"I'm not a Robert Redford. I can play a little thing sometimes. I don't like to
think of myself as a journeyman, but I'm certainly a good actor who can
participate on every level in this business. In theater, movies and television.
I hope I don't have too much vanity and I think I will continue to work." Donald
Prolific Canadian actor and one of Hollywood's most acclaimed actors for over
four decades, Donald Sutherland burst to fame as the original Capt. Benjamin
Franklin 'Hawkeye' Pierce in Robert Altman's M*A*S*H (1970). He won Golden
Globes for playing Col. Mikhail Fetisov in the TV-movie thriller Citizen X
(1995, also won an Emmy) and for portraying Clark Clifford in the period drama
TV-movie Path to War (2002). The legendary actor who has never been nominated
for an Oscar had acted in such films as The Dirty Dozen (1967), Klute (1971),
Steelyard Blues (1973), Don't Look Now (1973), Ordinary People (1980), Threshold
(1981), Eye of the Needle (1981), Backdraft (1991), Six Degrees of Separation
(1993), Outbreak (1995), A Time To Kill (1996), Without Limits (1998), Instinct
(1999), Uprising (2001), The Italian Job (2003), Cold Mountain (2003) and Pride
& Prejudice (2005). He is currently starring in the TV show “Commander-in-Chief”
(with Geena Davis) and will star in the upcoming films: Ask the Dust, Land of
the Blind, Puffball, and The Four Saints.
6'4" tall, long-faced and gaunt Donald Sutherland is the father of actor Kiefer
Sutherland. He had three-year relationship with actress Jane Fonda (met while
filming Klute (1971); they performed together in Free the Army antiwar revue
that toured military bases in 1973) and was once involved with Joan Juliet Buck.
He is currently the husband of French-Canadian actress Francine Racette.
Childhood and Family:
The grandson of a Protestant minister, Donald McNichol Sutherland was born on
July 6, 1934 in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada to parents Frederick Sutherland
(salesman; ran the local bus, gas and electricity company; deceased) and Dorothy
Sutherland (deceased). As a child, Donald suffered a series of potentially
crippling diseases during childhood, including polio, rheumatic fever and
hepatitis. He grew up in the town of Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, where he also
graduated from high school. At age 14 years old, Donald became the youngest
announcer and DJ for a local radio station. He studied Engineering and Drama at
University of Toronto in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and then moved to England to
study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA).
While studying at University of Toronto, Donald Sutherland met aspiring actress
Lois Hardwick. They married in 1959 but divorced in 1966. On a set of Castle of
the Living Dead (1964), Sutherland met Canadian actress Shirley Douglas (born in
1934), the daughter of former Canadian NDP leader, Tommy Douglas. The couple
tied the knot in 1966 but divorced in 1971. The next year, Sutherland exchanged
wedding vows with his current wife, French-Canadian actress Francine Racette
(born in 1947), whom he met while filming the Canadian pioneer drama Alien
From his marriages, Donald Sutherland has four sons: Kiefer Sutherland (actor;
born on December 21, 1966; twin brother of Rachel; mother, Shirley Douglas;
named after Warren Kiefer, writer of Sutherland's first film Castle of the
Living Dead), Roeg Sutherland (born in 1974; mother, Francine Racette; named
after director Nicolas Roeg), Rossif Sutherland (born in 1978; mother, Francine
Racette; named after director Frederick Rossif (To Die in Madrid)), Angus
Redford Sutherland (born in 1979; mother, Francine Racette; middle name after
Robert Redford) and one daughter, Rachel Sutherland (born on December 21, 1966;
twin sister of Kiefer). He also has one granddaughter, Sarah Jude Sutherland,
the daughter of Kiefer Sutherland and Camelia Kath.
"Well, I was always cast as an artistic homicidal maniac. But at least I was
artistic!" Donald Sutherland (on his early roles).
Donald Sutherland made his stage debut in "The Male Animal", Hart House Theatre,
Toronto, in 1952 before attending LAMDA in 1958. Two years later, he began
acting in British TV and Repertory Theater. He was spotted as a guest in an
episode of the TV series "Studio Four," "Suspense" and "The Odd Man." Sutherland
also debuted on London stage in a production of "August for the People" in 1963.
