When it was announced yesterday that veteran actor Rutger Hauer would be joining Dario Argento's 3D adaptation of Bram Stoker's classic novel 'Dracula,' it was the final piece of evidence needed to prove that one of my greatest dreams was coming true: Yes, folks, Rutger Hauer is back.
Honestly, Hauer never really left; it's just that recent years have found the actor working in foreign productions overseas as Hollywood has moved on to a younger (and in most cases, blander) generation of stars. Sure, Rutger was never exactly an A-lister (although he did make THR's list of the 50 most bankable actors in the world in the late '80s), and he's appeared in his fair share of bad films over the years (e.g., 'Wedlock'), but he's an instantly recognizable face to film fans for his work in titles like 'The Hitcher,' 'Blade Runner' (probably his finest hour) and 'Turkish Delight.'
2011 is shaping up to be the year of the Hauer renaissance. Aside from playing Van Helsing in Argento's film -- which is perfect casting -- the 67-year-old Dutch actor also had two films appear at Sundance. Both were well received.
The first, 'The Mill & the Cross' finds Hauer playing artist Peter Breugel, while '80s-styled exploitation throwback 'Hobo With a Shotgun' casts him in the lead role as a homeless man cleaning up the streets with extreme prejudice. If that weren't enough, the actor also had a supporting part (starring alongside Anthony Hopkins, another actor who's played Van Helsing) in Warner Bros.' supernatural thriller 'The Rite.' It feels like we're witnessing a Mickey Rourke–type comeback here.
The parallels between Hauer and Rourke don't really end there. Each performer has been clever in how they've not only returned, but in reinventing themselves as older actors. Both have seemingly embraced the "down and out" role in films like 'Hobo' and 'The Wrestler.' It's something Arnold Schwarzenegger would do well to study as he plans his own big screen comeback. Of course, Rourke and Hauer are slightly more versatile performers than Schwarzenegger, but the way Hauer in particular is selecting his roles is intriguing and could serve as a template for Arnold moving forward.
Younger Hauer never had the physique of a Schwarzenegger to sell himself as a superhero (or menacing villain – something he was equally adept at playing). What he did have was that steely gaze that cut right to the bone -- which was especially impressive in a film like 'Blind Fury,' a westernized updating of 'Zatoichi' that finds Hauer playing a blind swordsman -- and a decent build. He hasn't lost either of these things, which makes him believable in roles like Van Helsing (which, admittedly, always calls for an older actor, but does require some physical action skills near the climax) and the Hobo. Hauer is like a less-restrained Clint Eastwood, the major difference being the ever-present hint of madness lurking beneath the surface in Rutger's best roles. It's that gleeful insanity bubbling under his relatively calm exterior that takes even lighter Hauer fare like 'Surviving the Game' and makes it unforgettable. Ice-T might have gotten top billing in that film, but Hauer's villainous hunter is who we all remember.
So, now that we know I'm excited about all the Rutger Hauer flicks in our immediate future, what do you guys think? Can an aging, yet talented, Dutch actor regain his popularity with a younger generation of film fans? Are you excited that Hauer seems poised to make a big-time American cinema comeback? What kinds of roles would you like to see the actor tackling in the future? If there's a sequel to 'The Expendables,' can we pencil Rutger in for a part now? Share your thoughts below.