Donald Sutherland Dies: Revered Actor In ‘Klute’, ‘Ordinary People’, ‘MASH’, ‘Hunger Games’ & Scores Of Others Was 88

Donald Sutherland, the beloved actor who starred in scores of films from The Dirty Dozen, MASH and Klute to Animal House and Ordinary People to Pride & Prejudice and The Hunger Games franchise and won an Emmy for Citizen X, died Thursday in Miami after a long illness. He was 88.

The 2017 Honorary Oscar recipient also is the father of Emmy-winning 24 and Designated Survivor actor Kiefer Sutherland and veteran CAA Media Finance exec Roeg Sutherland. CAA confirmed the news to Deadline.

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In some of his most well-known roles, he perfected a laconic, wry and dead-serious delivery. Such was the case for characters including the cool-headed amateur murder investigator John Klute, opposite Jane Fonda’s terrified and erratic call girl Bree Daniels in Klute; as Hawkeye Pierce in the film MASH, where he played opposite Elliott Gould’s cut-up Trapper John; and in Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now as skeptical John Baxter, who does not believe the claims of wife Laura (Julie Christie) that their recently dead daughter is reaching out from the other side.

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In one early change-of-pace characterization, Sutherland played a sadistic fascist in Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1976 epic 1900, in which his character gleefully swings a child by the heels, bashing the boy’s head against a wall.

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Born on July 17, 1935, in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, Donald Sutherland amassed some 200 film and TV credits spanning more than 60 years, from guesting on episodes of 1960s series including Suspense, The Avengers, Court Martial and The Odd Man to last year’s Paramount+ drama Bass Reeves. His big break in movies came with Robert Aldrich’s star-packed 1967 World War II drama The Dirty Dozen, playing misfit felon Vernon Pinkley opposite Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, George Kennedy, Telly Savalas and others. A big hit in theaters, it remains a seminal American war movie.

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His next big role was as Capt. Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce in Robert Altman’s 1970 Korean War dramedy MASH. The alternatively harrowing and hilarious film about the going-on at a mobile Army surgical hospital earned five Oscar nominations including Best Picture, winning for Ring Lardner Jr.’s biting screenplay. It also fueled M*A*S*H, the hugely successful 1972-83 CBS series in which Alan Alda played Hawkeye and whose title was distinguished from the movie with asterisks.

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Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould in ‘MASH,’ 1970
Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould in ‘MASH,’ 1970

Sutherland followed that with another star-laden war movie, 1970’s Kelly’s Heroes, playing Sgt. Oddball alongside Clint Eastwood, Don Rickles, Savalas and others. That led to perhaps his biggest star turn, in the 1971 Alan J. Pakula crime drama Klute. He played opposite Fonda as New York gumshoe John Klute, who is hired to find a chemical company executive who has disappeared. Fonda won her first Oscar for the role, and Andy Lewis & Dave Lewis were nominated for their Original Screenplay.

Donald Sutherland and Jane Fonda in ‘Klute,’ 1970
Donald Sutherland and Jane Fonda in ‘Klute,’ 1970

Sutherland’s next big movie was Nicolas Roeg’s psychological thriller Don’t Look Now, which he followed up with the 1974 international espionage comedy S*P*Y*S, reteaming with Gould, and 1975’s Hollywood-set Day of the Locust. Starring with William Atherton, Karen Black and Burgess Meredith, he played accountant Homer Simpson, who covets Black’s aspiring actress Faye Greener.

With his film career in high gear, Sutherland starred in yet another big-name war movie in The Eagle Has Landed (1976), with Michael Caine and Robert Duvall, and then had a small role in the 1977 John Landis-directed farce The Kentucky Fried Movie, penned by future Airplane! filmmakers David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker.

The year 1978 would see Sutherland headline three disparate films: heist comedy The Great Train Robbery with Sean Connery and Lesley-Anne Down; horror thriller remake Invasion of the Body Snatchers with Brooke Adams and Jeff Goldblum; and the beloved early-’60s fraternity romp Animal House, also directed by Landis.

He had a supporting but key role in the latter, playing Faber College English lit Professor Dave Jennings. His deadpan character bores his classes with lectures on John Milton in one scene and is sleeping with student Katy (Karen Allen) in the next — famously exposing his rear end while reaching into a cabinet. Katy was the girlfriend of Boon (Peter Riegert), one of the Delta Tau Chi fraternity members. The cast also included John Belushi, Tim Matheson, Stephen Furst, Bruce McGill, Kevin Bacon, Amadeus Oscar nominee Tom Hulce and John Vernon.

After starring with Three’s Company‘s Suzanne Somers in the 1980 comedy Nothing Personal, Sutherland’s next film was among his biggest. He played Calvin Jarrett, a man grieving for one son and dealing with the suicide attempt of another in Ordinary People, director Robert Redford’s generational drama that won four Oscars including Best Picture. The film’s starry cast also included Mary Tyler Moore, Timothy Hutton, Judd Hirsch, Elizabeth McGovern and others.

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Donald Sutherland and Mary Tyler Moore in ‘Ordinary People,’ 1980
Donald Sutherland and Mary Tyler Moore in ‘Ordinary People,’ 1980

Sutherland continued to make films throughout the 1980s and had a key role in Ron Howard’s 1991 firefighter drama Backdraft, playing an imprisoned pyromaniac who helps investigators by saying the arsonist they are hunting must be a firefighter also.

