Blade Runner Day: Remembering Rutger Hauer and the van that changed his life

Today is officially #BladeRunnerDay. The events of Blade Runner, Ridley Scott’s classic dystopian sci-fi from 1982, took place on November 20 2019. Here, Adrian Lobb pays homage to its star Rutger Hauer and his love for Volkswagen

From tomorrow, the film will be set in the past. Wild.

The imagined future might have featured flying cars, but for the film’s enigmatic star, Rutger Hauer, who passed away in July aged 75, the future of transport always included a homemade motorhome he built in 1978 and continued to improve for the rest of his life.

Back in 2015, I had the pleasure of meeting Hauer – who played android Roy Batty in Blade Runner – at a screening of BBC2’s The Last Kingdom. He mentioned, in passing, his motorhome during a Q&A. Because The Big Issue then featured a regular column in which famous names shared their unlikely hobbies and passions – Phoebe Waller Bridge on Karaoke, Belinda Carlisle on the Lady Head Vases she began collecting as a punk in late 1970s, funnyman Dave Gorman on rock balancing and Paul Heaton on his retro crisp packet obsession were among the, erm, classics – I tracked down and quizzed the legendary actor about his wonderful wheels.

DID YOU KNOW…

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Typically for an actor who always produced the unexpected, what he told me was as moving as it was surprising. Here’s what he told us:

“I have a big 18-wheeler truck, a motorhome that I built more than 30 years ago. It is like a caravan, but it is the size of a house! I was fascinated by pictures of big trucks from America in magazines I saw as a kid. They would move wooden houses on top of a truck. I was so impressed.

“In 1978, you could buy a Volkswagen Campervan, which is quite small, for about 50,000 Gilders. I thought maybe I could build something much bigger for the same amount of money. And that is what I did. I built it with a friend. It is a container chassis and a tractor trailer. I had no international career yet and I’d only done a few things in Holland. So I didn’t have much reason to build it other than to build it. But my friend had Hodgkin’s Disease, so we started on this project partly to take his mind off that.

DID YOU KNOW…

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“He died two years later, and I had to finish the truck on my own, which was tough. But I did it. While I was building it, I vowed to make it strong and solid and never to cut corners on the money. Over the years, when I made some money, I always improved it. It is important. It means a lot to me.

“I finished the truck in 1981 and did my first job with it (Inside The Third Reich) in Munich. Ever since, when I won a new role, I took it with me. It has been everywhere – I took it to Paris, Rome for Ladyhawke, Hungary, and even took it to America once for a film shoot there. I shipped it over, which was amazing.

“I have had 70 cars, because I love everything that moves – if it sails, drives or flies, I love it. I have a tank license from Hungary because the army thought I deserved one. And it is fun. Driving it is the best. My truck is still always waiting to go to work, as am I…”

RIP Rutger Hauer. Here’s hoping that wherever you are, you are enjoying BladeRunner Day from the comfort of an enormous homemade motorhome…

Photo: Ladd Company/Warner Bros/Kobal/Shutterstock