Donald Sutherland, revered actor from ‘M*A*S*H’ movie and ‘The Hunger Games,’ dies at 88

Hulton Archive

Donald Sutherland, the influential actor who graced film and television screens across multiple decades, has died at the age of 88, his son announced Thursday.

Kiefer Sutherland posted about his father’s death on social media, describing him as “one of the most important actors in the history of film.”

“Never daunted by a role, good, bad or ugly,” he wrote. “He loved what he did and did what he loved, and one can never ask for more than that. A life well lived.”

The Creative Artists Agency also announced their client’s death, saying Donald Sutherland died of a long illness in Miami, Florida.

Donald Sutherland, a Canadian-born actor, rose to fame in the late 1960s and early ‘70s with film roles in “The Dirty Dozen” and “M*A*S*H.” In Robert Altman’s gonzo anti-war film from 1970, Sutherland played surgeon Hawkeye Pierce, the role later made famous by Alan Alda in the TV adaptation of “M*A*S*H.”

Sutherland cemented himself as one of Hollywood’s most versatile leading men in the ‘70s. He starred as the detective opposite Jane Fonda in her Oscar-winning role in the 1971 neo-noir “Klute,” played the grieving father in 1973’s influential horror thriller “Don’t Look Now,” and was central to one of the most shocking endings in sci-fi history in the 1978 version of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”

But his career has spanned so many beloved projects that he became a household name for multiple generations.

His cinematic legacy covers a breadth of genre, from dramatic roles in “JFK” and “Backdraft” to comedies like “Fool’s Gold,” the 2008 romance caper starring Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey. He also famously revealed his cheekier side in the 1978 comedy classic “Animal House.”

In “The Hunger Games” franchise, he portrayed the villainous Panem President Coriolanus Snow, facing off against Jennifer Lawrence as young heroine Katniss Everdeen. He also played the role of loving father in the 2005 adaptation of “Pride & Prejudice,” which starred Keira Knightley.

A franchise based on a young adult book series, “The Hunger Games” may have seemed an unlikely role for Sutherland. But the actor told the BBC in 2015 that he hoped the blockbuster hit would encourage young people to be more politically involved.

He described the passion of young fans who showed up to premieres as “extraordinary.”

“I have been convinced for the last 30 years that they weren’t thinking politically at all,” he told the BBC. “The purpose of everybody involved in this was try to get them engaged.”

Sutherland also took on roles for the smaller screen, winning an Emmy for HBO’s “Citizen X.” The 1995 made-for-television movie depicted the hunt for a serial killer in the Soviet Union, based on a real-life criminal case.

His television work in recent years included shows such as “Lawmen: Bass Reeves,” “Commander in Chief” and “Crossing Lines.”

Although Sutherland was never nominated for an Academy Award, he’s been nominated for nine Golden Globes — including for best actor in 1980’s acclaimed Robert Redford-directed film “Ordinary People” — and won twice, for “Citizen X” and 2002’s HBO original movie “Path to War.”

Rob Lowe, who co-starred with Sutherland in the miniseries “Salem’s Lot,” offered condolences to the actor’s family. He wrote in a post on X that society lost “one of our greatest actors.”

“It was my honor to work with him many years ago, and I will never forget his charisma and ability,” Lowe wrote. “If you want a master class in acting, watch him in ‘Ordinary People’.”

Sutherland has five children, daughter Rachel and sons Roeg, Rossif, Angus, and Kiefer. He starred alongside Kiefer — an accomplished actor in his own right as the star of the “24” TV franchise and movies such as “The Lost Boys” and “Young Guns” — in the film “Forsaken,” a Western that centered around the relationship between a father and son.

In a 2016 interview with TODAY, he said that when they looked at each other during their scenes they each saw behind the eyes of an actor and into the eyes of father and son.

“It informs the situation and it’s supposed to,” he said. “It’s what we wanted.”

Kiefer only had praise for his father, saying it was almost like “cheating” rather than acting.

“I have always felt that not only is my father one of the most prolific actors in the English language, but he’s also one of the most important,” he told TODAY. “He’s someone I have wanted to work with for my whole career.”

Sutherland never won an Oscar for any of his roles, but the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences did bestow an honorary award upon the actor in 2017. Stars such as Colin Farrell, Jennifer Lawrence and Whoopi Goldberg delivered speeches paying tribute to his impact on them personally as well as the industry.

Farrell described Sutherland’s characters as “distinctive, unforgettable and absolutely unique.”

“There have been heroes and scoundrels, the prime movers of great events and ordinary people,” Farrell said. “Victims of circumstance and lovers, leaders, soldiers of all ranks, a college professor and even Jesus Christ. In some cases, he’s been a few of these things all at once.”

Lawrence called Sutherland the most committed and kind person she’d ever met, taking her under his wing when she was a young star while they filmed “The Hunger Games.”

“In between takes he asked me questions and gently gave me guidance,” Lawrence said. “I will never forget his generosity.”

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