Connect with us

Entertainment

Prolific actor Donald Sutherland, the stately star of 'MASH,' 'Ordinary People' and 'Hunger Games,' has died

Published

on

Prolific actor Donald Sutherland, the stately star of 'MASH,' 'Ordinary People' and 'Hunger Games,' has died

Donald Sutherland, the prolific Canadian actor who roared to fame in the irreverent antiwar classic “MASH” and captivated audiences with his dramatic performances in films such as “Ordinary People” and “Don’t Look Now,” has died.

A mainstay of Hollywood for more than six decades, Sutherland died Thursday in Miami after a long illness, his agency confirmed in a statement. He was 88.

Son Kiefer Sutherland also confirmed his father’s death “with a heavy heart” in a statement Thursday morning on social media. “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.”

Donald Sutherland’s body of work showcased his transformative range, shifting comfortably from drama to comedy and bouncing between heavier and lighter roles with ease. Tall at 6-foot-4 with shock white hair and piercing blue eyes, he was difficult to miss whether he was playing a zany oddball, an icy tyrant or a sadistic villain. In all, he had nearly 200 film or television roles.

“It’s characters who make pictures,” he told The Times in 1995. “Essentially my job is to provide information about them.”

Advertisement

Deep in his career, as he shifted between leading and character parts, Sutherland thrived in smaller roles that ordinarily called for an older actor who’d long ago been typecast as a villain or a kooky sidekick. But Sutherland had the winning ability to transform those small roles into complex characters who often helped elevate the film.

On the small screen, Sutherland also appeared in “Human Trafficking,” “Commander in Chief,” “Dirty Sexy Money,” “Pillars of the Earth” and “Trust.” Though he originally intended to be a theatrical actor, his only Broadway appearance was in Edward Albee’s short-lived adaptation of “Lolita” in 1981.

Donald McNichol Sutherland was born in St. John, a small fishing village in New Brunswick, Canada, on July 17, 1935. The town had only 5,000 residents, he said, and “that was when the train rolled into town.” One of four children, his mother was a mathematician and his father a salesman.

Initially, he planned to be an engineer and attended Victoria College in Toronto, where he earned a degree in engineering and drama. It was also where he met his first wife, Lois Hardwick. His love of acting began in a Nova Scotia movie theater when he was a teen, but movie-acting seemed too lofty a pursuit, so he tried his luck in theater instead.

“It’s not that theater was my first love. My first love was just to be an actor,” he told The Times. “I was kind of dumb and cowish, and I didn’t think movies were something I could ever be part of. I don’t know why I presumed that the theater would be. It was more ordinary, I suppose.”

Advertisement

He moved to England in 1956 to study acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art but dropped out after nine months because he disliked its psychological approach to acting. He went on to tour with various repertory companies and appeared in several BBC television productions, including bit parts in “The Saint” and “The Avengers.”

Rejection became all-too familiar. When he tried to break onto the big screen in 1962, he came away thinking his audition had gone well. The next morning the director phoned him. “The role we’re casting is that of a guy who lives next door,” the director said. “You don’t look like you’ve ever lived next door to anyone.”

He finally made his first movie, “The Castle of the Living Dead,” in 1964 and followed it with a series of undistinguished films such as “Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors” and “Die! Die! My Darling!” His break came when he arrived in Hollywood in 1967, a year after his first marriage ended, to co-star in the 1968 thriller “The Split.”

“We had no money,” said Sutherland, who by then was married to his second wife, actress Shirley Douglas. (They divorced in 1970.) So he called his “Oedipus the King” co-star Christopher Plummer of “Sound of Music” fame, who was working in Stratford, Canada, to get his input.

“I woke him up,” Sutherland told The Times in 2011. “He loaned me $1,500. Incredible. We were on a Boeing 707 — Shirley, her son Tom. Kiefer and [his twin] Rachel were probably 3 or 4 months old. I had a raincoat on and I was holding Kiefer, and when we landed in Los Angeles, he threw up all over me.”

Advertisement

Donald Sutherland and son Kiefer Sutherland photographed in 2016.

(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

The actor used a clip of his appearance on “The Saint” to land a role in his first major American film, “The Dirty Dozen,” in 1967. Sutherland credited legendary producer Ingo Preminger and director Robert Aldrich, who oversaw the 1967 World War II flick, for landing his later role in the film “MASH.”

