Donald Sutherland, Star of ‘MASH,’ ‘Klute’ and ‘Hunger Games,’ Dies at 88

Donald Sutherland, the tall, lean and long-faced Canadian actor who became a countercultural icon with such films as “The Dirty Dozen,” “MASH,” “Klute” and “Don’t Look Now,” and who subsequently enjoyed a prolific and wide-ranging career in films including “Ordinary People,” “Without Limits” and the “Hunger Games” films, died Thursday in Miami after a long illness, CAA confirmed. He was 88.

For over a half century, the Emmy and Golden Globe-winning actor memorably played villains, antiheroes, romantic leads and mentor figures. His profile increased in the past decade with his supporting role as the evil President Snow in “The Hunger Games” franchise.

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Most recently, he appeared as Judge Parker on the series “Lawmen: Bass Reeves” and in the “Swimming With Sharks” series in 2022. His other recent recurring roles include the series “Undoing” and “Trust,” in which he played J. Paul Getty, and features “Ad Astra” and “The Burnt-Orange Heresy.”

Sutherland won a supporting actor Emmy for HBO’s “Citizen X” in 1995 and was also nominated in 2006 for the Lifetime miniseries “Human Trafficking.”

After what Sutherland called “a meandering little career,” including roles in low-budget horror pics like 1963’s “Castle of the Living Dead” and 1965’s “Die! Die! My Darling!,” he landed a part as one of the bottom six in 1967’s “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, director Robert Aldrich, who didn’t know his name, suddenly turned to him and said, “You! With the big ears! You do it!”

The smart-alecky role was a perfect fit for Sutherland, whose wolfish sideways smile and boyish charm caught the attention of producer Ingo Preminger, who cast him as the anti-authoritarian surgeon Capt. “Hawkeye” Pierce in 1970’s comedy smash hit “MASH.”

“MASH” turned Sutherland, and co-star Elliott Gould, who played Capt. “Trapper” John, into major stars. But the tradition-bound actors had trouble adjusting to director Robert Altman’s improvisational and often chaotic approach. According to Sutherland, Altman tried to fire him during the shoot, but Preminger held firm.

In a 1976 Playboy interview, Altman gave a different view, recalling that Sutherland loved his directorial style. “His improvisation was profound,” Altman said. “He’s a hell of an actor.”

Sutherland also co-starred with Gould in 1971’s inspired Alan Arkin-helmed black comedy “Little Murders” and again in director Irvin Kershner’s 1974 misfire “SPYS.”

In the 1970 WWII actioner “Kelly’s Heroes,” Sutherland joined Clint Eastwood, portraying Sgt. Oddball, an absurdly conceived but scene-stealing proto-hippie tank commander. (Sutherland reteamed with Eastwood in 2000’s “Space Cowboys,” this time playing a former hotshot pilot.)

With 1971’s “Klute,” a thriller/character study directed by Alan J. Pakula and co-starring Jane Fonda, Sutherland emerged as a credible romantic leading man. He portrayed a troubled detective who falls in love with a call girl (Fonda) whom he’s protecting from a sadistic killer.

Fonda later gave Sutherland credit for her Oscar-winning best actress performance, because of “all the intense feelings I was experiencing” with him.

The two were having a love affair at the time, and the relationship stoked Sutherland’s antiwar politics. He got involved with Vietnam Veterans Against the War and, along with Peter Boyle and Howard Hesseman, Fonda and Sutherland put together a traveling revue called FTA (Free the Army, popularly known as F*@k the Army). The Pentagon unsuccessfully tried to keep troops away from the shows; the FBI put both Sutherland and Fonda under surveillance.

In Nicholas Roeg’s influential 1973 psychological horror film “Don’t Look Now,” Sutherland’s intriguing passivity and pared-down acting style helped highlight Julie Christie’s performance. They portray a grieving married couple who flee England to Venice after the death of their little girl.

