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Sutherland, Donald

Category: Performer

 

Donald McNichol Sutherland, OC (born 17 July 1935) is a Canadian actor whose film career spans more than five decades.  He maintains a home in Georgeville, Quebec.

Sutherland rose to fame after starring in series of successful films including The Dirty Dozen (1967), M*A*S*H (1970), Kelly's Heroes (1970), Klute (1971), Don't Look Now (1973), , the war film The Eagle Has Landed (1976), Fellini's Casanova (1976), 1900 (1976), Animal House (1978), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), Ordinary People (1980) and Eye of the Needle (1981). Since then, he established himself as ‘one of the most respected, prolific and versatile character actors of Canada.’

M*A*S*H (1970) - Elliott Gould and Donald Sutherland, 1970

He later went on to star in many other successful films where he appeared either in leading or supporting roles such as A Dry White Season (1989), JFK (1991), A Time to Kill (1996), Without Limits (1998), The Italian Job (2003), Cold Mountain (2003), Pride & Prejudice (2005), Aurora Borealis (2006) and The Hunger Games franchise (2012–2015).  He's made well over 150 films in his career.

Sutherland’s distinctive voice has also been used in many radio and television commercials, including those for Delta Air Lines and  Volvo automobiles.  He also provided voice-overs and narration during the intro of the 1st semi-final of Eurovision Song Contest in 2009, and the Opening Ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. He was also narrator of CTV's "I Believe" television ads in the lead up to the Games.

 

Sutherland has been nominated for eight Golden Globe Awards, winning two for his performances in the television films Citizen X (1995) and Path to War (2002); the former also brought him a Primetime Emmy Award. He also received a Canadian Academy Award for the drama film Threshold (1981). In 1998 he received the Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor – Drama, for Without Limits. Several media outlets and movie critics describe him as ‘one of the best actors who has never been nominated for an Oscar’.

Sutherland was made an Officer of the Order of Canada on 18 December 1978, a Commandeur of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2012 and was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame in 2000. He is also an inductee of the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In 2000 he received the Governor General's Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement and in 2005 an Honorary Doctor of Arts (Hon DArt) from Middlebury College (Middlebury, Vermont, U.S.)  In 2016, he was a member of the main competition jury of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.

Why is he on the site?  Because, according to Jean Ritchie's book, Death's Door: True Stories of Near-Death Experiences, while filming Kelly's Heroes, Sutherland had an NDE when he became ill with a severe case of meningitis and his body shut down.

Life

 

The Guardian - On the money by Carole Cadwalladr  Sunday 30 March 2008 12.54 BST

Even at 72, he's still far and away the most commanding presence in the room. He looks magnificent, like a mountain lion, or an American president, perhaps, not any specific one, a generic American president, although it's one of the few roles he has still yet to play. It's mainly the hair, of course - a luxuriant snowy white mane swept off his face and accompanied by a neatly trimmed moustache. ….. He's the patriarch of his own theatrical dynasty - all five of his children work in the movies in some shape or form, including his son by his second wife, Kiefer Sutherland, better known these days as Jack Bauer in 24.


Sutherland was born in Saint John, New Brunswick, the son of Dorothy Isobel (née McNichol; 1892–1956) and Frederick McLea Sutherland (1894–1983), who worked in sales and ran the local gas, electricity and bus company. He is of Scottish, German and English ancestry.  His mother was the daughter of a Protestant minister.

Donald Sutherland, 1968. Photo by Lawrence Schiller

According to Wikipedia, as a child, he had rheumatic fever, hepatitis, and poliomyelitis. His teenage years were spent in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. He obtained his first part-time job, at the age of 14, as a news correspondent for local radio station CKBW.

