Donald Sutherland death: The Hunger Games and MASH star dies aged 88

Legendary actor Donald Sutherland — who starred in a diverse range of celebrated films including MASH, Don’t Look Now and The Hunger Games — has died at the age of 88 following a long illness.

His son, 24 star Kiefer Sutherland, announced the news with a heartfelt message posted on X Thursday: “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.”

Sutherland, whose film career spanned seven decades, was born in New Brunswick, Canada, on July 17, 1935.

After beginning a joint degree in engineering and drama at Victoria University, Sutherland left Canada for Britain in 1957, studying at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

Donald Sutherland died in Miami following a long illness, his agents confirmed (Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)
Donald Sutherland died in Miami following a long illness, his agents confirmed (Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)

His breakout came in 1967 when he joined the ensemble cast of Robert Aldrich’s war film, The Dirty Dozen. Sutherland told The Guardian in 2005 that he originally had one line in the film until Clint Walker refused to play a scene requiring him to impersonate a general. According to Sutherland, Aldrich, who didn’t know his name, turned to him and said, “You! With the big ears! You do it!”

After leaving London for Hollywood, Sutherland landed one of his most memorable roles as “Hawkeye” Pierce in Robert Altman’s MASH, the 1970 comedy about medics in the Korean War. The part won him a nomination at that year’s Golden Globe Awards and launched his career as a leading man.

He starred opposite Jane Fonda in Klute (1971), Alan J Pakula’s acclaimed film about a call girl who helps a detective track down a missing person. In her Oscar acceptance speech, Fonda credited Sutherland with her performance because of “all the intense feelings I was experiencing” with him. The two had begun an affair during filming, which lasted two years while Fonda was married to French film director Roger Vadim.

In the 1980s, Sutherland earned praise for playing the father of a suicidal teenager in the Oscar-winning Ordinary People.

Donald Sutherland (left) with his son, ‘24’ star Kiefer (Getty)
Donald Sutherland (left) with his son, ‘24’ star Kiefer (Getty)

He became known to younger audiences for his portrayal of President Snow, the main antagonist of The Hunger Games film franchise, which ran from 2012 to 2015.

Most recently, he appeared as Judge Parker in Paramount’s Western series, Lawmen: Bass Reeves.

He is often cited as one of the best actors never to have received an Academy Award nomination; however, he was recognised with an Academy Honorary Award in 2017.

Sutherland was made an Officer of the Order of Canada on December 18, 1978, and promoted to Companion of the Order of Canada in 2019.

During the Vietnam War, he, Fonda, Peter Boyle and Howard Hesseman put together a traveling revue called FTA (Free the Army, popularly known as F*@k the Army). Documents declassified in 2017 show that Sutherland was on the National Security Agency watchlist between 1971 and 1973 at the request of the Central Intelligence Agency because of his anti-war activities.

He was married three times, first to Lois May Hardwick from 1959 to 1966, then Shirley Douglas from 1966 to 1970 (with whom he shared twins Kiefer and Rachel) and finally to French Canadian actress Francine Racette.

Sutherland is survived by Racette; sons Roeg, Rossif, Angus, and Kiefer; daughter Rachel; and four grandchildren. A private celebration of life will be held by the family.