Donald Sutherland

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Donald Sutherland
Donald Sutherland - Monte-Carlo Television Festival.jpg
Sutherland at the 2013 Monte-Carlo Television Festival.
Born Donald McNichol Sutherland[1]
(1935-07-17) 17 July 1935 (age 78)
Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada
Residence Georgeville, Quebec,
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Nationality Canadian
Alma mater University of Toronto
London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art
Occupation Actor
Years active 1962–present
Home town Toronto, Ontario

Lois Hardwick (m. 1959–66)

Shirley Douglas (m. 1966–70)

Francine Racette (m. 1972)

Children Kiefer, Rachel
Rossif, Angus, Roeg
Awards See Awards and recognition

Donald McNichol Sutherland, OC (born 17 July 1935) is a Canadian actor whose film career spans nearly 50 years.[1] Some of Sutherland's more notable movie roles have included soldiers in popular war movies such as The Dirty Dozen, The Eagle Has Landed, MASH and Kelly's Heroes, as well as a diverse range of characters in other noted films such as Fellini's Casanova, Klute, Don't Look Now, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, JFK, Ordinary People, Pride & Prejudice, and The Hunger Games. He is the father of actor Kiefer Sutherland.[2]

Early life[edit]

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.[1][3] His ancestry includes Scottish, as well as German and English.[4][5] As a child he battled rheumatic fever, hepatitis and poliomyelitis.[6] His teenage years were spent in Nova Scotia,[7] and he got his first part time job at age 14 as a news correspondent for local radio station CKBW in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. He then studied at Victoria College, University of Toronto, where he met his first wife Lois Hardwick (not the child star of the same name), 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 England in 1957,[8] studying at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.


Early work[edit]

After quitting the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, Sutherland spent a year and a half at the Perth Repertory Theatre in Scotland before returning south, where he landed a role in the television series The Avengers.[9] 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). In the same year, he appeared in the Cold War classic The Bedford Incident and appeared in the TV series The Saint, in the 1965 episode "The Happy Suicide".[10] In 1967 Sutherland appeared in an episode of The Avengers entitled "The Superlative Seven"; he also made a second, and more substantial appearance in The Saint. The episode called "Escape Route" was directed by the show's star, Roger Moore, who later recalled that Sutherland "asked me if he could show it to some producers as he was up for an important role... they came to view a rough cut at the studio and he got The Dirty Dozen".[11] The film, which also starred Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson, was the 5th highest grossing film of 1967 and MGM's highest grossing movie of the year.[12] In 1968, after the breakthrough in the UK-filmed The Dirty Dozen, Sutherland left London for Hollywood.[8] He then made a further two war films in relative quick succession taking the lead as "Hawkeye" Pierce in Robert Altman's MASH in 1970; and, again in 1970, as hippy-like tank commander Sgt. Oddball in the Yugoslavia-filmed Kelly's Heroes, alongside Clint Eastwood and Telly Savalas.

Mid-career: 1972–2000[edit]

During the filming of the Academy award-winning detective thriller Klute, Sutherland had an intimate relationship with co-star Jane Fonda.[13] 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. A follow up to their teaming up in Klute, Sutherland and Fonda performed together in Steelyard Blues (1972), a "freewheeling, Age-of-Aquarius, romp-and-roll caper" from the writer David S. Ward.

Sutherland found himself as a leading man throughout the 1970s in films such as the Venice-based psychological horror film Don't Look Now (1973), the war film The Eagle Has Landed (1976), Federico Fellini's Casanova (1976) and the thriller Eye of the Needle (which was filmed on location on the Isle of Mull, West Scotland) and as the ever-optimistic health inspector in the science fiction/horror film Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) alongside Brooke Adams and Jeff Goldblum. In 1975 he starred in The Day of the Locust opposite Karen Black; Sutherland played the lead character, Homer Simpson, in this drama based on the book by Nathanael West.

