A veteran star who wants to secure filmmaking's future

Despite a long and successful career, Rutger Hauer's main interests lie in the new technology and young filmmakers.
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An afternoon spent with the iconic Dutch actor Rutger Hauer brings to mind a caper comedy set under the glorious Californian sunshine. First comes the amusing coffee order at Starbucks of a double cappuccino, two sucrose, medium tall, soy latte? or something like that, which I try to remember while Hauer, an imposing figure in a black jacket and matching hat, disappears to feed his parking meter. Moments later, Hauer, now 65, reappears on the other side of the street, sitting on the shaded terrace of a local pizza joint, where he chats openly for an hour or so, before leaving the table with my cold coffee in hand, sipping it as he saunters down the street.

Between the antics, Hauer admits to enjoying being playful. He talks up his career, his latest movies and a series of workshops and initiatives, which he has launched to take filmmaking into the future. Perhaps this is only fitting for the star of Blade Runner, Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi epic and the movie that launched Hauer's international career. "I thought acting was for fools and fell into it because my parents were actors," Hauer says. "The business tends to be overrated, with people hanging on to the seductiveness of Hollywood. Banking and plumbing are also important jobs."

It is hard to concentrate on Hauer's words, at times, thanks to his rugged charm. The piercing blue eyes complement his self-professed intuitive (and possibly even psychic) powers, he apparently inherited from his mother. He discusses this briefly, then adds: "There is nothing to fear except fear itself." And Hauer should know. He was discovered by Scott in Paul Verhoeven's Second World War drama, Soldier of Orange, and has defied the odds to become that rare thing: a foreign actor, a non-native English speaker, who has managed to stay the course in Hollywood.

Still, despite his own success, he doesn't necessarily recommend other outsiders to chase the American dream. "It is impossible and people need to know that," he says. "It starts with a green card. You don't get work without it. You don't get a social security number without it. You don't get a life without a green card. It was difficult then. Now it is worse, there is little work and millions of actors, and this is a business so the prices are coming down, too."

Hauer is equally frank about the fate of the half-dozen films he has listed as being either in development or in post-production on the Internet Movie Data Base, which includes a biopic on the South African poet, Ingrid Jonker, titled Smoke and Ochre, and the historical drama Barbarossa. "It means they are on the shelf," he said. "The old distribution model is on the shelf. It costs millions and there will be a new model in the near future through broadband."

Hauer knows what he is talking about. He is a passionate advocate of digital filmmaking and distribution. And when he is not acting, he works on his three-year-old workshop programme, the Rutger Hauer Film Factory, which he leads each summer in Rotterdam. During the 10-day event, he teaches young filmmakers two things: how to use new technology, such as the iPod, and Flip video camera, to make films, and how to rely upon their instincts. (The resulting films can be seen on YouTube and on the workshop's website at www.rutgerhauerfilm factory.com.)

"I don't know of any other workshop that teaches people to rely on instinct," he says. "I'm getting filmmakers, over the course of 10 days, into my virtual space, giving them a window and getting them on to the internet, which I think is a big part of the future of filmmaking." Hauer has also launched an online short-film festival in the Italian city of Milan, I've Seen Films (www.icfilms.org), which will run from September 24 to October 3. The aim of the project is to benefit women and children with HIV and Aids. The festival has had 300 submissions so far this year. The jury includes Scott, Verhoeven and the Sin City director Robert Rodriguez. "You will see some promising talent that would not have surfaced otherwise coming up in this way. I think the internet will also provide a bridge to another form of distribution," says Hauer.

In his on-screen work, Hauer whose biography, All Those Moments, was published last year in English, is once again at the forefront of cutting-edge technology. He stars as the Dutch artist Peter Brueghel in the Polish director Lech Majewski's new film, The Mill and The Cross. The movie was shot using 3D images to capture art on film in a new way. Hauer's involvement in the project is a prime example of the primacy he places on intuition. "I felt such a strong connection with Lech after our initial phone call that I texted him immediately and said, 'I miss you already,'" he explains.

Hauer had previously worked with green-screen technology in Sin City. "It is very funny. You have to imagine," he says. "It is just you and the camera." His other recent high-profile films include George Clooney's Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and upcoming projects include the film Stoneman, which Majewski will film with Steven Spielberg's regular cinematographer, Janusz Kaminski. Still, instinct isn't the be all and end all of Hauer's story. "My only school is learning by doing," he says. "I took a ton of risks and did a ton of different things and realised that if I only did art-house films, I wouldn't have a career.

"My films came crawling up and I never had a blasting success, which saved me. I like my privacy and I like walking down the street. When you come from a tiny country you learn that the world is a big place. We don't think that we are number one. On the other side is the US. The truth is somewhere in-between. Being number one has never been my interest. I am interested in what is inbetween."