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Donald Sutherland: An enduring legacy of playing both heroes and villains


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Donald Sutherland: An enduring legacy of playing both heroes and villains

Canadian actor Donald Sutherland has died aged 88 following “a long illness”.

He rose to fame after starring in films such as The Dirty Dozen (1967) and Kelly’s Heroes (1970).

He is perhaps best known as the womanising Captain Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce Jr in the 1970 film version of M*A*S*H, and would eventually becoming a leading campaigner against war.

More recently, Sutherland featured in The Hunger Games film franchise as dictator president Coriolanus Snow, and as a judge in the 2023 TV show, Lawmen: Bass Reeves.

Sutherland was born on July 17 1935, in the city of Saint John, New Brunswick, before moving to the town of Bridgewater, Nova Scotia.

The actor had infantile paralysis and rheumatic fever before almost dying from spinal meningitis as a child.

After graduating from university, he moved to Britain to study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (Lamda), and began to land small roles in British films and TV shows.

In 1967, following a second appearance alongside Roger Moore in The Saint, Sutherland was handed the role of Vernon L Pinkley in The Dirty Dozen – a box office hit.

His later films included The Eagle Has Landed (1976), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978), The First Great Train Robbery (1978) and JFK (1991).

Sutherland won a Golden Globe along with an Emmy Award for the mini-series Citizen X (1995), and another gong for the television movie Path To War (2002).

Sutherland’s son, Kiefer, called his father “one of the most important actors in the history of film” following his death.

In 2019, Kiefer said he broke down in tears after discovering his father’s acting work.

The actor said he was unaware of his father’s career, and the “extraordinary” work he had done until he was old enough to watch his films.

Equally adept at playing heroes and villains, Sutherland portrayed President Snow, the main antagonist of The Hunger Games film franchise, beginning in 2012.

In 2017, it was announced that Sutherland would receive an Honorary Oscar, from the Academy.

Sutherland was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1978, promoted to Companion of the Order of Canada in 2019.

Sutherland was about to publish his memoir, Made Up, But Still True, later this year, which was set to explore “an unfiltered account of his memories of his life” from how life-changing a role M*A*S*H had been along with “his far too many brushes with death”.

Sutherland married three times.

He is survived by his wife, Francine Racette, and five children, including actors Kiefer, Rossif and Angus.

Published: by Radio NewsHub

Written by: Radio News Hub

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