Jul. 17th, 1935
Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada
Guest TV Roles
Dr. Hal Seaton
The towering presence of this Canadian character actor is not often noticed, but his contributions are legendary. He has been in almost a hundred and fifty different show and films. He is also the father of renowned actor Kiefer Sutherland.
Born in New Brunswick, Sutherland worked several different jobs - he was a radio DJ in his youth - and was almost set on becoming an engineer after graduating from the University of Toronto with a degree in engineering. However, he also graduated with a degree in drama, and he chose to abandon becoming an engineer in favour of an actor.
Sutherland's first roles were bit parts and consisted of such films as the horror film Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965) which starred Christopher Lee (I). He was also appearing in episodes of TV shows such as "The Saint" and "Court Martial". Sutherland's break would come soon, though, and it would come in the form of a war film in which he was barely cast.
The reason he was barely cast was because he had been a last-minute replacement for an actor that had dropped out of the film. The role he played was that of the dopey but loyal Vernon Pinkley in the war film The Dirty Dozen (1967). The film also starred Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, and Telly Savalas. The picture was an instant success as an action/war film, and Sutherland played upon this success by taking another role in a war film: this was, however, a comedy called MASH (1970) which landed Sutherland the starring role alongside Elliott Gould and Tom Skerritt. This is now considered a classic among film goers, and the 35-year old actor was only getting warmed up.
Sutherland took a number of other roles in between these two films, such as the theatrical adaptation Oedipus the King (1968), the musical Joanna (1968) and the Clint Eastwood-helmed war comedy Kelly's Heroes (1970). It was Kelly's Heroes (1970) that became more well-known, and it reunited Sutherland with Telly Savalas. 1970 and 1971 offered Sutherland a number of other films, the best of them would have to be Klute (1971). The film, which made Jane Fonda a star, is about a prostitute whose friend is mysteriously murdered. Sutherland received no critical acclaim like his co-star Fonda (she won an Oscar) but his career did not fade.
Moving on from Klute (1971), Sutherland landed roles such as the lead in the thriller Lady Ice (1973), and another lead in the western Alien Thunder (1974). These films did not match up to "Klute"'s success, though Sutherland took a supporting role that would become one of his most infamous and most critically acclaimed. He played the role of the murderous fascist leader in the Bernardo Bertolucci Italian epic Novecento (1976). Sutherland also gained another memorable role as a marijuana-smoking university professor in Animal House (1978) among other work that he did in this time.
Another classic role came in the form of the Robert Redford (I) film, Ordinary People (1980). Sutherland portrays an older father figure who must deal with his children in an emotional drama of a film. It won Best Picture, and while both the supporting stars were nominated for Oscars, Sutherland once again did not receive any Academy Award nomination. He moved on to play a Nazi spy in a film based on Ken Follett's book "Eye of the Needle" and he would star alongside Al Pacino in the commercial and critical disaster that was Revolution (1985). While it drove Al Pacino out of films for four years, Sutherland continued to find work. This work led to the dramatic story of apartheid A Dry White Season (1989) alongside the legendary actor Marlon Brando.
Sutherland's next big success came in the Oliver Stone (I) film JFK (1991) where Sutherland plays the chilling role of Mister X, an anonymous source who gives crucial information about the politics surrounding President Kennedy. Once again, he was passed over at the Oscars, though Tommy Lee Jones was nominated for his performance as Clay Shaw. Sutherland went on to appear in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992), Shadow of the Wolf (1992), and Disclosure (1994).
The new millennium provided an interesting turn in Sutherland's career: reuniting with such former collaborators as Clint Eastwood and Tommy Lee Jones, Sutherland starred in Space Cowboys (2000). He also appeared as the father figure to Nicole Kidman's character in Cold Mountain (2003) and Charlize Theron's character in The Italian Job (2003). He has also made a fascinating performance as the revolutionist Mr. Thorne in Land of the Blind (2006) and also as a judge in Reign Over Me (2007). Recently, he took a supporting role in the television drama "Dirty Sexy Money", and also in the comedy-based Fool's Gold (2008/I).
Donald Sutherland has made a lasting legacy on Hollywood, whether portraying a chilling and horrifying villain, or playing the older respectable character in his films. A true character actor, Sutherland is one of Canada's most well-known names and will hopefully continue on being so long after his time.
- His first part-time job was as a news correspondent for local radio station, CKBW.
- Is a huge fan of his son Kiefer's TV show _"24" (2001)_ (qv). He never misses an episode.
- Even though he receives top billing in _The Day of the Locust (1975)_ (qv), he doesn't appear in the film for the first 42 minutes.
- Originally wanted to be a sculptor, but decided to be an actor after witnessing people praise a drawing of Churchill that he thought was awful (he realized he couldn't make art to please other people). He had never attended a theater performance, and still hadn't when he received his first role. Thus he was behind the proscenium arch before ever having been in front of it.
- Between 1958 and 1960, he went to England and studied acting at the London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art (LAMDA).
- As with son 'Kiefer Sutherland' (qv), named after director 'Lorenzo Sabatini' (qv), he named his other son, Roeg Sutherland, 'Kiefer Sutherland' (qv)'s half-brother, after _Don't Look Now (1973)_ (qv) director 'Nicolas Roeg' (qv).
- He and 'Alan Alda' (qv) both play Republicans with Presidential aspirations on television. Alda appears on The _"The West Wing" (1999)_ (qv), Sutherland on _"Commander in Chief" (2005)_ (qv).
- In 2003, twice played a character who dies who was the father of a young woman, in _Cold Mountain (2003)_ (qv) and _The Italian Job (2003)_ (qv). Both actresses (Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron) were nominated for Best Actress (although Theron was nominated for _Monster (2003)_ (qv) and not her role in _The Italian Job (2003)_ (qv).