In the 1990s, Sutherland appeared in films including JFK, playing a composite character called Mr. X; Buffy the Vampire Slayer as Merrick, who convinces Kristy Swanson’s titular character that she is the Chosen One and helps her along the way; and Six Degrees of Separation, starring with Will Smith, Stockard Channing and Ian McKellen.

The actor won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for playing Russian Col. Mikhail Fetisov in HBO’s 1995 serial-killer thriller telepic Citizen X, starring with Stephen Rea and Max von Sydow, and had a supporting role that same year in Wolfgang Peterson’s spreading-virus film Outbreak, starring Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo and Morgan Freeman.

He also earned an Emmy nom for his lead role in the 2006 Lifetime miniseries Human Trafficking, starring with Mira Sorvino and Robert Carlyle.

Sutherland continued to work in films into the 2010s including A Time to Kill, Shadow Conspiracy, Fallen, Instinct, The Italian Job, Cold Mountain, Fierce People, Horrible Bosses and 2005’s Pride & Prejudice. But his next big role would be perhaps his most famous.

He was cast in 2012’s The Hunger Games as President Coriolanus Snow, the fascist dictator of Panem. He also starred as the chief antagonist in the sequels Catching Fire (2013) and Mockingjay Parts 1 and 2 (2014). The films based on Suzanne Collins’ YA novels were global smashes, shattering box office records and making a star of lead Jennifer Lawrence.

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Sutherland’s Snow ruled the dystopian world of Panem with an iron fist, and he haunted heroine Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) long after her first rule-breaking victory in the brutal competition because he saw the spark of rebellion in her. He always had a fresh rose clipped to his lapel, and rumor had it that he poisoned people.

Donald Sutherland in ‘The Hunger Games,’ (2012)
Donald Sutherland in ‘The Hunger Games,’ (2012)

Sutherland did not appear in last year’s prequel The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, with the role of younger Snow played by Tom Blyth. Collins outlined Snow’s backstory in the book on which that film was based. Before he had taken the political position, Snow was a power-hungry young mentor to tribute Lucy Gray Baird (Rachel Zegler).

Sutherland continued to make films for much of the rest of his life, including Ad Astra (2019) and Moonfall (2022), but also made several appearances on the small screen. He starred with Peter Krause, Jill Clayburgh and William Baldwin in the 2007-09 ABC family dramedy Dirty Sexy Money and co-starred in the 2010 Starz miniseries The Pillars of the Earth, led by Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Matthew Macfadyen, Hayley Atwell and Eddie Redmayne.

RELATED: William Baldwin Tributes Three-Time Co-Star Donald Sutherland: “I Have Never Known Anybody Remotely Like Him”

Donald Sutherland dead
Donald Sutherland in ‘The Pillars of the Earth,’ 2010

Sutherland’s extensive TV credits also include co-starring in the 2013-15 crime drama Crossing Lines, which aired on NBC and later Ovation in the U.S., and as J. Paul Getty in the 2018 FX drama Trust. He won a Golden Globe for playing Clark Clifford in HBO’s John Frankenheimer-directed telefilm Path to War, about how President Lyndon Johnson’s administration dealt with the Vietnam War in the mid-1960s. The cast also included Michael Gambon, Alec Baldwin and others.

He also appeared in the first season of Audience Network’s Ice, opposite Jeremy Sisto, Cam Gigandet and Ray Winstone; in Roku Channel’s 2022 crime drama Swimming with Sharks, with Kiernan Shipka and Diane Kruger; and in HBO’s 2020 miniseries The Undoing as the father of Nicole Kidman’s lead character Grace Fraser.

Sutherland had a voice role in a Season 7 episode of The Simpsons in 1996. In “Lisa the Iconoclast,” he played Hollis Hurlbut, curator of the Springfield Historical Society’s museum, who disputes Lisa Simpson’s allegation that the town’s founder was a murderous pirate.

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His final TV role was recurring as Isaac Parker, an imposing and commanding judge in the Fort Smith Courthouse with a complicated legacy, opposite David Oyelowo in Taylor Sheridan’s 2023 Paramount+ series Lawmen: Bass Reeves.

Sutherland also starred in the video for Kate Bush’s 1985 song “Cloudbusting.” It was the second single from her album Hounds of Love, following her seminal hit “Running Up That Hill.” Watch it here.

Sutherland also wrote and produced the 1972 film FTA, exec produced Steelyard Blues the following year and was the writer-director of 2015 toon telefilm Pirate’s Passage.

Sutherland’s only foray onto Broadway came in 1981, when he played Humbert Humbert in the notorious flop Lolita, an Edward Albee adaptation of the Vladimir Nabokov novel that opened and closed within 10 days that March.

Among his many and varied accolades are an NAACP Image Award for Klute; a 2019 Fondazione Mimmo Rotella Award at the Venice Film Festival for The Burnt Orange Heresy; and nominations for BAFTA, Kids’ Choice, MTV Movie & TV and Critics Choice awards. He got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2011; received a 2017 Governors Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences along with Agnès Varda, Charles Burnett and Owen Roizman; and was on the Cannes Competition jury in 2016.

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Along with sons Kiefer and Roeg, Sutherland is survived by his wife, Francine Racette; sons Rossif and Angus; daughter Rachel; and four grandchildren. The family will hold a private celebration of life.

Mike Fleming Jr., Greg Evans and Dessi Gomez contributed to this report.


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