Actor Donald Sutherland Dies at 88

Keifer Sutherland/Instagram

Actor Donald Sutherland Dies at 88

By Movieguide® Staff

Donald Sutherland, who appeared in multiple Movieguide® Award-winning projects, died this week. He was 88.

“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,” son Keifer Sutherland said on Instagram.

Sutherland had an impressive resume, including parts in Movieguide®’s Teddy Bear® Award winning movie PRIDE & PREJUDICE (2005), and the Teddy Bear® nominated movie, AD ASTRA.

He also appeared in M*A*S*H, KLUTE, and THE HUNGER GAMES franchise.

Per Deadline:

Born on July 17, 1935, in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, Donald Sutherland amassed some 200 film and TV credits spanning more than 60 years, from guesting on episodes of 1960s series including Suspense, The Avengers, Court Martial and The Odd Man to last year’s Paramount+ drama Bass Reeves. His big break in movies came with Robert Aldrich’s star-packed 1967 World War II drama The Dirty Dozen, playing Vernon Pinkley opposite Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, George Kennedy, Telly Savalas and others. A hit in theaters, it remains a seminal American war movie.

Variety reported:

At the height of his success, Sutherland began to make eccentric career choices. He turned down John Boorman for “Deliverance” and chose Paul Mazursky’s “Alex in Wonderland” (1970) over Peckinpah’s “Straw Dogs.” He acted with Fonda again in “Steelyard Blues” (1973) and played Christ in Dalton Trumbo’s “Johnny Got His Gun” (1971). Both fizzled at the box office.

Sutherland received mixed notices for his role as a hick in John Schlesinger’s “Day of the Locust” (1975), played the title character in 1976’s arty bomb “Fellini’s Casanova” and a psychopathic fascist in Bertolucci’s “1900” (1977). He had a memorable cameo in 1978 hit “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” playing a professor who is discovered having an affair with a student (Karen Allen). He took a small upfront fee for his work instead of an offered percentage of the profits. The actor estimated the choice cost him $14 million.

Sutherland rebounded with 1980’s “Ordinary People,” convincing director Robert Redford to cast him as the grieving father trying to hold his family together after his older son’s accidental death. Redford had originally offered him the part of the psychiatrist that eventually went to Judd Hirsch.

In 1981 WWII thriller “Eye of the Needle,” Sutherland gave one of his last romantic leading man performances on the bigscreen, albeit as a heavy — a stranded German agent who falls for a lonely married woman (Kate Nelligan).

Another career peak came in 1998, when Sutherland convinced director-writer Robert Towne to cast him as coach and Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman in “Without Limits,” about U. of Oregon runner Steve Prefontaine (Billy Crudup). He was also memorable in 2005’s “Pride and Prejudice” as Keira Knightley’s father.

Multiple people extended their condolences to the Sutherland family via Instagram.

“Devastated. Our hearts are breaking for you. So grateful to have known & worked with him. Sending our love,” said Cary Elwes, who starred in the Kairos Prize® winning movie, RESISTANCE: 1942.

“He was an icon, an amazing actor and a gentleman. I’m so sorry for your loss, Kiefer,” CBS Mornings Host Vladimir Duthiers said. 

“So sorry my Brother!!!!” wrote Duane Chapman, aka Dog the Bounty Hunter.

Sutherland is survived by his wife Francine Racette; sons Roeg, Rossif, Angus, and Kiefer; daughter Rachel; and four grandchildren, Deadline reports.


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