Sutherland graduated from Bridgewater High School. He then studied at Victoria College, University of Toronto, where he met his first wife Lois Hardwick, and graduated with a double major in engineering and drama. He had at one point been a member of the "UC Follies" comedy troupe in Toronto. He changed his mind about becoming an engineer, and left Canada for Britain in 1957, studying at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

After quitting the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA), Sutherland spent a year and a half at the Perth Repertory Theatre in Scotland. In the early to mid-1960s, Sutherland began to gain small roles in British films and TV. He featured alongside Christopher Lee in horror films such as Castle of the Living Dead (1964) and Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965). He also had a supporting role in the Hammer Films production Die! Die! My Darling! (1965), with Tallulah Bankhead and Stefanie Powers. He appeared more than once in the TV series The Saint, and also appeared in the TV series Gideon's Way. In 1967, he appeared in an episode of The Avengers.

His appearance in The Saint opened the door to Hollywood.  Through this he was given a part in The Dirty Dozen. The film, which starred Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson, was the 5th highest-grossing film of 1967 and MGM's highest-grossing movie of the year.  In 1968, after this breakthrough, Sutherland left London for Hollywood. He then appeared in two war films, playing the lead role as "Hawkeye" Pierce in Robert Altman's MASH in 1970; and, again in 1970, as hippie tank commander "Oddball" in Kelly's Heroes

In Cannes in the 1980s with his third wife Francine

Money matters

His NDE has resulted in his being somewhat haphazard when it comes to money – a feature quite common to NDEers.  Sutherland had a role as the pot smoking Professor Dave Jennings in National Lampoon's Animal House in 1978, making himself known to younger fans as a result of the movie's popularity. When cast, he was offered either $40,000 up front or a percentage of the movie. He chose the 40K upfront payment. The movie eventually grossed $141.6 million.

On March 26, 2012, he was a guest on the Opie and Anthony radio show. During his appearance to promote the first Hunger Games film he mentioned that instead of accepting 2% of the gross revenue of Animal House he insisted on being paid a day's salary instead which amounted to $50,000, instead of the $2.8 million he would have earned had he accepted the offer made by Universal Studios.

The Guardian - On the money by Carole Cadwalladr  Sunday 30 March 2008 12.54 BST

When I ask him if he agrees with the … tagline that money is the root of all evil, he says, 'No, that's just bullshit. ….., it's money is "at the root of all evil", which of course is quite different.'
Being rich is useful, he says, if you can do 'something astonishing like Bill Gates has done with the seed vault'. (Gates has helped to fund a doomsday store in the Arctic of seeds from every food crop on the planet.)
He admires philanthropy: 'I've just never had enough money to do it.' In fact to hear it his way, he's not rich at all. Which is true in the Hollywood sense of the word, ie he doesn't make $25 million a movie; on the other hand, he does own homes in LA, Canada, New York and Paris. 'I have mortgages up to my armpit, though,' he says.

with Francine

On wives and lovers

Sutherland has been married three times. His first marriage, to Lois Hardwick, lasted from 1959 to 1966. His second marriage, which lasted from 1966 to 1970, was to Shirley Douglas, daughter of well-known Canadian social democratic politician and the "father" of Canada's universal healthcare system, Tommy Douglas. Sutherland and Douglas have two children, twins Kiefer and Rachel.

Sutherland and family 1968

Shirley pursued radical politics - she was once arrested for raising money to buy hand grenades for the Black Panthers and their marriage ended during his three-year-long affair with Jane Fonda. According to Wikipedia, the relationship ‘blossomed’ during the filming of the Academy Award-winning detective thriller Klute (1971). It was a ‘fiery union’, at the height of Fonda's Hanoi Jane days, although somehow he managed to escape the opprobrium of middle America.

Sutherland and Fonda went on to co-produce and star together in the anti-Vietnam War documentary F.T.A. (1972), consisting of a series of sketches performed outside army bases in the Pacific Rim and interviews with American troops who were then on active service.

'We got together shortly before we made Klute and then we were together until the relationship exploded and fell apart in Tokyo. And it broke my heart. I was eviscerated. I was so sad. It was a wonderful relationship right up to the point we lived together.'

But some of the supposed relationships he is supposed to have had never existed….

