THE HAGUE (AFP) – Hollywood actor Rutger Hauer, who became a global cult icon for his role as the scary yet thought-provoking humanoid android in the 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner, has died at the age of 75.

Hauer’s non-profit HIV/Aids charity, the Rutger Hauer Starfish Association, said on its website it was announcing “with infinite sadness that after a very short illness, on Friday, July 19, 2019, Rutger passed away peacefully at his Dutch home”.

Dutch media said Hauer was buried at a private ceremony.

Set in a dystopian Los Angeles of 2019 and directed by Ridley Scott, Blade Runner catapulted the tall, blonde Dutch actor with piercing blue eyes to international stardom.

His last haunting monologue in the movie as the genetically engineered replicant Roy Batty could perhaps stand as his own obituary: “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe… all those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”

“Half of Roy is me,” said Hauer, who went on to play a number of memorable menacing bad guys who sent shivers down audiences’ spines.

On the 30th anniversary of the film’s release in 2012, Hauer told reporters in Milan that it “was completely delicious to work on. I can’t even fathom how it feels to be alive and an icon basically because of this movie”.

Starring Harrison Ford as a special police agent sent to hunt down renegade replicants who have returned to Earth from human colonies in space, Blade Runner initially bombed at the box-office. But it went on to become a cult movie, attracting a devoted fan-base.

“I feel that the wings of Blade Runner are literally carrying me around. It’s unbelievable and beautiful,” Hauer told Italian television in a 2016 interview.

YOUNG REBEL

Born on Jan 23, 1944, in Breukelen just outside Amsterdam to Dutch parents who were both actors and ran an acting school, the young Hauer showed an early rebellious and wild streak.

At 15 he ran away to sea, travelling the world on a Dutch Merchant Navy freighter picking up English, German, French and Italian on the way.

After returning to the Netherlands, he took up acting properly joining a touring company bringing theatre to Dutch villages.

In 1969, he got his first real break when he was cast in the lead role of a swashbuckling historical Dutch television series called Floris, directed by the then little-known Paul Verhoeven. It triggered a years-long collaboration between the two, although it was said they fell out in the mid-1980s.

Verhoeven cast Hauer in his first major film role in Turkish Delight in 1973.

But it was when Hauer was teamed up with Hollywood star Sylvester Stallone in the 1981 thriller Nighthawks that he first came to the attention of American audiences.

The following year he appeared as Batty, model number N6MAA10816, the leader of the renegade Nexus-6 replicants in Blade Runner and never looked back.

“It was a really sexy, erotic cartoon opera interesting movie, but it was ahead of its time. It was 30 years ahead of its time,” Hauer said in Milan.

“When I did the movie, I saw the future but I didn’t know what I was looking at then.”

PROLIFIC

For half a century, Hauer was prolific, working on more than 100 films – although some critics said he appeared in more than his fair share of bad movies.

He was also a noted campaigner for HIV/Aids research and set up his own association in 2000, in addition to his work as an environmentalist.

In the late 1980s, Hauer became the face and voice of the quirky “Pure Genius” adverts for Guinness beer.

And in 2015, he said he fulfilled a dream by playing Viking poet and seer Ravn in the BBC’s drama series The Last Kingdom.

The recipient of many awards, Hauer won a Golden Globe for supporting actor in 1988 for his role in a British made-for-TV world War II drama Escape From Sobibor and was nominated again in 1995 for his role in the TV film Fatherland based on Robert Harris’ alternate universe bestseller in which Germany wins the war.

The 1986 film The Hitcher also showed off Hauer’s talents in the role of a psycho with a gun who randomly targets a couple who give him a lift.

In typical Hauer fashion, “he smiles, he smirks, he drips with swag. He is totally unstoppable, and he’s utterly terrifying,” wrote one critic.