“I was a glorified extra” in “The Dirty Dozen,” Sutherland said. “They hired legitimate actors to play the bottom six of the dozen.”

Advertisement

But he quickly rose to fame in 1970 as the cocky surgeon Capt. Hawkeye Pierce in “MASH” and then as the neurotic platoon commander Oddball in “Kelly’s Heroes.” He went on to appear in such seminal films as Alan J. Pakula’s mystery “Klute,” Bernardo Bertolucci’s epic “1900” and Federico Fellini’s “Casanova.”

The plum roles continued to roll in with “The Eagle Has Landed,” “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” “The Day of the Locust,” and the 1973 occult thriller “Don’t Look Now,” which stirred controversy for a sex scene with Sutherland and Julie Christie that was unusually graphic for its time.

After being a leading man through most of the 1970s, Sutherland began alternating between leading roles in films such as “A Dry White Season” with Marlon Brando and Robert Redford’s Oscar-winning “Ordinary People” and character roles in films such as “JFK” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

He also appeared in lesser films that, nonetheless, became cult favorites, such as National Lampoon’s “Animal House,” “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

His turn as the villainous leader President Coriolanus Snow opposite Jennifer Lawrence in the blockbuster “Hunger Games” trilogy gave him a new wave of recognition with younger audiences.

Advertisement

“It was funny,” Sutherland told The Times in 2017, “at the beginning with ‘The Hunger Games,’ to walk through an airport and suddenly you feel this tug and you look down and it’s some young person — always a girl, never a boy. And her mother is standing there and they say, ‘Could you take a photograph with my daughter?’ And we’d be standing beside each other and I’d be looking at the camera and the girl would say, ‘Could you look mean?’ ”

Despite his lengthy resume, Sutherland had a dearth of accolades, winning but a few major acting awards for his performances — an Emmy and a Golden Globe for the 1995 miniseries “Citizen X” and another Globe for 2002’s “Path to War.” But the lack of award season hardware didn’t seem to trouble him.

“My career has been all downhill since the age of 11. I did my first play, ‘The Male Animal,’ at Toronto University’s Hart House theater. The audience laughed and applauded when I came on, they applauded when I went off, and they applauded when I came on again. I’ve never had it as good since,” he said.

In 2017 he was given an honorary Oscar, which recognizes extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement and exceptional contributions to the state of motion picture arts and sciences.

The actor’s short-lived romance with Jane Fonda after making “Klute” in 1971 introduced him to left-wing politics and a second career as a hard-charging activist. The two had met at a Black Panther Party benefit in Los Angeles where he voiced his opposition of the Vietnam War. Sutherland, Fonda and other antiwar activists went on to form the Free Theatre Associates as an alternative to Bob Hope’s USO tours in Vietnam. Documents declassified in 2017 revealed the CIA had placed him on a watch list because of his antiwar activities.

Advertisement
Donald Sutherland and Mary Tyler Moore

Donald Sutherland and Mary Tyler Moore star in the 1980 film “Ordinary People,” which was directed by Robert Redford.

(Paramount Studios)

Watching his father’s seminal films was a revelation for Kiefer Sutherland, who came to appreciate his father’s body of work as a teenager. “I knew he was a famous actor, but I didn’t know how prolific he was. I didn’t know how diverse all of those characters were.”

The younger Sutherland, best known for his leading role in the television drama “24,” said he even called his father to apologize for not knowing the magnitude of his career.

The two Sutherlands both appeared in Joel Schumacher’s 1996 thriller “A Time to Kill,” but they did not share any scenes. That changed when they played an estranged father and son in the western “Forsaken” in 2015.

Advertisement

Sutherland said he generally didn’t watch his films after they were released, but when he did, he said he noticed room for improvement.

“I have to be truthful — I am still looking forward when I look back. All I see are mistakes,” he told The Times. “When you are working on a picture, all of your concentration, all of your intensity is directed toward the heart of it, to such a degree it burns inside of you. Then after it’s over, it’s gone.”

Sutherland is survived by wife Francine Racette; sons Roeg, Rossif, Angus and Kiefer; daughter Rachel, and four grandchildren, including “Veep” actress Sarah Sutherland.

