A ‘chameleon’ with the head of a character, who did not shy away from any role

Which doesn’t mean he ever faded into the background or completely disappeared into that character. Something like that was impossible with his typical appearance: the powerful smile on that long face, the captivating bright blue eyes. A look that often sparkled with something flippant, sardonic or manic. But there’s also something fatherly about it. Something vulnerable and sad.

When he auditioned for his first film role in 1962, Sutherland was told that although his performance was excellent, he did not get the part. They were looking for an “everyman,” the producer explained, someone who could be everyone’s neighbor. He simply couldn’t imagine this actor living “next door to anyone.”

Father saw nothing in the performance.

Donald McNichol Sutherland spent his early life, marked by various illnesses (rheumatism, polio), on and around a farm in the Canadian town of Lakeside. His bond with his strict father, who had no interest in acting, was bad and would continue that way. Donald decided to abandon a planned life as an engineer to train in theater in England and Scotland. So his film life began with mini roles in British horror productions, such as Castle of the Living Death (1964) and Dr. Horror House of Terror (1965).

About the Author
Bor Beekman is a film editor at by Volkskrant.

The fact that Sutherland has never been nominated for an Oscar in his seventy-year acting career must be almost a complete coincidence (he received an ‘honorary Oscar’ in 2018, the apologetic award for the overlooked greats). There were many opportunities and important roles. From his breakthrough as the wild surgeon ‘Hawkeye’ in Robert Altmans MIX, the 1970 war comedy that was set in a military hospital during the Korean War, but was actually critical of the Vietnam War. Or his unforgettable interpretation of the traumatized and delirious father who wanders through Venice, in Nicolas Roeg’s terrifying alternative thriller. do not look now (1973). A film that also became famous for its controversial, momentous and, according to some sources, “real” sex scene with co-star Julie Christie. Even at an advanced age, Sutherland always had to explain in interviews that what seems real in movies is not necessarily so.

The cruel local fascist Attila

Another early and decisive role was that of the cruel local fascist Attila in Bernardo Bertolucci’s rural epic. Novocento (1976), along with actors Robert De Niro and Gerard Depardieu, played as “childhood friends.” Sutherland, like no other, mastered the art of portraying exalted evil without exaggeration. And also his more sober and sensitive role as father. Ordinary people (1980) was memorable. His film wife (Mary Tyler Moore) and his film son (Timothy Hutton), from Robert Redford’s family drama, were nominated; Sutherland, once again, no.

As a supporting actor he always stood out, even in a drama as moving as Oliver Stone’s. J.F.K. (1991). The intrigues surrounding Kennedy’s assassination have rarely been captured as beautifully as in that sad, battle-weary look at ‘Mr. Later in his life, he suddenly managed to win over a whole new generation as President Snow. The Hunger Games (2012), based on the young adult book series by Suzanne Collins. Another role in which Sutherland gleefully wallows in fascist evil, as the sadistic ruler, but also soothes Snow with his refined performance.

Jane Fonda

Yeah ‘leading manThe actor knew the luck of the time: in the 70s Hollywood opened up to stars with “character heads”; Suddenly they were also allowed to play the first violin. The American master of the paranoid thriller, Alan J. Pakula, recruited Sutherland for the role of a detective in his neo-noir. klute (1971). The Canadian began a relationship with his opponent Jane Fonda, with whom he later also moved in left-wing activist circles: the FBI was closely monitoring the Canadian. During those years, Sutherland also did not want to act in violent films: roles straw dogs and Release They were rejected.

Sutherland was married four times and is survived by four sons and a daughter. All of her children were named after directors she worked with. Acting son and star Kiefer in honor of Warren Kiefer, the director of Castle of the Living Death (1964), in which Father Donald debuted.

Son and actor Kiefer Sutherland wrote in X when his father’s death was announced that his father (‘one of the greatest actors in film history’) never shied away from a role. ‘Whether that role was good, bad or ugly. He loved what he did and did what he loved.”

Donald Sutherland with his son Kiefer.Image Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

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