He helped launch the internationally popular Canadian television series Witness to Yesterday, with a performance as the Montreal doctor Norman Bethune, a physician and humanitarian, largely talking of Bethune's experiences in revolutionary China. Sutherland refused a script for this role, saying he knew Bethune's life so well they could ask him anything—and the interviewer ended up with enough material for two programs instead of the planned one.

Sutherland also had a role as 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. Thinking the movie would certainly not be a big success, he chose the 40K upfront payment. The movie eventually grossed $141,600,000.

Sutherland in November 1981

He won acclaim for his performance in the Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci's 1976 epic film 1900 and as the conflicted father in the Academy award-winning family drama Ordinary People (1980) alongside Mary Tyler Moore and Timothy Hutton. In 1981 he narrated A War Story, an Anne Wheeler film. He played the role of physician-hero Norman Bethune in two biographical films in 1977 and 1990.

Some of Sutherland's better known roles in the 1980s and 1990s were in the South African apartheid drama A Dry White Season (1989), alongside Marlon Brando and Susan Sarandon; as a sadistic warden in Lock Up (1989) with Sylvester Stallone; as an incarcerated pyromaniac in the firefighter thriller Backdraft (1990) alongside Kurt Russell and Robert De Niro and as a snobbish NYC art dealer in Six Degrees of Separation (1993), with Stockard Channing and Will Smith. In the 1991 Oliver Stone film JFK, Sutherland played a mysterious Washington intelligence officer, reputed to have been L. Fletcher Prouty, who spoke of links to the military–industrial complex in the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy.[14] He played psychiatrist and visionary Wilhelm Reich in the video for Kate Bush's 1985 single, "Cloudbusting".

In 1992, he played the role of Merrick in the movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with Kristy Swanson. In 1994, he played the head of a government agency hunting for aliens that take over people's bodies similar to the premise of Invasion of the Body Snatchers in the movie of Robert A. Heinlein's 1951 book The Puppet Masters. In 1994 he also 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 the antagonistic Maj. Gen. Donald McClintock in Wolfgang Petersen's thriller Outbreak, also featuring Dustin Hoffman, Morgan Freeman, and Rene Russo.

Sutherland was later cast in 1996 (for only the second time) with his son Kiefer in Joel Schumacher's award-winning crime thriller A Time to Kill, based on the bestselling book of the same name, written by John Grisham. Sutherland played famous American Civil War General P.G.T. Beauregard in the 1999 film The Hunley. He played an aging but enthusiastic astronaut in 2000's Space Cowboys, co-starring with director Clint Eastwood.

Recent work (2000–present)[edit]

Several famous Canadians, including Sutherland, carrying the Olympic flag at the 2010 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Vancouver.

In more recent years, Sutherland was known for his role as Reverend Monroe in the Civil War drama Cold Mountain (2003), in the remake of The Italian Job (2003), in the TV series Commander in Chief (2005–2006), in the movie Fierce People (2005) with Diane Lane and Anton Yelchin, and as Mr. Bennet in Pride & Prejudice (2005), starring alongside Keira Knightley. He earned an Emmy nomination in 2006 for his performance in the miniseries Human Trafficking. Sutherland starred as Tripp Darling in the prime time serial Dirty Sexy Money for ABC. Sutherland's distinctive voice has also been used in many radio and television commercials, including those for Volvo automobiles. He is the spokesman for Simply Orange orange juice and recently he played multi-millionaire Nigel Honeycut in the Warner Bros. film Fool's Gold. He provided voice-overs and narration during the intro of 1st semifinal of Eurovision Song Contest 2009, and the Opening Ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, and was also one of the Olympic flag bearers. He was also narrator of CTV's "I Believe" television ads in the lead up to the Games. During the games, Sutherland attended some of the events. In 2010 he starred alongside an ensemble cast in a TV adaptation of Ken Follett's novel The Pillars of the Earth.

Sutherland portrayed President Snow in the movie adaptation of The Hunger Games, released in March 2012. He reprised the role in its sequel, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013).

