Stallone's the Star, but the Real 'Nighthawks' Ladykiller Is Dutch Treat Rutger Hauer

updated 06/22/1981 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/22/1981 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Until Rutger Hauer came along, Dutch imports usually ran to bulbs and beer—never box office dreamboats. Though he has been the Robert Redford of Holland's tiny film industry for nearly a decade, the exotically Nordic 6'2" Hauer, 37, is only now explosively breaching the dike in the U.S. hit thriller Nighthawks. Pursued by undercover cop Sylvester Stallone, Hauer's impeccably tailored terrorist hangs out in discos and prowls New York—bombing, shooting, threatening babies and defenestrating a sexy stewardess. Is it a sign of the times or only of Hauer that such murderousness elicits libidinous bravos instead of boos?

"People are tired of the bad-looking bad guy," reasons Hauer. "It's more terrifying when you don't see the bad things on a person's face." Still, Stallone himself reportedly felt menaced on Nighthawks by his co-star's scene-stealing charisma. "There was competition," Hauer admits. "But it's normal and healthy—two guys in front of the camera wondering who's winning. He's tough, but I'm a tough guy too," adds Rutger. "In the end Stallone said: 'You're going to be a star.' "

Hauer fervently hopes so. Last winter he left his small farm in northern Holland's rural Friesland for L.A. "It's still a miracle," says Rutger of his new fame. "You can be very content with a small audience." But less so with a small income. In Holland, he says, "The most I would make is $50,000, and I'd pay about 70 percent taxes on that." Sientje Ten Cate, an artist with whom he has lived for eight years, soon will join Hauer to look for a permanent home in California. "She is suffering and I am suffering," says Rutger of their separation. But during a recent visit Sientje may have been more pained by his white-haired alien look for the sci-fi thriller Blade Runner. Usually a dead ringer for dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, he now looks like a punk rocker. "I frighten the groupies off," he jokes. "I'm a loner, not social."

Though Hauer remains intensely loyal, marriage is remote and children "out of the question." Says Sientje: "I cannot guarantee children the kind of life they should have." He is reluctant to discuss his own two-month marriage (in his early 20s) after a surprise pregnancy. "That was the wrong decision," scowls Hauer, who never sees his daughter or his ex-wife.

His own childhood, which he describes as "terrific," was far from average. While his actor parents toured, Rutger was raised by a nanny and admits to being "a bastard to my sisters [two younger, one older]. I also stole cars and motorcycles, lit haystacks. But I was too young to go to jail." He doesn't blame his parents' absence: "That's sort of cheap. It was me, not them." Hating school except for math and languages (he speaks Dutch, French, Frisian, German and English), Rutger went to sea at 15, later tried the army, wangled a discharge, climbed the Alps and worked as a handyman before enrolling at drama school in Amsterdam. Graduating in 1967, he wrote poetry and toured with a theater group that played for Dutch farmers before making his film debut in 1973's Turkish Delight. His other U.S. releases include Keetje Tippel, Spetters and Soldier of Orange.

While waiting in L.A. for major stardom, Rutger tools around town on a borrowed Harley-Davidson, exercises at Jane Fonda's Workout salon (he's a vegetarian, with lapses) and looks for good-guy movie roles. He has one in the recently completed Chanel Solitaire, in which he plays an early love of designer Coco Chanel. Finding other parts has been tough. "I've been offered 10 scripts so far, and they're all bad guys," says the man who launched the Viking villain look and now wants to sink it. "If I play one more German or one more terrorist, it'll kill me."

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