captain of a schooner ship that sailed the Caribbean. But, because he was color-blind, he wasn't able to continue that career and returned to the family business of acting. This single fact makes Hauer in real life very similar to Roy Batty; he tried to escape a fate that his creators had laid out for him, but he was unable to pursue that life and so resigned himself to the life he was forced to live.

In Future Noir he explained the blend of darkness and light — of longing desire and acceptance of fate — like this. The trick was "to be comfortable. To have fun and make the Replicants likable. And we did." Hauer was both a rebellious spirit and a pragmatist, a wise guy, and a philosopher, and all of those contradictions come through in Roy Batty, meaning that even though Hauer's moments in one iconic sci-fi movie might be brief, those moments will never, never be lost in the rain.