Legendary actor Donald Sutherland dies aged 88, as son Kiefer pays tribute

20 June 2024, 18:37

Donald Sutherland in 2013
Donald Sutherland in 2013. Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

Legendary Hollywood actor Donald Sutherland, whose illustrious career spanned over five decades from the 1970s to the 2020s, has passed away at the age of 88.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Sutherland's breakthrough came in the late 1960s, leading to a series of remarkable performances in the 1970s.

He starred in several classics of the era, including Klute, MASH, Don’t Look Now, and Animal House. His versatility and compelling screen presence made him a standout performer in each of these films.

Despite his extensive and celebrated career, Sutherland was often regarded as one of the greatest actors never to have received an Academy Award nomination. However, his immense contributions to the film industry were recognized in 2017 when he was awarded an honorary Oscar.

Donald and Kiefer Sutherland
Donald and Kiefer Sutherland. Picture: Getty

Born in Canada, Sutherland was also the father of Emmy-winning actor Kiefer Sutherland, known for his role in the series 24. His family includes his wife Francine Racette, sons Roeg, Rossif, Angus, and Kiefer, and daughter Rachel. He also leaves behind four grandchildren.

A private celebration of life will be held by the family, as confirmed by his agent to the PA news agency.

Kiefer Sutherland paid tribute to his dad on X, writing: "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."

Born in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, on July 17, 1935, Sutherland’s journey to stardom was not straightforward. After studying at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, he began his career with a series of minor roles, gradually building a reputation that would eventually lead him to the heights of Hollywood fame.

Sutherland's breakthrough came in the late 1960s with roles in films like The Dirty Dozen and MASH. In the latter, his portrayal of the sardonic Captain Benjamin Franklin 'Hawkeye' Pierce showcased his unique ability to blend humour with pathos, a talent that would become a hallmark of his career.

The 1970s cemented his status as a leading man with critically acclaimed performances in Klute, where he starred opposite Jane Fonda, the psychological horror masterpiece Don’t Look Now, and the riotous comedy Animal House.

Donald in 1975
Donald in 1975. Picture: Getty

Sutherland's career was marked by his willingness to take on diverse roles, from dramatic to comedic, and from leading man to supporting character. His ability to inhabit a wide array of characters made him a favourite of directors and a constant presence on the silver screen.

Notable films include Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Ordinary People, A Time to Kill, and The Hunger Games series, where he delivered a chilling performance as President Snow.

In addition to his professional achievements, Sutherland's personal life was rich and full. He was married three times, finally finding lasting happiness with his third wife, French-Canadian actress Francine Racette. Together, they had three sons: Roeg, Rossif, and Angus.

Sutherland also had a son, Kiefer, and a daughter, Rachel, from his first marriage to Shirley Douglas. Kiefer Sutherland followed in his father’s footsteps, achieving fame with his Emmy-winning role in the television series 24.

Sutherland's dedication to his craft was matched by his commitment to his family. Despite the demands of a busy career, he maintained close relationships with his children and grandchildren, offering support and guidance both personally and professionally.