Canadian actor Donald Sutherland, whose career spanned over six decades, died on Thursday after a long illness. He was 88. He is survived by his third wife, Francine Racette, and five children, including the actor Kiefer Sutherland.

In a press statement, Kiefer Sutherland said: “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 was born on July 17, 1935, in New Brunswick in Canada. He studied engineering and drama, and formally trained as an actor at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

After a series of minor roles in British films and television shows, Sutherland moved to Hollywood in the late 1960s. In 1970, two war-themed movies, M.A.S.H and Kelly’s Heroes, paved the way for a career that would eventually span continents.

Over the years, Sutherland stacked up credits across genres and styles. Here is a small selection of his best-known roles, which include Don’t Look Now, Casanova and The Hunger Games.


In Robert Altman’s black comedy, set during the Korean War and based at the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, Sutherland plays irreverent surgeon Hawkeye Pierce. The ensemble comedy gave Sutherland plenty of funny lines and firmly established his talent for comedy.


Johnny Got His Gun

In another critique of war from the 1970s, Sutherland plays a hippie Jesus Christ. (Sutherland was also a vocal anti-war proponent off screen). Johnny Got His Gun was persecuted writer Dalton Trumbo’s only film, and is about a severely disabled soldier who demands to be euthanised.



Among the most enduring anti-establishment films of the decade is Alan J Pakula’s Klute (1971). Jane Fonda plays a prostitute who gets dragged into an unsolved crime, and Sutherland is the titular detective assigned to keep an eye on her.


Don’t Look Now

Routinely featured on ‘Greatest Films Ever Made’ lists, Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now (1973) is a devastating study of a marriage torn apart by the death of a child. A couple (Sutherland and Julie Christie) moves to Venice after their daughter dies, only to encounter a strange pair of sisters, one of whom warns them that another death is about to take place. The exploration of the uncanny makes room for beauty and tendresse, best captured by a frank lovemaking scene between the lead pair.


The Day of the Locust

In John Schlesinger’s The Day of the Locust (1973), a bilious critique of Hollywood, Sutherland played a sexually repressed accountant who shares his name with one of the most well-known American television characters – Homer Simpson.


Fellini’s Casanova

One of Sutherland’s most well-known roles was beyond Hollywood – in the Italian master director Federico Fellini’s Fellini’s Casanova (1976). Sutherland wore a prosthetic nose and chin for the film, and was completely in sync with Fellini’s simultaneously bawdy and flinty vision.


Invasion of the Body Snatchers

In this second version of Jack Finney’s novel The Body Snatchers (the first was by Don Siegel), Philip Kaufman directs Sutherland as a government official who begins to realise that an alien invasion is underway. Sutherland offers an emotional core amidst the escalating dread, and is particularly effective in the iconic final scene, when it all goes to pot.


Ordinary People

In Robert Redford’s Ordinary People (1980), Sutherland revisited the theme of parents coping with a child’s death. Sutherland plays a father attempting to keep the peace even as his wife (Mary Tyler Moore) struggles to deal with their surviving son.


The Hunger Games trilogy

Well into his late seventies, Sutherland found a new generation of fans by appearing as the ruthless dictator Coriolanus Snow in the Hunger Games movies. In this clip from Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015), Snow reveals that just how deep his understanding is of the pursuit of power.

Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015).