Donald Sutherland dies aged 88

By Rachel LookerBBC News, Washington

Getty Images Actor Donald Sutherland Getty Images

The Canadian actor Donald Sutherland, star of films including The Hunger Games and Don’t Look Now, has died at 88 after a long illness.

His son, the actor Kiefer Sutherland, said: “With a heavy heart, I tell you that my father, Donald Sutherland, has passed away. I personally think one of the most important actors in the history of film.

“Never daunted by a role, good, bad or ugly. He loved what he did and did what he loved, and one can never ask for more than that. A life well lived.”

Sutherland had almost 200 credits to his name in a career spanning more than half a century.

The news was met with an outpouring of support and tributes.

Actor Rob Lowe, who starred alongside Sutherland in the miniseries Salem’s Lot, called his former co-star “one of our greatest actors”.

“It was my honor to work with him many years ago, and I will never forget his charisma and ability,” he wrote on X/Twitter.

Cary Elwes, a co-star in the 2001 television film Uprising, said he was “devastated” by Sutherland’s death.

“Our hearts are breaking for you,” he told Kiefer in an Instagram message. “So grateful to have known [and] worked with him. Sending our love.

Getty Kiefer Sutherland (left) and his father Donald in the 1980sGetty

Kiefer Sutherland (left) and his father Donald in the 1980s

Born in New Brunswick, Canada, Sutherland started as a radio news reporter before travelling to London in 1957 to study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

He then took on small roles in British film and television.

His earliest high-profile roles were in war films including 1967’s The Dirty Dozen, and Kelly’s Heroes and M*A*S*H from 1970.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recalled feeling “deeply, deeply star-struck” when he first met Sutherland.

“My thoughts go out to Kiefer and the entire Sutherland family, as well as all Canadians who are no doubt saddened to learn, as I am right now,” he said.

“He was a man with a strong presence, a brilliance in his craft and truly, truly a great Canadian artist,” he added.

US President Joe Biden said Sutherland was a “one-of-a-kind actor who inspired and entertained the world for decades”.

Ron Howard, who directed Sutherland in the 1991 film Backdraft, said that he was “one of the most intelligent, interesting [and] engrossing film actors of all time”.

Jane Fonda was Sutherland’s co-star in Alan J Pakula’s 1971 thriller, Klute, about a detective whose hunt for a missing person is assisted by a high-priced call girl.

They dated for two years.

In a tribute on Instagram, Fonda described Sutherland as a “brilliant actor” with whom she shared “quite a few adventures”, including performances to active servicemen during an anti-Vietnam war tour in Hawaii, Japan and the Philippines.

“I am heartbroken,” she added.

Helen Mirren, who appeared opposite Sutherland in 2017 film The Leisure Seeker, paid tribute to her “friend” and “one of the smartest actors I ever worked with” in a statement shared with The Hollywood Reporter.

“He had a wonderful enquiring brain, and a great knowledge on a wide variety of subjects,” she said.

“He combined this great intelligence with a deep sensitivity, and with a seriousness about his profession as an actor.

“This all made him into the legend of film that he became. He was my colleague and became my friend. I will miss his presence in this world.”

Donald Sutherland on not being a ‘conventional’ Hollywood star

M*A*S*H co-star Elliott Gould shared a statement with Associated Press, calling Sutherland a “brother”.

“It’s never easy losing the calibre of a human being and actor like Donald Sutherland, but this one really profoundly hurts because Donald was like my brother, and a big part of my own career,” he said.

Will Smith, who starred with Sutherland in Six Degrees of Separation, paid tribute by posting two pictures from the 1993 film on Instagram, with the caption: “Rest in peace, Donald”.

The 1970s also saw Sutherland play an IRA member in The Eagle Has Landed, a pot-smoking college professor in National Lampoon’s Animal House and the lead in the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

In the 1980s, he played the father of a suicidal teenager in the Oscar-winning Ordinary People.

He turned to television in the 2000s, appearing in such series as Dirty Sexy Money and Commander-in-Chief.

Despite his numerous roles, he was never nominated for an Oscar. He did receive an honorary Academy Award in 2017.

Getty Sutherland as Sergeant Oddball in Kelly's HeroesGetty

Sutherland as Sergeant Oddball in Kelly’s Heroes

Sutherland was known for his political activism throughout his career, and protested against the Vietnam war alongside Fonda.

He also channelled his beliefs into some of his roles, including The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, where he played the tyrannical President Snow.

Sutherland told the BBC in 2015 that he hoped the film’s socio-political message would help young fans become more aware of the world around them.

“We asked the kindest man in the world to portray the most corrupt, ruthless dictator we’ve ever seen,” the official Hunger Games X account posted following the announcement of his death.

“Such was the power and skill of Donald Sutherland’s acting that he created one more indelible character among many others that defined his legendary career. We are privileged to have known and worked with him, and our thoughts are with his family.”

He also told the BBC that the biggest changes he’d noticed in the industry was that actors were making “a lot of money”.

“I don’t think anybody of my generation became an actor to make money. It never occurred to me. I made £8 a week here [on stage in London]. When I starred in a play at the Royal Court, I made £17 a week, that was in 1964,” he said.

At the time, he said he had no plans to retire from acting.

“It’s a passionate endeavour. Retirement for actors is spelt ‘DEATH’.” he said.

His memoir, Made Up, But Still True, is due to be published in November.

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