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Donald Sutherland, the towering actor whose career spanned MASH to The Hunger Games, has died at 88

Donald Sutherland, the towering actor whose career spanned MASH to The Hunger Games, has died at 88
Donald Sutherland, the towering actor whose career spanned MASH to The Hunger Games, has died at 88

 


By JAKE COYLE (AP Film Writer)

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Sutherland, The Canadian actor whose wry and gripping screen presence spanned more than half a century of films, from “MASH” to “The Hunger Games,” has died. He was 88 years old.

Sutherland died Thursday in Miami after a long illness, according to a statement from the Creative Artists Agency, which represented him.

Kiefer Sutherland said on He loved what he did and did what he loved, and you can never ask for more than that.

The tall, lean Sutherland, who wore a smile that could be sweet or evil, was known for such offbeat characters as Hawkeye Pierce in Robert Altman's “MASH,” the hippie tank commander in “Kelly's Heroes” and the stoned professor in ” Animal House.” »

“Donald was a giant, not only physically but also in terms of talent,” Elliott Gould, Sutherland's co-star on “MASH,” said in a statement to The Associated Press. many paid tribute. “He was also extremely kind and generous.”

Before embarking on a long career as a respected actor, Sutherland embodied the unpredictable and anti-establishment cinema of the 1970s. He never stopped working, appearing in nearly 200 films and series.

Over the decades, Sutherland showed his talent in more low-key — but still eccentric — roles in Robert Redford's “Ordinary People” and Oliver Stone's “JFK.” More recently he starred in the “Hunger Games” films.

A memoir titled “Made, But Still True” is should be released in November.

“I love working. I love working passionately,” Sutherland told Charlie Rose in 1998. “I love feeling my hand fit into another character’s glove. I feel an immense freedom: time stops for me. I'm not as crazy as I used to be, but I still am a little bit.

Born in St. John, New Brunswick, Donald McNichol Sutherland was the son of a salesman and a mathematics teacher. Raised in Nova Scotia, he was a disc jockey with his own radio station by age 14.

“When I was 13 or 14, I really thought that everything I felt was bad and dangerous, and that God was going to kill me for it,” Sutherland told the New York Times in 1981. “My father always said, “Keep your mouth.” Shut up, Donnie, and maybe people will think you have character.

Sutherland started as an engineering student at the University of Toronto, but switched to English and began acting in school theater productions. While studying, he met Lois Hardwick, an aspiring actress. They married in 1959 but divorced seven years later.

After graduating in 1956, Sutherland attended the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art to study acting. He began appearing in West End plays and on British television. After moving to Los Angeles, a series of war films changed his trajectory.

His breakthrough was “The Dirty Dozen” (1967), in which he played Vernon Pinkley, the psychopath posing as an officer. 1970 saw the release of the World War II yarns “Kelly's Heroes” and “MASH”, a smash hit that catapulted Sutherland to stardom.

“There are more challenges in character roles,” Sutherland told The Washington Post in 1970. “There is longevity. A good actor can show a different face in every film and not bore the audience.

If Sutherland had his way, Altman would have been fired from “MASH.” He was unhappy with the director's unorthodox and improvisational style. But the film was a success beyond all expectations.

Sutherland identified with its anti-war message. Openly opposed to the Vietnam War, he founded the Free Theater Associates with actress Jane Fonda and others in 1971. Banned by the military because of their political views, they performed in venues near the bases Southeast Asian military in 1973.

“I thought I was going to be part of a revolution that was going to change cinema and its influence on people,” Sutherland told the Los Angeles Times.

His career as a leading man peaked in the 1970s, when he starred in films by the era's biggest directors, even if they didn't always do their best with him. Sutherland, who often said he considered himself in service of a director's vision, worked with Federico Fellini (1976's Fellini's Casanova), Bernardo Bertolucci (1976's 1900), Claude Chabrol (1976's Blood Relatives” from 1978) and John Schlesinger (“The Day of the Grasshopper” from 1975.

One of his finest performances was as a detective in Alan Pakula's “Klute” (1971). While filming, he met Fonda, with whom he had a three-year relationship that began at the end of his second marriage to actress Shirley Douglas. He and Douglas divorced in 1971 after having twins: Rachel and Kiefer, named after Warren Kiefer, the writer of Sutherland's first film, “Castle of the Living Dead.”

Another highlight was the psychological horror film “Don't Look Now” (1973) by Nicolas Roeg. Sutherland starred with Julie Christie as a grieving couple who move to Venice after the death of their daughter. The film included a famous, artfully edited, explicit sex scene.

“Nic and I thought I might die in the process, we were so involved,” Sutherland once said. Such was his admiration for the film and Roeg that he and his next wife, actress Francine Racette, named their firstborn child Roeg.

Sutherland married Racette in 1972 and remained with her. She survives him. They had two other children: Rossif, named after director Frédéric Rossif; and Angus Redford, of Redford name.

Robert Redford's “Ordinary People” (1980) also dealt with the loss of a child. His first film, starring Sutherland as the father of a family destroyed by tragedy, won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

Sutherland was never nominated for an Academy Award but received an honorary Oscar in 2017. He won an Emmy in 1995 for the TV movie “Citizen X” and won two Golden Globes for “Citizen X” and the 2003 TV movie “Path to War.”

Sutherland's stage debut in New York in 1981, however, went terribly. He played Humbert Humbert in Edward Albee's adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's “Lolita” and the reviews were merciless; it closed after a dozen performances. A rough patch in the '80s followed, with failures like the 1981 satire “Gas” and the 1984 comedy “Crackers.”

But Sutherland continued to work steadily and worked increasingly in television, notably on HBO's “Path to War,” in which he played President Lyndon Johnson's Secretary of Defense, Clark Clifford.

After his son Kiefer became a star, Sutherland appeared in numerous films with him, including the 1996 thriller “A Time to Kill” and 2015's “Forsaken.” But he turned down the opportunity to play the father in the hit series “24”.

To a younger generation, Sutherland was best known as President Snow in “The Hunger Games” franchise, starting with the 2012 original. Sutherland sought out the role.

“The role of the president may have had a line in the script. Maybe two. It made no difference,” Sutherland told GQ. “I thought it was an extremely important film and I wanted to be a part of it.”

In his final years, the actor non-stop thought about dying on screen, for real.

“I really hope that in a film that I make, I die – but I die, me, Donald – and that they can use my funeral and the coffin,” Sutherland told the AP. “That would be absolutely ideal. I would like to.”

___

Associated Press writers Andrew Dalton and Kaitlyn Huamani contributed from Los Angeles.

Sources

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