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Donald Sutherland is remembered as acting very well

Donald Sutherland is remembered as acting very well
Donald Sutherland is remembered as acting very well

 


Samantha Donovan: A chameleon, captivating, unconventional and too important for words. These are some of the descriptions used in tributes to the great Canadian actor Donald Sutherland, who died at age 88 in Florida.

Donald Sutherland: I don't know your foreign name, but your face is familiar to me. You always had that mustache. Hi guy. What are you doing? I drink wine, I eat cheese and I get some rays, you know. Did he look at you? Has the fire looked at you? We both know I don't hesitate to kill children, but I don't waste it. I take life for specific reasons. Your mother will never see you again if you don't marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you marry him. I don't consider it a lot of work. I feel happy and lucky to have gotten this position. I've had a great life, and it's thanks to everyone.

Samantha Donovan: Well, to find out more about what made Donald Sutherland such a memorable actor, I spoke to film critic Stephen A. Russell.

Stephen A. Russell: There is this incredible anecdote: when he was young, he asked his mother if he was handsome. She said no, but your face has a lot of character. Now, I don't necessarily agree with his mother, but I think there's something to be said for the fact that he wasn't some sort of standard Hollywood leading man. He had an incredibly striking face, big wide eyes, that mane of hair. But I also think that beyond his looks, which allowed him to slip into a whole series of incredible roles, he also had this remarkable voice. I mean, there's just, you know, this rumbling gravity, but there's heat in it. It's not a cold, dour sort of voice.

Samantha Donovan: What are, for you, his most memorable performances?

Stephen A. Russell: Of course, as you know, more recent viewers will have loved him as the evil, maniacal President Snow in the Hunger Games films. But for me personally, it has to be Walkabout director Nicholas Rourke's 1973 psychological horror film Don't Look Now. Samantha, the reason I like it is because horror is such a broad term, and the ghost of this Daphne du Maurier adaptation is that two grieving parents have lost a young child. And Donald Sutherland, honestly, is heartbreaking as this grieving father who continues to be haunted by what he believes to be visions of his deceased daughter. He and co-star Julie Christie bring this aching beauty to what is a truly tragic story. And also, shot in Venice out of season, in a really foggy, icy, cold, very ghostly look, which I think makes it his best film.

Samantha Donovan: I remember seeing it, I think, on late night TV when I was a teenager or in my twenties and being so struck by it. This is a truly memorable film from that era. I think it was around 1973, right? Yes. And that's another thing I wanted to ask you, Stephen, because Donald Sutherland came to prominence primarily in the United States, I guess, in the 1970s, although he was a Canadian who, I think, started his career in the United Kingdom. Why was the 1970s such an important period for American cinema? This period included some of these great roles for Donald Sutherland.

Stephen A. Russell: Well, Samantha, I think part of what made him an incredible actor is that he was forged in that cauldron of American politics in the '70s. Obviously, the feminist movements and the feminist movements Advocacy for gay rights has progressed at a breakneck pace. But he, in particular, was a strong supporter of the anti-war movement and the fight against the Vietnam War. And many of our listeners will really know him from Alan Pakula's thriller Clute, in which he starred alongside Jane Fonda, another gathering about violations against war activists. And I think the two of them together, they just represented this incredible strength. Not only the stars of Titanic, but this kind of really starts to see Hollywood personalities have their own opinions to really challenge and fight for something that they believe in.

Samantha Donovan: Stephen, there have been so many tributes to Donald Sutherland today, but I noticed one, actor Rob Lowe said that if you want to watch an acting masterclass, watch Ordinary People. Now that I remember well, the 1980 film that won Best Picture and Best Director for Robert Redford, Timothy Hutton won Best Supporting Actor. But I was surprised to read that Donald Sutherland had never been nominated for an Oscar. Does this surprise you?

Stephen A. Russell: This is an absolute crime against humanity. I don't understand how, again, you know, after 200 roles, there wouldn't be a person alive today, you know, old enough to watch who didn't know Donald Sutherland in one form or another. That the Academy completely ignored him until 2018, when they finally gave them one of their, oops, honorary awards for, you know, completely neglecting one of the best actors of our time. It's just that it's a big shock.

Samantha Donovan: Film critic Stephen A. Russell on the career of Donald Sutherland.

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