After appearing in writer-director Wolf Rilla's The World Ten Times Over and the
comedy TV movie Terry-Thomas (both in 1963), Sutherland won his first
significant film role, as Sgt. Paul/The witch/The old man, in Luciano Ricci and
Lorenzo Sabatini's horror film, Castello dei morti vivi, Il (1964, a.k.a. Castle
of the Living Dead, alongside Christopher Lee).
The subsequent years, Sutherland was seen in Hamlet (1964, TV), The Death of
Bessie Smith (1965, TV), The Bedford Incident (1965), The American Civil War
(1965, TV), Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965), Fanatic (1965, a.k.a. Die!
Die! My Darling!) and "A Farewell to Arms" (1966, miniseries). He made his US TV
debut in ABC series "Court Martial" in 1966 and made his breakthrough feature
supporting role as Vernon L. Pinkley in Robert Aldrich's adaptation of E.M.
Nathanson's novel, the all-star cast classic World War II action dramaThe Dirty
Dozen (1967, starring Lee Marvin). He then was cast in films like Billion Dollar
Brain, Oedipus the King, Sebastian, Interlude, and The Split. He also received
strong notices for playing Lord Peter Sanderson, a gaudy wealthy young man, in
writer-director Michael Sarne's musical drama Joanna (1968, opposite Geneviève
Waïte) and portraying the dual role of Charles/Pierre in Bud Yorkin's charming
farce in the tradition of the great costume films of the 30's and 40's, Start
the Revolution Without Me (1970, costarring with Gene Wilder).
After portraying prototypical hippie, tank commander Sgt. Oddball in Brian G.
Hutton's WWII comedy-drama Kelly's Heroes (1970, with Clint Eastwood, Telly
Savalas and Don Rickles), Sutherland was tossed toward stardom for playing the
original Capt. Benjamin Franklin 'Hawkeye' Pierce, the crack military surgeon
but lousy soldier, in Robert Altman's take on Richard Hooker's novel, the Korean
War comedy M*A*S*H (1970, alongside Elliott Gould and Tom Skerritt).
Sutherland’s performance earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion
Picture Actor - Musical/Comedy. In 1971, Sutherland offered an exceptional turn
as the title role of the rural Pennsylvania private eye, opposite
then-girlfriend Jane Fonda (won an Oscar for her role in this film), in Alan J.
Pakula's intense suspense thriller Klute and played Jesus Christ in Dalton
Trumbo's screen version of his own novel, Johnny Got His Gun (alongside Timothy
Bottoms), a moving drama which realistically represents the horrors and evil of
war. He also reunited with M*A*S*H costar actor Elliott Gould in Alan Arkin's
film version of Jules Feiffer's comedy play, Little Murders.
Along with Jane Fonda, Sutherland debuted as co-producer and co-writer for F.T.A./Free
(or F***) the Army revue, which was presented near Army bases and featuring
anti-war skits and songs, and costarred with her in Alan Myerson's crime comedy
Steelyard Blues (1973, a.k.a. The Final Crash, Sutherland also
executive-produced), the latter of which earned Sutherland Best Actor nomination
at BAFTA Awards. He received Best Actor nomination at BAFTA Awards again for
playing Julie Christie's husband in Nicolas Roeg's third film, the haunting
thriller based on a story by Daphne Du Maurier, Don't Look Now (1973) before
making another turn with Elliott Gould as the bumbling duo of Griff and Brulard
in Irvin Kershner's spy spoof S*P*Y*S (1974). Director John Schlesinger gave him
the starring role of the strange man-child Homer Simpson, the love interest of
Burgess Meredith's character, in his adaptation of Nathanael West's satirical
novel, The Day of the Locust (1975), and filmmaker Federico Fellini handed him
the title role of the libertine, collecting seductions and sexual feats Giacomo
Casanova in his drama film inspired by Giacomo Casanova's autobiography Histoire
de ma vie, Casanova di Federico Fellini, Il (1976, a.k.a. Fellini's Casanova).