Advertisement
Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Movie Reviews

DEADPOOL & WOLVERINE Review

Published

on

DEADPOOL & WOLVERINE Review
(PaPa, C, B, H, LLL, VVV, SS, N, A, DD, M):

Dominant Worldview and Other Worldview Content/Elements:

Strong pagan, slightly mixed, irreverent, often lawless worldview, but the movie’s premise has a solid redemptive, moral aspect to it where the main character wants to make a difference, save his friends, be a hero, and defeat two power-mad villains, and sacrifice ultimately solves the movie’s plot problem, and this is overtly referred to in the dialogue, plus the movie takes place in a humanist multiverse, though the movie appears to acknowledge the monotheistic idea that there are ultimate values that transcend the individual multiverses (thus, for example, Deadpool truly does want to be the kind of hero that his girlfriend wants him to be);

Foul Language:

At least 139 obscenities (including many “f” and “s” words), one possible Jesus profanity, seven GD profanities, and 13 light profanities;

Advertisement

Violence:

Lots of extreme and even bloody and well as strong violence includes Wolverine gets really mad at Deadpool two or three times, and they fight and try to kill each other even though the bodies of both men have regenerative power, lots of stabbing from Wolverine’s claws and Deadpool’s swords against each other and against bad guys, Deadpool decimates a bunch of Time Variance Authority soldiers with bones from a skeleton that have been infused with unbreakable adamantine steel, some explosions, a villain is able to infiltrate and control the minds of other people (this is depicted as if one of the villain’s hands is poking through the person’s head – there’s no blood, the action seems to be more metaphorical or taking place on a non-physical plane), explosions, gunfights, people are shot multiple times (for example, both Deadpool and another character shoot Wolverine multiple times in two plot twists), and-to-hand combat, villain with telekinetic powers kills one character by ripping his skin away, and people go flying during the movie’s many fight scenes;

Sex:

No sex scenes but the dialogue has a smattering of crude sex jokes, including a joke about a Boy Scout leader exposing himself;

Nudity:

Advertisement

Brief upper male nudity;

Alcohol Use:

Some alcohol use;

Smoking and/or Drug Use and Abuse:

No smoking, but an older side character enjoys cocaine, and there are jokes about her cocaine use, though it’s never depicted; and,

Advertisement

Miscellaneous Immorality:

Deadpool lies to Wolverine about an important matter, but Wolverine eventually forgives him and accepts Deadpool’s perspective on why his lie wasn’t really a lie.

In DEADPOOL & WOLVERINE, Deadpool wants to make a positive difference in the universe to regain the love of Vanessa and teams up with a reluctant Wolverine to stop a power-mad bureaucrat from the Time Variance Authority who’s trying to destroy Deadpool’s universe. DEADPOOL & WOLVERINE takes the crude language and extreme violence in the first two Deadpool movies to new depths of degradation, which ultimately overwhelms the movie’s redemptive heroic premise and dilutes the movie’s enjoyment level.

In the story, Wade Wilson aka wants to regain the love of his girlfriend, Vanessa, to become a true hero. However, The Avengers turn him down, so he stops using his Deadpool identity altogether and just enjoys being with his friends, including Vanessa. He still wants to get back with her though, but she nixes the idea.

Two years later or so, a power-mad bureaucrat from the Time Variance Authority (TVA), calling himself Mr. Paradox, picks up Wade. Paradox thinks Wade has matured enough to be a hero. He wants Wade’s help for a special assignment. Wade is gung ho and gets Paradox to build him a new Deadpool suit. However, he rebels against Paradox when he discovers that Paradox is trying to destroy Wade’s universe, including Vanessa and his friends. Apparently, the death of Logan, aka Wolverine of the X-Men, in Wade’s universe has set off a chain of events that will lead to the universe’s destruction sometime in the future anyway. So, Paradox decides why wait for all that pain and misery to develop? Why not just destroy Wade’s universe now?

Advertisement

A fight occurs Paradox’s offices. Wearing his Deadpool suit, Wade manages to escape in one of the TVA’s multiverse time travel portals. Deadpool travels back to Wolverine’s burial place to revive him. Things don’t go according to plan, and Deadpool finds a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. He eventually figures a way around it, but only to find another obstacle. Wolverine is not interested in stopping Mr. Paradox, and certainly not to work with Deadpool, whom he loathes.

