Donald Sutherland

Take Two: And the Honorary Oscar goes to …

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Take Two: And the Honorary Oscar goes to …

by Bruce Kirkland

… Donald Sutherland

When I first heard that Donald Sutherland was getting an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement, I was tempted to protest, “Not too little, but way-too late.”

M*A*S*H (1970)
M*A*S*H (1970)

Then I pressed ‘brain refresh’ and realized that the timing is way-too perfect. While the New Brunswick-born Sutherland has been a Canadian treasure for decades, while he should have already won an Oscar for a clutch of extraordinarily accomplished (but un-nominated) performances, it is still perfect now through coincidence. Sutherland has been honoured in the first year of Terrible Tyrannical Trump in the U.S. White House. Great symbolism.

Don't Look Now (1973)
Don’t Look Now (1973)

In addition to being one of the great actors of his generation, Sutherland is well-read, sublimely intelligent and articulate. He is a humanist, a socialist, and when still married to actress Shirley Douglas (daughter of legendary Canadian socialist Tommy Douglas), Sutherland was an activist. His Los Angeles house was even raided by the FBI, because agents wrongly believed that Shirley (Kiefer Sutherland’s mom) supplied guns to the Black Panthers. So, it’s reasonable to assume that Sutherland already knows how America can turn fascist and/or repressive on whim and suspicion, just as it operates now under TTT.

1900 (1976)
1900 (1976)

Sutherland’s most important films; from M*A*S*H (1970) through 1900 (1976), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), A Dry White Season (1989), Bethune: The Making of a Hero (1990), JFK (1991), Cold Mountain (2003) and even his four installments as the arch-villain of The Hunger Games series (2012 to 2015); are all politically charged – often through parody and/ or allegory.

Ordinary People (1980) with Mary Tyler Moore
Ordinary People (1980) with Mary Tyler Moore

Other films, from Kelly’s Heroes (1970) through Klute (1971), Don’t Look Now (1973), The Day of the Locust (1975), Fellini’s Casanova (1976), National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978), Ordinary People (1980), Threshold (1981), Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992), Six Degrees of Separation (1993), Outbreak (1995), Without Limits (1998), Pride and Prejudice (1995) and the forthcoming Measure of a Man (2018), have important social content and/or pop culture significance.

JFK (1991)
JFK (1991)

Sutherland, who is tall at six-foot-four, and handsome (even at 82), once told me that each actor-director collaboration is a love affair, on a spiritual plane. The same is true of his life relationships. I love the man myself, as one in few I hold in such regard in my band-of-brothers of cinema. He returns the emotion, with humour. I giggled like a kid when he once blew me a kiss from the podium at a Hunger Games’ press conference. I blushed when he paid me compliments at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles. I had stopped to say good night to him and his wife, Francine Racette (mother of Rossif, Angus and Roeg Sutherland), and Donald invited me to sit down – for a few minutes. Four hours later, we had solved all the world’s issues, through debate and conversation, not through rancour and Tweeting. If only the world had been listening.

Bruce Kirkland’s career spans more than four decades, working as a film critic for The Toronto Star, The Ottawa Journal and for 36 years at The Toronto Sun.

A life-long film buff, Bruce now shares his passion and insight with Active Life readers.

bruce.kirkland@hotmail.com



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