Sutherland played bestial fascist Attila in Bernardo Bertolucci's four-hour-plus
epic 1900 (starring Robert De Niro and Gérard Depardieu) and portrayed an IRA
lifer who hates the British, opposite Michael Caine, in John Sturges's
adaptation of Jack Higgins's best-selling suspense novel, The Eagle Has Landed
(both in 1976). He gave fine performance as Canadian surgeon Bethune (1977) for
Canadian biographical TV movie with the same name and later reprised his role in
Phillip Borsos and Raoul Coutard-directed feature Dr Bethune (released in USA in
1993). Sutherland also gave another extraordinary performance as Matthew Bennel,
a Department of Health inspector confronting unspeakable horrors, in Phillip
Kaufman's remake of the 1956 cult classic, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (based
on Jack Finney's novel), and teamed with Sean Connery to rob a moving train's
safe in Victorian England in Michael Crichton's most accomplished directorial
effort, the stylish thriller based on his best-selling book, The Great Train
Entering 1980s, Sutherland costarred with Mary Tyler Moore, playing devastated,
well-to-do suburban couple, in Robert Redford's award-winning directorial debut
based on the novel by Judith Guest, Ordinary People, which nabbed Sutherland
Best Motion Picture Actor - Drama nomination at Golden Globe Awards. In 1981, he
debuted on Broadway as Humbert Humbert in Edward Albee's stage adaptation of
"Lolita" and founded McNichol Pictures Inc. (also president). In front of the
camera, Sutherland delivered an incredibly icy performance as ruthless German
spy Heinrich "Henry" Faber in Richard Marquand's film based on the best seller
by Ken Follett, Eye of the Needle, and portrayed the celebrated heart surgeon
Dr. Vrain in Richard Pearce’s Threshold (Sutherland won Genie Awards for Best
Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role). Two years later, he joined son
Kiefer in his film debut, Herbert Ross' drama comedy Max Dugan Returns (1983),
in which Donald Sutherland played Marsha Mason's new policeman boyfriend. He
also returned to the small screen after a 15-year absence in the leading role in
the CBS TV-movie, John Steinbeck's The Winter of Our Discontent.
In the mid of 1980s, Sutherland starred in Michael Dinner's drama comedy Heaven
Help Us (1985) before he portrayed French artist Paul Gauguin in Henning Carlsen-helmed
biopic Oviri (1986, a.k.a. The Wolf at the Door, Sutherland later provided voice
of Gauguin in PBS' Paul Gauguin: The Savage Dream (1989)) and was cast as Father
Bob Kiesler, the priest who hears the confession of the man responsible for a
serial killings of priests and nuns, in Fred Walton's adaptation of William X.
Kienzle's novel, The Rosary Murders (1987). In the late of 1980s, Sutherland
became a South African teacher whose life and values are threatened when he asks
questions about the death of a young black boy who died in police custody, in
Euzhan Palcy's take on Andre Brink's novel, the drama thriller A Dry White
Season, and portrayed sympathetic psychiatrist Dr. Charles Loftis in Hugh
Hudson's Lost Angels (both in 1989).
The early 1990s saw Sutherland played mad firebug Ronald Bartel in Ron Howard's
coming-of-age film Backdraft (with Kurt Russell, William Baldwin and Robert De
Niro), portrayed Colonel X in Oliver Stone's thriller drama based on Jim Marrs
and Jim Garrison's book, JFK (starring Kevin Costner) and became Kristy
Swanson’s Buffy mentor in Fran Rubel Kuzui-directed movie Buffy the Vampire
Slayer. He then costarred as a rich NYC art dealer in Fred Schepisi's screen
version of John Guare's play, the mystery drama Six Degrees of Separation (1993,
with Stockard Channing and Will Smith) and became Michael Douglas' boss in Barry
Levinson's take on Michael Crichton's novel, the thriller drama Disclosure
(1994, also starring Demi Moore). Also in 1994, Sutherland narrated the
documentary series about great fiction and non-fiction books and their content
and impact, The Learning Channel's "Great Books" series, and teamed with Eric
Thal and Julie Warner to eliminate the aliens who taking over people's minds in
order to spread their dominion, in Stuart Orme's sci-fi movie inspired by Robert
A. Heinlein's novel, The Puppet Masters. He was also brilliant as Captain
William Marsden in the CBS heartwarming miniseries based on the novel by Alan
Gurganus, "The Oldest Confederate Widow Tells All" (opposite Diane Lane).
Sutherland acted with Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, Morgan Freeman, Cuba Gooding
Jr. and Kevin Spacey in Wolfgang Petersen's Outbreak, as the icy Maj. Gen.
