Being BRUNT with Rutger Hauer
What do you say when the iconic, now gravelly, voice of Roy Batty, John Ryder, and the host of quiet, menacing figures, comes on the other end of the line? Well, Rutger Hauer was gracious enough to give me a few moments of his time, being half-way across the world, post SXSW as Hobo With A Shotgun is about to land into Canadian cinemas, nationwide. With only a few questions, here is Hauer's measured take on how to make a quality genre-flick (considering he has been making these, both great and not-so-great, for the past 30 years.)
Kurt Halfyard: How Are You Today?
Rutger Hauer: Good. It's weird, I'm in Amsterdam but chained to the wall with a [phone] cord that is two feet long.
KH: Can you tell me how you came to be starring in a first-time filmmakers feature from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia?
RH: They got in contact with my Agent in the UK and I was shooting a film in Capetown, and after a couple of hiccups we didn't think they were serious, they came back with a decent offer that I could do it in terms of money, and then when I looked at it, I figured I better talk to the director because it was a LOUD script and I didn't know if the story was strong enough. And then Jason [Eisener] and I Skyped for about an hour and really got along well and really understood each other well, and so it was then, alright. Lets do it. It is one of those decisions you make in 5 seconds, and then they turn out to be delicious.
KH: What did you think of Dartmouth then, when you arrived?
RH: Well, the town itself is very nice, but we picked the worst neighborhood! We needed ugly places, the ugly world of where people really struggle, that was the story. So, I don't think Halifax will be proud of how it looks in that film, but I am not sure if they think that way, anyway! We got all the help we could ask for, and the crew was all local, everyone knew each other, they knew the way, they knew what they wanted, and they worked very hard. It was a love project for everybody. Nobody thought it would go much further, but everyone was doing it anyway!
KH: I have noticed that when it comes to Jason (even though he has a very small body of work at this point) directing actors, he has a particular style. I call it "SHOUT ACTING." He likes his characters to play very big to the camera, very bold. How was he for directing you and how did you mesh.
RH: Well, first, when are you an experienced director? 1 movie? 10 movies? But it is funny that you should say that, because the first day we did shoot some really rowdy moments, and he just wanted me to be so loud. And I said, if you want the character to be so loud then you will lose a lot of qualities. Because loud is loud and it doesn't have much, for me, it doesn't have much treasure, or anything, because my voice is not so big. And by the end of the first day, I had lost my voice - for about three days! - So I said, you better listen to me. I know what you want, but I am not that guy, forget that guy and work with me. He understood it. It took a bit of pushing and shoving but he understood it. And he wasn't doing it for me, he was doing it for the film. We were doing it together, we were finding our tracks together. This was the first thing. Loud is fine, but not when it doesn't need to be. You can be intense and that is just as strong as loud. It is just working with the limitations, and working with...One of the other things I said, is if you want to be dirty, you better be dirty creatively. And really pick your moments. If you want to throw blood around in buckets, just do it at the right time. Don't do it for the sake of doing it, because people will get bored with that. It has to be a part of the story. And, of course, the ultimate thing, basically, in our story, after all these crazy little operas of shootouts and street scenes, we burn a bus. And the bus burning was always a key moment before all hell breaks loose. But it needed to be hard, and I think, good for him, that he held onto it. A lot of people said, No, we can't do this, its so gross. And his response was, oh, no it has got to be done. Good for him.
KH: That moment, which is legitimately shocking. And when you combine that with your quiet moments with Abby. I think it does balance things.
RH: You need another layer in there for the audience, one that has to do with character, that has to do with taking a breath from all this. And I felt that when the door closes, and you can be behind walls, it is not the the craziness that drives you. But the rest of your being is at stake. And the doubts and that sort of thing. Many of the bloody scenes to have peaceful moments or something sane. Where you feel the humanity of the Hobo and Abby. We found it. It's there and that makes the film a film, and not a trailer.
KH: For the Hobo character, he doesn't have a lot of backstory, he rolls into town on the rails. When you are playing this character, and have to emote amoungst the carnage. Do you have a gist of who the character was before or what was the process?
The character was based on David Brunt [the original Hobo in the faux trailer version] and his story is terrible, like many of the hobos that live around the country. And once you get to know them, you think, oh, where would I be? And was my right hand. I could study him. I could talk to him. And he was the first inspiration for the whole project. Then there were some street folks who were following us. There was a musician that would come in and out. We literally lived on the streets in March. The snow was still on the ground when we started shooting. And then together with what the script wanted, we figured it out. I had a few ideas. I had a story if Jason wanted it, but I didn't need too. We tried some of it and it was too much talk. About who was his dad, and where he came from. I think this film runs so fast, the story runs so fast that it doesn't allow you to rest enough and talk. But he was in my mind, I had Dave Brunt in mind. With his story, I knew how he felt, and I think it comes through without talking about it in the film.
KH: Back in the late 80s, early 90s, when you were in your Guinness Days, I heard it once said that you were at the time one of the most recognizable faces in England. I know since then, to my delight, you have gone back to more character roles...
RH: I think I have done two or three ads in my life time that I thought were funny, or worth doing. Half of them were done just to feed my charity; I just turn the money right around and put it into my AIDS charity or something else. The Guinness ad was only for the UK, and it was brilliant, and it was so much fun to see if you could do something that was silly, but sells a product, and I thought that was a wonderful exercise. And I felt very lucky to be able to do it. The fact that it would get so famous, nobody knew that, but there you go. You never know that. Fame is ... you don't know, it happens ... later.
KH: A production company recently bought the rights to prequels, sequels and TV stuff to Blade Runner. With Roy Batty being one of your most iconic characters, would you have any interest in returning to that world/universe if you were approached to do so?
RH: Blade Runner was one of the biggest and most unique film I was ever a part of. There are only so many Chris Nolans or Ridley Scotts, and I'm pretty sure that Ridley is not going to do a prequel to Blade Runner, but you never know how it goes. For me it starts with the script. It never starts with buzz. I know it is Warner Brothers, and I think they are serious. But it would really surprise me if the came back and said, you know what, we've found a script with a very old Roy. It's up for grabs. I like the buzz, but fine, I'm not there yet, and I don't think I ever will be. That would surprise me.
KH: Can you comment on the role of Van Helsing, that you are gearing up for with Dario Argento?
RH: I'm up for it. I'm doing it. I'm going to Hungary in May-June. I'll bring a stick! [laughs]
[Hobo With A Shotgun opens theatrically in Canada on March 25, in the United States on April 1st (VOD) and May 6th (theatrical.)]
Around the Internet: