I still remember how surprised I was when I found out it was him, Rutger ruddy Hauer. A legend. The guy from Blade Runner. 'He's in your video game?'
That's what I was thinking way back in May 2017. I wasn't somewhere flashy – I was in a small office in Krakow, Poland, being shown a game by the Layers of Fear studio Bloober. It was an impressive demo. The game, Observer, looked great – a lot like Blade Runner, in fact. It was a sci-fi detective game where you hacked minds to sift through memories for clues, and being in minds gave Bloober dramatic licence to warp and twist, wrongfoot and scare.
But the icing on the cake was the voice – the voice of lead character Daniel Lazarski. Before I even knew who it was – before I even knew it was someone famous – it made an impression. The voice had power, gravitas.
"[Daniel Lazarski] was no longer our creation only" -Bloober on Rutger Hauer's involvement in Observer
Voices fascinate me and it bothers me when there's cheap voicework in games. It sounds weak and hammy. But this voice oozed quality. It was gravelly, gnarled, and measured. I hung on every unrushed word.
I asked who it was but Bloober couldn't tell me. It was an ace up the sleeve for another day. 'Someone big' was all I was allowed to know.
Weeks later, I worked it out, I was sure of it. I emailed Bloober. "Marshall Bell." Boom, mic drop. "Hahahaha – wrong, keep trying," came the reply.
I'd been utterly convinced. I'd seen a little still of the character in the game – on a dossier file or a detective badge or something – and it had been the spit of Bell. Who else could it be? Then I had the rushing intake of realisation.
"I think I finally worked out the voice," I wrote, a day later. "I don't know Hauer you pulled that off!" (People at work dislike me.) And this time I was right. Bloober had somehow hired Roy Batty himself, Rutger Hauer.
That little chain of events is why Observer leapt to my mind when I discovered Rutger Hauer had, sadly, died last week, 19th July 2019, aged 75. His funeral was yesterday, which was when the news of his death was spread.
Eager to commemorate him on Eurogamer, I researched his work in other games. It didn't even cross my mind he might not have done any – Observer was so strong. And his role as Batty in Blade Runner seemed so close to video games it could almost be one. But I found only one other video game credit: Kingdom Hearts 3 and his role as Master Xenoheart. In all his many years acting, Hauer had only been in two video games.
Oh, how I wish he'd done more! Why hadn't he? Had he refused? Had he been waiting for games to reach a certain point before he jumped in? Maybe, simply, he hadn't been asked.
Whatever the reason, thank goodness for Bloober, thank goodness for Observer.
"Rutger Hauer was a brilliant actor," Bloober told me in an email today. "The opportunity to work with him was quite a thrill for the whole team. His first visit to our studio with an energetic, full bright smile – that's how we remember him, and he wasn't a young lad back then.
"The biggest impression he left behind, however, was tied to the dedication and passion shaping Daniel Lazarski. He spent long, long hours alongside the team deconstructing every single word of dialogue, looking for the perfect way to convey emotion and searching for the ideal phrasing to highlight the persona he was about to voice. Dan was no longer our creation only. The amount of work and thought Rutger Hauer put into the character surpassed our wildest dreams.
"After the project ended we remained in touch with him. We treated him as an invaluable member of the team and his absence left an emptiness no one else will be able to fill. As consolation we have his sincere smile and positive energy to remember, and that's exactly what we will do."
Rutger Hauer, we will all remember you. You will not be forgotten like tears in the rain.
Observer is on Xbox Game Pass (also available on PC, PS4 and Switch) now. It's not long. You should play it.