Donald McClintock, who is willing to destroy a town to save the world from a
deadly viral epidemic, before he won Emmy and Golden Globe for his suave
portrayal of Colonel Mikhail Fetisov in the HBO true-story based movie adapted
from Robert Cullen's book "The Killer Department," Citizen X (both in 1995). He
reunited with son Kiefer in Joel Schumacher's adaptation of John Grisham's
novel, A Time to Kill (1996), playing the alcoholic mentor of young lawyer Jake
Brigance (played by Matthew McConaughey’s), was cast as coldly manipulative CIA
agent Jack Shaw/Henry Fields in Christian Duguay's The Assignment (1997,
opposite Aidan Quinn) and portrayed wily Jacob Conrad, Charlie Sheen's mentor,
in George P. Cosmatos' political thriller The Shadow Conspiracy (1997). He also
portrayed Bill Bowerman, the legendary coach of American track and field star
Steve Prefontaine (played by Billy Crudup), in Robert Towne's biopic Without
Limits (Sutherland won a Golden Satellite and was nominated a Golden Globe), and
stalked the hidden enemy in Gregory Hoblit's supernatural thriller Fallen (with
Denzel Washington and John Goodman, both in 1998).
The new millennium caught Sutherland acted on stage in "Enigma Variations"
starred as a painter in the Off-Broadway play "Ten Unknowns" by Jon Robin Baitz.
On screen, he played the lead role of small time hood Jimmy Burke in the A&E
original adapted from Ernest Volkman and John Cummings' book, The Big Heist,
costarred with Michael Gambon in HBO's excellent historical docudrama Path to
War (Sutherland won Golden Globe’s Best Supporting Actor), and appeared in
Anthony Minghella's war epic inspired by Charles Frazier's book, Cold Mountain
(starring Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger). In 2003, Sutherland
offered a memorable role of veteran safecracker John Bridger in F. Gary Gray's
remake of Michael Caine's 1969 film with the same name, The Italian Job (with
Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron) and starred as Yankie director Don Tyler in
Xiaogang Feng's comedy Da wan (a.k.a. Big Shot's Funeral, 2001, USA released
2003). He recently played the patriarch Mr. Bennet in Joe Wright’s adaptation of
Jane Austen’s classic novel, Pride and Prejudice (with Keira Knightley, Matthew
MacFadyen, Rosamund Pike and Jena Malone), which centers five sisters living in
class-conscious England near the close of the 18th century.
"You have to understand, in that period, women were disenfranchised. They lost
the right to inherit property. They had to get married. Otherwise, they had
nothing. They were in the poor house." Donald Sutherland (on the film Pride and
2005 also watched Sutherland became Diane Lane's renowned anthropologist father
in Griffin Dunne's adaptation of Dirk Wittenborn's book, Fierce People,
costarred with Forest Whitaker in Aric Avelino's American Gun, and with Sissy
Spacek and Rachel Hurd Wood in Courtney Solomon's thriller based on Brent
Monahan's book and the true events of the only case in Tennessee during the
1800s where a spirit caused the death of a man, An American Haunting. Sutherland
is currently costarring with Geena Davis, playing Speaker of the House, Nathan
Templeton, in Rod Lurie's ABC new drama series "Commander in Chief." He will
soon complete his upcoming films: Robert Towne-directed adaptation of John
Fante's Depression Era novel, the romantic drama Ask the Dust (starring Colin
Farrell and Salma Hayek), writer-director Robert Edwards' drama Land of the
Blind (opposite Ralph Fiennes, Sutherland will costar as a famous political
prisoner attempting to overthrow the country's totalitarian government) and
Nicolas Roeg's thriller movie inspired by Fay Weldon's novel, Puffball. He is
also scheduled to costar with Lisa Barbuscia and Famke Janssen in Jean-Pierre
Isbouts' war drama The Four Saints.
"When you're working for a good director, you become subjective and submissive.
You become his concubine. All that you're seeking is his pleasure." Donald
- Golden Globe: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a
Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television, Path To War, 2003
- Golden Satellite: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a
Motion Picture - Drama, Without Limits, 1999
- Emmy: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Special, Citizen
- Golden Globe: Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Miniseries or Motion
Picture Made for Television, Citizen X, 1995
- Genie: Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, Threshold, 1983