Donald Sutherland, star of 'M*A*S*H' and 'Ordinary People', dies at 88

Donald Sutherland, star of 'M*A*S*H' and 'Ordinary People', dies at 88

Acclaimed actor Donald Sutherland has died at the age of 88. The actor's career spanned six decades, during which he earned an Emmy Award, two Golden Globe Awards, and an Honorary Academy Award.

Renowned actor Donald Sutherland has died at the age of 88. The actor's career spanned six decades, during which he won an Emmy Award, two Golden Globe Awards and an Honorary Academy Award. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Donald Sutherland, one of Canada's most versatile and talented actors who mesmerized audiences in films such as “M*A*S*H”, “Klute”, “Ordinary People” and “Hunger Games”, has died at the age of 88.

The Canadian actor, whose long career spanned from the 1960s to the 2020s, died on Thursday, his son, actor Kiefer Sutherland, said on social media.

The tall actor with a deep voice, piercing blue eyes and a mischievous smile easily transitioned from character roles to romantic leads alongside actresses such as Jane Fonda and Julie Christie. He also played oddballs and villains during a career that began in the 1960s.

One of Hollywood's biggest stars in the 1970s, he remained in demand for film and TV projects well into the '80s. Known for his unconventional look and his versatility as an actor, Sutherland played many memorable characters.

These include a rogue army surgeon in “M*A*S*H” (1970), a quirky tank commander in “Kelly's Heroes” (1970), a small-town detective in “Klute” (1971), a drunken and lascivious professor in “Animal House” (1978), a local official confronting an alien presence in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1978) and a frustrated father in “Ordinary People” (1980). He won a new generation of fans with his brilliant portrayal of a despotic president in “The Hunger Games” (2012) and its sequel.

“I wish I could say thank you to all the characters I've played, thank them for using their lives to influence my life,” Sutherland said in his speech accepting an Honorary Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2017.

Sutherland was born July 17, 1935, in the Canadian province of New Brunswick and raised in Nova Scotia. He acted in school productions through college, moved to Britain to hone his craft, then moved to the United States, where he got his first big break as a member of the top ensemble cast in the war film “The Dirty Dozen” (1967).

Three years later he achieved fame playing nonconformist surgeon Hawkeye Pierce in director Robert Altman's Korean War satire “M*A*S*H” (1970). The film — later turned into a TV series — depicts the antics of a mobile army surgical hospital, reflecting the anti-war sentiment among many Americans during the Vietnam War era.

Also in 1970, Sutherland starred alongside Telly Savalas and Clint Eastwood in “Kelly's Heroes” as Sergeant Oddball, a man on a mission to steal gold from the Nazis.

The following year, he was paired with Fonda, one of Hollywood's most famous actors, in “Klute,” and then in 1973 played a grieving father in “Don't Look Now,” which included a sensual sex scene with Christie. “Klute” led to a romance with Fonda, with whom he was active in the anti-Vietnam War movement.

His 1978 films couldn't have been more different. In the hilarious comedy “Animal House,” Sutherland played a professor who sleeps with a fraternity member's girlfriend. “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” was a successful science-fiction remake of the 1956 classic, telling the story of alien pods that take over humans.

Sutherland's performance in Hollywood superstar Robert Redford's directorial debut, “Ordinary People,” helped the 1980 film win four Academy Awards, including best picture. Sutherland starred alongside Mary Tyler Moore and Timothy Hutton in this exploration of a Midwestern family falling apart.

In the 1990s he appeared in films such as “JFK” (1991), “Backdraft” (1991), “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1992), “Outbreak” (1995), “A Time to Kill” (1996) and “Instinct” (1999), and won an Emmy Award for his performance in the 1995 HBO TV movie “Citizen X.” In the 2000s he appeared in the acclaimed “Cold Mountain” (2003) and “Pride & Prejudice” (2005).

He reveled in playing the villainous President Coriolanus Snow in the 2010s “Hunger Games” films, about a horrific future in which teenagers are sent into a deadly competition for mass entertainment.

“The reality was he had a country to run. At least he was running it, which is more than you can say for some people,” Sutherland told the Los Angeles Times in 2017.

“It was funny to walk through the airport at the beginning of ‘The Hunger Games’ and suddenly you feel like someone is pulling you and you look down and it’s a young person — always a girl, never a boy,” Sutherland said. “And her mother is standing there and they say, ‘Can you take a picture with my daughter?’ And we’d stand next to each other and I’d look into the camera and the girl would say, ‘Are you looking bad?’”

Sutherland is considered one of the best actors who never received an Academy Award nomination for any of his roles. He married three times and had five children, including Kiefer.

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