It was 1982 that Rutger Hauer said those lines.
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.
Despite all the parts that Rutger Hauer has played in, he’s best known for a 50 second, 42 word soliloquy.
Delivered in his dying moments as a stunned Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) looks on, the monologue (below) has gone down in history as one of the most moving soliloquies in cinema – all the more astonishing given that Hauer ended up writing some of it himself the night before shooting, cutting away swathes of the original script before adding the speech’s poignant final line (though not, as is often erroneously stated, improvising it on set).
“The irony is that all I did in Blade Runner was… and I’m not saying it’s nothing, but it’s so little,” Hauer says of the scene that more or less made his career.
“I kept two lines, because I thought they were poetic. I thought they belonged to this character, because somewhere in his digital head he has poetry, and knows what it is. He feels it! And while his batteries are going, he comes up with the two lines.”
The lines he’s referring to are the “attack ships” and “C-beams” comments in the finished speech, which were originally part of a longer draft in the script that Hauer “took a knife to” after he decided this kind of talk was too operatic for a manufactured creature like Roy.
“You know, I think a lot of scripts are overwritten,” he says.
“The overwritten stuff comes from the writer and all the executives, but the audience can feel it, and even the best actor cannot sell me with language that is overwritten. I am f***ing allergic to that. OK?
“So, I look at the script, and I look at my part, because I don’t want to touch anybody [else]’s parts. I shave everything that I feel you don’t need.”
“[In Blade Runner] Ridley gave me all the freedom, because he wanted it to be a character-driven story. He’d never done a film character-driven,” Hauer explains.
“He said, ‘This is what I want to do – bring me anything you can come up with, and I’ll take it on if I like it.’”
It was Hauer’s final addition to the script – the “tears in rain” line – that really sealed the speech’s status; on the day of filming itself, crew members allegedly applauded and cried when the scene was completed.
“For the end line I was hoping to come up with one line where Roy, because he understands he has very little time, expresses one bit of the DNA of life that he’s felt,” Hauer says.
“How much he liked it. Only one life.”