The film became controversial for an integral explicit sex scene between them, edited in a fragmented style. Roeg intercut their post-coital dressing to go out to dinner as the sequence unfolds. Even in a sex-obsessed era, the scene became — and remains — one of the most memorable ever filmed.

At the height of his success, Sutherland began to make eccentric career choices. He turned down John Boorman for “Deliverance” and chose Paul Mazursky’s “Alex in Wonderland” (1970) over Peckinpah’s “Straw Dogs.” He acted with Fonda again in “Steelyard Blues” (1973) and played Christ in Dalton Trumbo’s “Johnny Got His Gun” (1971). Both fizzled at the box office.

Sutherland received mixed notices for his role as a hick in John Schlesinger’s “Day of the Locust” (1975), played the title character in 1976’s arty bomb “Fellini’s Casanova” and a psychopathic fascist in Bertolucci’s “1900” (1977). He had a memorable cameo in 1978 hit “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” playing a professor who is discovered having an affair with a student (Karen Allen). He took a small upfront fee for his work instead of an offered percentage of the profits. The actor estimated the choice cost him $14 million.

Sutherland rebounded with 1980’s “Ordinary People,” convincing director Robert Redford to cast him as the grieving father trying to hold his family together after his older son’s accidental death. Redford had originally offered him the part of the psychiatrist that eventually went to Judd Hirsch.

In 1981 WWII thriller “Eye of the Needle,” Sutherland gave one of his last romantic leading man performances on the bigscreen, albeit as a heavy — a stranded German agent who falls for a lonely married woman (Kate Nelligan).

Another career peak came in 1998, when Sutherland convinced director-writer Robert Towne to cast him as coach and Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman in “Without Limits,” about U. of Oregon runner Steve Prefontaine (Billy Crudup). He was also memorable in 2005’s “Pride and Prejudice” as Keira Knightley’s father.

Sutherland made a lasting impression in smaller roles, such as Mister X, a high-placed Pentagon official who claims to know why JFK was murdered, in 1991’s Oliver Stone-helmed “JFK.”

Remarkably, Sutherland was never nominated for an Oscar, though his work in such films as “Ordinary People” and “Without Limits” is often cited by critics as among the finest of their respective decades.

Other noteworthy roles include President Snow in “The Hunger Games” (2012) and its sequels; a safecracker in “The Italian Job” (2003); the father in “Six Degrees of Separation” (1993); a stylish safecracker in “The Great Train Robbery” (1978); and the lead in Philip Kaufman’s 1978 remake of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”

Sutherland also appeared with son Kiefer in 1996’s “A Time to Kill.” He turned down an offer to play the father of Kiefer’s character, Jack Bauer, in “24,” his son’s successful TV series. The two appeared together in the 2014 Western “Forsaken.”

In 2014 the actor also starred with Brie Larson in the India-set musical comedy “Basmati Blues,” written and directed by Dan Baron.

Sutherland’s TV work includes “The Superlative Seven” episode of “The Avengers” (1967) and two episodes of “The Saint” (1965, 1966). He starred as Patrick “Tripp” Darling III in “Dirty Sexy Money” (2007-09) and as Nathan Templeton in “Commander in Chief” (2005-06). His TV miniseries work includes 2010’s “The Pillars of the Earth,” based on Ken Follett’s epic novel.

In one of his best TV roles, Sutherland portrayed Clark Clifford in John Frankenheimer’s “Path to War” (2002). In 1995, he won a supporting actor Emmy for “Citizen X” (HBO).

Born in St. John, Canada, he studied at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art before getting roles in British TV shows and films such as “The Avengers” and “The Saint.” “The Saint” star and director Roger Moore recommended him to the producers of “The Dirty Dozen,” and after the success of that film he moved to Hollywood.

A private celebration of life will be held by the family.

Sutherland is survived by his wife Francine Racette, sons Roeg, Rossif, Angus, and Kiefer, daughter Rachel, and four grandchildren.

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