Donald Sutherland – OBITUARY

Donald Sutherland 1935 - 2024

Never nominated for an Oscar and yet Donald Sutherland was something of an elder statesman in Hollywood despite never taking American citizenship .

Born on 17th July 1935 he studied acting alongside engineering in Toronto and moved to London to study acting at LAMDA in 1957 appearing in small roles in British TV series as well as several horror films for Hammer and their rival studio Amicus. But it was his role in The Dirty Dozen that bought him attention and saw him cast in another war film that would be his first major hit. His role as Hawkeye Pierce in ‘M*A*S*H’ for Robert Altman would make him a star (and earn him his first Golden Globe nomination). He would soon appear in another war film, ‘Kelly’s Heroes’ alongside Clint Eastwood where he almost died having contracted meningitis.

By now he already had two marriages under his belt to Lois Hardwick from 1959 – 166 and then Shirley Douglas from 1966 -1970 but 1972 saw him marry actress Francine Racette with whom he remained for the rest of his life

From here he would appear in number of remarkable films throughout the 1970’s that included ‘Klute’ with Jane Fonda ( both of whom were vehement anti Vietnam war activists and would have a three year affair together), the remarkable, ‘Don’t Look Now’ with Julie Christie for Nicolas Roeg with its infamous sex scene reportedly real but which Sutherland repeatedly refuted for years afterwards. There was also ‘National Lampoons Animal House’ and a quite brilliant remake of ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ both very different films and both made an indelible mark on the comedy and sci-fi genre respectively.

The 1980’s and 90’s saw him settle into more character roles in films as varied as ‘Ordinary People’ for Robert Redford, ‘JFK’ for Oliver Stone, and even appearing with Kate Bush in her video for Cloudbusting. He worked constantly appearing in one or more films every year and found a new audience for his role in The Hunger Games franchise. Yet despite all the films he appeared in he was never Oscar nominated but instead was given an Honourary Oscar in 2017 for a career that spanned 70 years and 200 credits.

He was proudly Canadian never seeking dual citizenship with America claiming, “We don’t have the same sense of humour. It’s true. We don’t. I’m a Canadian through and through,”. He was made Officer of the Order of Canada in 1978, and promoted to Companion of the Order of Canada in 2019.

Donald Sutherland had suffered a number of serious illnesses throughout his life including polio, hepatitis, pneumonia, spinal meningitis (which left him in a coma) and scarlet fever and after a long illness he died in Miami on 20th June 2024 aged 88.

His memoir ‘Made Up But Still true’ is scheduled for November 2024

related feature:  Don’t Look Now

related feature : Tom Connolly talks about his new true story film, ”Love, Courage and the Battle of Bushy Run’


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