''He's such an amazing talent. There's so much mystery behind his eyes.'' That's Jason Eisener, director of Hobo With a Shotgun, on Rutger Hauer, who plays the title character. We'll agree with Eisener, and add only that one of the mysteries is where on earth Hauer has been for the past 25 years.
The Dutch actor broke through as Roy Batty, the cyborg who gleefully crushes Harrison Ford's fingers in 1982's Blade Runner. He then knocked out some cult hits 1985's Ladyhawke, 1986's The Hitcher only to spend the next quarter century working in Europe or doing cameos in studio flicks like 2005's Batman Begins.
With the indie Hobo With a Shotgun (opening in limited release May 6, Not Rated), Hauer finally has a juicy lead role. A Sundance fest hit, Hobo is the bloody neo-exploitation tale of a homeless man (Hauer) who dreams of buying a lawn mower so he can start a gardening business, but ends up mowing down baddies with a shotgun instead. Since Hauer is also set to star in horror maestro Dario Argento's Dracula 3D, can we call this a comeback? ''Absolutely,'' says Hauer, 67. ''But the audience that will like Hobo has never seen me before, or hardly. I've made a ton of very interesting films, but Americans tend to go, 'Well, f -- - that s -- -.'''
Hauer's '80s output had at least one ardent fan: Eisener, who was partly inspired to go into filmmaking by The Hitcher and 1989's post-apocalyptic The Blood of Heroes. After Eisener's fake trailer for a then-nonexistent Hobo With a Shotgun won a contest set up by director Robert Rodriguez in 2007, he persuaded Hauer to star in a real movie with the same title. Hauer committed fully to the part, allowing himself to look extra ragged. ''The wrinkles come and they won't go away,'' he says, smiling. ''And there was no time for a pretty hobo!''