Donald Sutherland Season

Donald Sutherland Season

August 2024

Films in this season

M*A*S*H 15
Wed 14 Aug 20:15
Based on the novel by..

Don’t Look Now 15
Fri 16 Aug 20:15
In Nicolas Roeg's iconic film..

A Dry White Season 15
Thu 22 Aug 20:15
During the 1976 Soweto uprising,..

The Canadian actor Donald Sutherland, who died on June 20th aged 88, was one of the most popular and versatile of actors. He began his career with goofy comic roles in Robert Aldrich’s exciting ensemble war film The Dirty Dozen (1967) and Kelly’s Heroes (Brian G Hutton, 1970), where he played a character called Oddball, prescient of many of his later roles. He came to fame as Hawkeye in Robert Altman’s subversive anti-war film MASH (1970), set in the Korean War but clearly about Vietnam, in which two surgeons find humour and misogyny their only defence in combatting a constant stream of injured dying soldiers.

After a couple of notable British war films, Sutherland shaped into a leading man and displayed strong chemistry with Jane Fonda in Klute (Alan J Pakula, 1971), a stylish thriller with an Oscar winning performance by Fonda and typically underplayed by Sutherland. They had a personal relationship that extended into anti-Vietnam protests, resulting in Sutherland being put under surveillance by the CIA. That chemistry was repeated with Julie Christie in Nicholas Roeg’s tense and powerful thriller Don’t Look Now (1973), based on a short story by Daphne Du Maurier and one of Britain’s finest films. 

Seeking new challenges Sutherland made appearances in lesser known films by Italian masters. He played a fascist overseer in Bernardo Bertolucci’s uncompromising 1900 (1976), an Italian epic of divided loyalties, and starred in Fellini’s Casanova in the same year. 

Many roles followed. Sutherland was neither a star nor a typical character actor but brought something special to each role, even as an older man playing President Snow in the Hunger Games franchise, which introduced him to a new generation. One of his best roles was as Ben du Toit in the anti-apartheid thriller A Dry White Season (Euzhan Palcy, 1989) in which he displayed his fearless approach to acting. 

He will be missed but has left behind a huge body of fine work.

Robert Senior, Depot Chair of Trustees