On 26 March 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. He also mentioned that he had been offered the lead roles in Deliverance and Straw Dogs but turned both offers down because he did not want to appear in violent films at the time. The role in Deliverance went to Jon Voight and the role in Straw Dogs to Dustin Hoffman. He then quipped, "and then I played a fascist in 1900 by Bernardo Bertolucci."

In 2013, Sutherland played an ICC inspector in the international crime-drama TV series, Crossing Lines.

Personal life[edit]

Sutherland in April 2011.

Sutherland was made an Officer of the Order of Canada on 18 December 1978[15] and was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame in 2000.[16] He maintains a home in Georgeville, in Quebec's Eastern Townships. Sutherland was previously a major fan of the Montreal Expos.[17]

Son Kiefer Sutherland, an actor best known for his role as Jack Bauer on the TV action/thriller series 24, and his twin sister, Rachel, were born to Donald Sutherland and his second wife, Shirley Douglas, daughter of well-known Canadian politician and the "father" of Canada's universal healthcare system, Tommy Douglas.[18]

Donald Sutherland met his current wife, French Canadian actress Francine Racette, on the set of the Canadian pioneer drama Alien Thunder. They have three sons: Rossif Sutherland, Angus Redford Sutherland, and Roeg Sutherland.[18]

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,[19] 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.[18]

Sutherland became a blogger for the American news website The Huffington Post during the 2008 United States presidential election campaign.[20] In his blogs, he openly stated his support for Barack Obama.[21]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Sutherland's star on Canada's Walk of Fame



  1. ^ a b c "Donald Sutherland Biography". filmreference. 2008. Retrieved 4 April 2008. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Donald Sutherland Biography – Yahoo! Movies". Retrieved 2 March 2011. 
  4. ^ Buckley, Tom (17 October 1980). "At the Movies". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ Ancestry of Gov. Bill Richardson Retrieved 2012-06-17
  6. ^ NNDB Biog
  7. ^ The Gainesville Sun 14 October 1989: Sutherland gets a 'kick-start' for his soul Retrieved 2012-06-17
  8. ^ a b Donald Sutherland in TV interview during the shooting of The Eagle has Landed (on the DVD): "I was in England from 1957 until 1968." Checked 2012-06-17
  9. ^ The Courier & Advertiser, Dundee 23 Nov 2013
  10. ^ "The Saint: The Happy Suicide". Retrieved 2 March 2011. 
  11. ^ MM. "Episode #85 – 5–14". Retrieved 2 March 2011. 
  12. ^ "The Dirty Dozen, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved 8 March 2012. 
  13. ^ Mark Cousins (19 March 2001). "Donald Sutherland – Jane Fonda, "Klute", and "Don't Look Now". BBC. Retrieved 4 April 2008. 
  14. ^ L. Fletcher Prouty JFK, p. xiv, Citadel Press, 1996 ISBN 978-0-8065-1772-8
  15. ^ Order of Canada citation
  16. ^ Canada's Walk of Fame: Donald Sutherland, actor.
  17. ^ Berkovich, John (16 September 2003). "Get rid of the Montreal Expos". Buzzle. Retrieved 28 August 2010. 
  18. ^ a b c The Observer 30 March 2008: On the money – interview with Donald Sutherland Retrieved 2012-06-16
  19. ^ Off Screen Volume 15, Issue 12, 31 December 2011: Warren Kiefer – The Man Who Wasn’t There Retrieved 2012-06-16
  20. ^, blog entries by Donald Sutherland
  21. ^ Sutherland, Donald (10 July 2008). "Obama for President". Huffington Post. 
  22. ^ "Rudolph Giuliani to deliver Middlebury College commencement address May 22". BBC. 10 March 2005. Retrieved 4 October 2013. 
  23. ^ "Hollywood Chamber of Commerce". Retrieved 2 March 2011. 
  24. ^ "Donald Sutherland receives French honour". BBC. 10 June 2012. Retrieved 10 June 2012. 

External links[edit]