Sutherland with Mary Ellen Mark

The Guardian - On the money by Carole Cadwalladr  Sunday 30 March 2008 12.54 BST

…. Sutherland, as well as being one of the cinematic icons of the Seventies, was also one of the great, if unlikely, sex symbols of the Seventies ..when, as a teenager, he asked his mother if he was handsome, she hesitated and then replied, 'Donald to be perfectly truthful, no. But your face has a lot of character'.

It's not unrelated, of course, to the fact that one of the most persistent movie rumours of modern times, namely that the famous sex scene in the middle of the 1973 thriller, Don't Look Now, starring him and Julie Christie, was no mere acting. …. In the meantime there's still a melting effect in evidence when it comes to women.

'It bewilders me how anyone could think me and Julie were doing that for real, there were at least two other people in the room, it was Nic Roeg's artistic vision; it's all entirely in the editing, you don't see anything, you simply remember your own love-making'

Rossif Sutherland and Donald Sutherland

Donald Sutherland met his current wife, French Canadian actress Francine Racette, on the set of the Canadian pioneer drama Alien Thunder. They married in 1972 and have three sons: Rossif Sutherland, Angus Redford Sutherland, and Roeg Sutherland.

His four sons have all been named after directors whom Sutherland has worked with: Kiefer is named after American-born director and writer Warren Kiefer, who, under the assumed name of Lorenzo Sabatini, directed Sutherland in his very first feature film, the Italian low-budget horror film Il castello dei morti vivi (Castle of the Living Dead); Roeg is named after director Nicolas Roeg; Rossif is named after French director Frédéric Rossif; and Angus Redford has his middle name after Robert Redford.  Donald and Francine's marriage has been one of the most enduring marriages in Hollywood.

The Guardian - On the money by Carole Cadwalladr  Sunday 30 March 2008 12.54 BST

Is it luck, I ask him, that you married the right woman? Or have you worked at it?

'I don't know... It's not something that you can communicate. She's an extraordinary human. She was courted by intellectuals. Jean-Paul Sartre? She was his actress. She was Frédéric Rossif's muse. I think it's like Joanne Woodward [actress wife of Paul Newman] said, "Beauty goes and sex goes but my husband makes me laugh every single day." And so does my wife. We laugh all the time.'

 Versatility as an actor

 

Sutherland has played a wide and very varied collection of characters, from the conflicted father in the Academy Award-winning family drama Ordinary People (1980), to the role of physician-hero Norman Bethune in two biographical films in 1977 and 1990. 

He played a sadistic warden in Lock Up (1989) with Sylvester Stallone; and an incarcerated pyromaniac in the firefighter thriller Backdraft (1990) alongside Kurt Russell and Robert De Niro. 

In 1993, he played a snobbish New York City art dealer in Six Degrees of Separation, with Stockard Channing and Will Smith.  In 1994, Sutherland played a software company's scheming CEO in Barry Levinson's drama Disclosure opposite Michael Douglas and Demi Moore, and in 1995 was cast as Maj. Gen. Donald McClintock in Wolfgang Petersen's Outbreak.

Sutherland played famous American Civil War General P.G.T. Beauregard in the 1999 film The Hunley. He played an astronaut in Space Cowboys (2000), with co-stars Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones and James Garner and so we could go on.

It makes the lack of an Oscar that much more incomprehensible, as he has more than proved what a capable versatile actor he is.

But Sutherland’s NDE has affected his attitude to violence – which he abhors.  When he offered the lead roles in Deliverance and Straw Dogs, he turned both offers down because he did not want to appear in violent films. The role in Deliverance went to Jon Voight and the role in Straw Dogs to Dustin Hoffman, and both films enjoyed critical and box office success.

On death and life

The Guardian - On the money by Carole Cadwalladr  Sunday 30 March 2008 12.54 BST

"‘I placed my life in your hands so that you could carry it safely to the grave.’ It's that, you see, and the finiteness of it, of knowing that life will end. It's why the happiest people are Buddhists who spend five minutes a day thinking about dying."
Do you?
"Sure. …. So many of my friends have died. Tony? Anthony Minghella? What was he? 54? My brother-in-law died last week. And he was remarkably healthy with a nine-month baby."

Hunger Games as President Snow

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