On-screen, his dying words captured our imaginations. Now, he’s left us for real. Dutch actor Rutger Hauer died on Friday at the age of 75, according to reports from Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. His funeral was held today.
While it’s not fair to reduce his life’s work to a single scene in a single movie, I’m going to momentarily do that anyhow because there’s one such scene that arguably transcends film, a scene that means something special to many Verge readers and staffers.
You probably already know the scene I’m talking about:
Near the end of Blade Runner, the leader of the renegade replicants (artificially intelligent androids) is dying, having failed to find a way to extend his lifespan. Through much of the movie, he’s the bad guy who needs to be stopped by the protagonist (played by Harrison Ford). They chase each other through a dystopian cityscape that makes the future seem rather bleak.
But then, with just a handful of words, Hauer sparks our imagination in the boundless possibilities of the future. He helps our minds imagine that future humans will live among the stars, where wondrous things are just waiting to be seen, and he makes us consider that an AI might one day be almost as human as we are.
Here are the famous words:
I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.
These cryptic lines don’t make obvious sense, instead referring to things the movie never mentions before or after. But they’re clearly significant, so our imaginations take over.
Hauer deserves credit for this monologue in more ways than one: he famously rewrote part of the original script, improvising to give it the dramatic significance that made it a touchstone for so many people.
The tears in rain are truly his, and now they’re all of ours.
Here’s Hauer’s IMDb page so you can learn about some of his other work.