Donald Sutherland

Donald Sutherland


Life Story

The towering presence of Canadian actor Donald Sutherland is often noticed, as are his legendary contributions to cinema. He has appeared in almost 200 different shows and films. He is also the father of renowned actor Kiefer Sutherland, among others.

Donald McNichol Sutherland was born in Saint John, New Brunswick, to Dorothy Isobel (McNichol) and Frederick McLea Sutherland, who worked in sales and electricity. He has Scottish, as well as German and English, ancestry. Sutherland worked several different jobs - he was a radio DJ in his youth - and was almost set on becoming an engineer after graduating from the University of Toronto with a degree in engineering. However, he also graduated with a degree in drama, and he chose to abandon becoming an engineer in favour of an actor.

Sutherland's first roles were bit parts and consisted of such films as the horror film Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965) which starred Christopher Lee. He was also appearing in episodes of TV shows such as "The Saint" and "Court Martial". Sutherland's break would come soon, though, and it would come in the form of a war film in which he was barely cast.

The reason he was barely cast was because he had been a last-minute replacement for an actor that had dropped out of the film. The role he played was that of the dopey but loyal Vernon Pinkley in the war film The Dirty Dozen (1967). The film also starred Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, and Telly Savalas. The picture was an instant success as an action/war film, and Sutherland played upon this success by taking another role in a war film: this was, however, a comedy called MASH (1970) which landed Sutherland the starring role alongside Elliott Gould and Tom Skerritt. This is now considered a classic among film goers, and the 35-year old actor was only getting warmed up.

Sutherland took a number of other roles in between these two films, such as the theatrical adaptation Oedipus the King (1968), the musical Joanna (1968) and the Clint Eastwood-helmed war comedy Kelly's Heroes (1970). It was Kelly's Heroes (1970) that became more well-known, and it reunited Sutherland with Telly Savalas. 1970 and 1971 offered Sutherland a number of other films, the best of them would have to be Klute (1971). The film, which made Jane Fonda a star, is about a prostitute whose friend is mysteriously murdered. Sutherland received no critical acclaim like his co-star Fonda (she won an Oscar) but his career did not fade.


Francine Racette (1972 - present) ( 3 children)



Grew up in the town of Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, where he also graduated from high school.
At age 14, his first part-time job was as a news correspondent for local radio station, CKBW.
Attended and graduated from Bridgewater High School in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia.
Was a member of the "UC Follies" comedy troupe in Toronto, Ontario.
Turned down starring in The Sweet Hereafter (1997) because the salary was too low. His role eventually went to Ian Holm.
Has dubbed (uncredited) the role taken by English actor William Devlin in The Shuttered Room (1967).
In addition to an on-screen small role as a computer scientist in Billion Dollar Brain (1967), he also provided the mechanical voice for the eponymous "brain".
Has three sons with Francine Racette: Roeg Sutherland, Rossif Sutherland and Angus Sutherland.
He was featured in the computer game "Conspiracy" (digitised video and sound).
Both Sutherland and Alan Alda, who took up the role of Hawkeye Pierce on M*A*S*H (1972) suffered from polio as children.
Former son-in-law of Tommy Douglas.
In two of his films in 2003, in Cold Mountain (2003) and The Italian Job (2003), he played a character who dies who was the father of a young woman, and both daughters were played by back-to-back winners of the Academy Award for Best Actress. In Cold Mountain (2003) his daughter was portrayed by Nicole Kidman, who won in 2003 for The Hours (2002), and in The Italian Job (2003) his daughter was portrayed by Charlize Theron, who would win in 2004 for her performance in Monster (2003).
Has two children with Shirley Douglas: Kiefer Sutherland and Rachel Sutherland.
Even though he receives top billing in The Day of the Locust (1975), he does not appear in the film for the first 42 minutes.
Has appeared throughout MASH (1970) wearing glasses and a fishing bucket hat. This look was later mirrored by his son, Kiefer Sutherland, in Article 99 (1992).
Has appeared in The Day of the Locust (1975) as a character named Homer Simpson, and then later made a guest appearance on The Simpsons (1989).
Being very tall, Sutherland has long since had a habit of slouching over so he could meet other actors eye to eye.
Two of his sons were named after directors he has worked with: Kiefer Sutherland was named after Warren Kiefer who directed Donald's first film The Castle of the Living Dead (1964), and his second son, Roeg Sutherland was named after Nicolas Roeg, who directed him in Don't Look Now (1973).
He was originally cast as Franklyn Madson in Dead Again (1991), but was eventually replaced by Derek Jacobi.
Has two roles in common with Alan Alda. Sutherland played Flan in Six Degrees of Separation (1993), the role Alda played in an audio-book publication. Sutherland also played Hawkeye Pierce in MASH (1970), the role Alda played on M*A*S*H (1972).
Made two guest appearances on The Saint (1962), playing two different characters.
Was awarded the OC (Officer of the Order of Canada) by the Governor-General of Canada on 18 December 1978 and the degree of Commander of the Order of the Arts and the Letters of France by the President of the Republic of France (unknown date 2012) for his services to Drama.


Personal Quotes 

Pauline Kael reviewed The Day of the Locust (1975): "There's nothing specifically wrong with Donald Sutherland's performance. It's just awful." That was the most destructive, stupid piece of criticism I've ever received. I stopped reading reviews after that.
I was up for a great part but they told me: "Sorry, you're the best actor but this part calls for a guy-next-door type. You don't look as if you've ever lived next door to anyone."
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.
Frank Lloyd Wright designed the house I was living in. From what I understood, he was having an affair with the wife of the man he was designing the house for. That man was very tall. So Wright, short and vain, designs the house in such a way that a tall person couldn't live in it without severe cranial damage. I hit my head *all* the time.
[on his early roles] Well, I was always cast as an artistic homicidal maniac. But at least I was artistic!
[on Jane Fonda] Jane's person is more specific than most of us. She's well disciplined and knows what she wants and where she's going and works objectively to apply all her information to that intention. With Jane, the character and force is embodied in her persona and it's a lovely, delicate and self-deprecating human.
[on Julie Christie] Julie has such a wonderful film presence and fulfills everything I admire in a performer in that she -- more specifically than almost anyone else -- works for the director and recognizes that the film is created by the director in the way Jeanne Moreau did for Louis Malle.
Jennifer Lawrence is as good an actress as you're going to find anywhere. In The Hunger Games (2012), she's playing a character who's a genius in the Shavian sense that Joan of Arc was a genius. And she does it with such clarity. It's incredible to see how clearly that character develops.
on being selected for an Honorary Oscar]I get this call and I don't know the number so I picked it up to tell them never to call me again, but it turns out to be John Bailey who tells me he is calling on behalf of the Academy for which he just got elected President
[on his breakup with Jane Fonda] It was a wonderful relationship right up to the point we lived together.


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