Even when Wolverine finally reluctantly agrees to help, he and Deadpool encounter the biggest obstacle of all, a new, even more powerful villain. This villain wants to destroy the whole multiverse except for one area.

Can Deadpool and Wolverine stop this new villain and Mr. Paradox too? Can Deadpool save his own universe? Will Deadpool stop his incessant talking?

Except for some exposition, the jokes and action in DEADPOOL & WOLVERINE don’t stop. The movie also has some surprising, funny cameos. However, the movie takes the crude language and extreme violence in the first two Deadpool movies to new levels, or depths.

For example, Wolverine gets really mad at Deadpool at least twice. They fight and try to kill each other, with Wolverine stabbing Deadpool repeatedly with his claws, and Deadpool stabbing Wolverine repeatedly with his samurai swords. As fans of the two characters know, the bodies of both men have regenerative powers, so these scenes seem to go on forever with no resolution. In another long scene, Deadpool slices and dices multiple TVA policemen. Also, in a third long scene, Deadpool and Wolverine wade through a horde of assailants together. The brutality of the violence is clearly too extreme.

Advertisement

The number of obscenities in DEADPOOL & WOLVERINE has also sunk to new “heights,” going well over 100 to about 140 or more. There’s also some strong lewd dialogue, including a joke about a Boy Scout leader exposing himself. Unlike the first DEADPOOL movie, however, this third movie has no explicit sex scenes or nudity.

Ultimately, the brutality of the violence and the amount of obscene language in DEADPOOL & WOLVERINE dilutes the enjoyment of the story. It also overwhelms the movie’s redemptive ending. Shock for shock’s sake is a flawed concept that ultimately turns off more people than it attracts.

Continue Reading

Entertainment

Activision Blizzard's ‘World of Warcraft’ game developers vote to unionize

Published

on

Activision Blizzard's ‘World of Warcraft’ game developers vote to unionize

The more than 500 game developers at Blizzard Entertainment who work on the blockbuster video game “World of Warcraft” have elected to form a union, marking the latest entrant in a wave of unionizing efforts in the video game industry.

Three hundred workers cast votes in favor of joining the Communications Workers of America Local 9510, according to a ballot count conducted Wednesday by a third-party arbitrator, the union said. Eighteen voted “no.” Microsoft-owned Blizzard Entertainment has recognized the union.

Employees are seeking to address issues such as hours, pay, transparency around promotions, remote work and layoff protections, said Eric Lanham, a test analyst who has worked at Blizzard Entertainment for about nine years and is a member of the union’s organizing committee.

“The decision by workers on World of Warcraft to form a union marks a key inflection point in the broader movement for game worker organizing industry-wide,” Tom Smith, CWA’s senior director of organizing, said in a statement. “What seemed impossible six years ago is now a reality.”

Advertisement

The newly unionized workers on the “World of Warcraft” development team are largely based in Irvine, where Blizzard Entertainment’s campus is located, as well as in Massachusetts. The unit includes designers, engineers, producers, artists, quality assurance testers and other game developers.

Lanham said he and his family have been impacted by his mandatory overtime hours, making it difficult to spend time with his child. As a test analyst, Lanham earns about $55,000 annually, pay that he says is far below that of competitors.

“To live in Irvine costs a significant amount,” he said. “We don’t earn enough.”

Blizzard Entertainment is a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard, the largest game company in the Americas.

Activision Blizzard was created in 2008 when Santa Monica-based Activision merged with the parent company of Blizzard Entertainment. Activision Blizzard is known for successful titles such as “Call of Duty,” “Warcraft,” “Overwatch,” “Hearthstone” and “Candy Crush.” It was acquired in 2023 by tech giant Microsoft Corp.

Advertisement

The video gaming giant had a total employee count of 13,000 as of December 2022, according to its last annual report.

The worker election did not have to go through the typical process overseen by the National Labor Relations Board because Microsoft pledged to take a neutral stance toward workers who sought to form a union.

Microsoft’s pledge, unusual among largely nonunionized tech giants, could pave the way for thousands of additional workers to more easily unionize. Already, more than 1,750 video game workers who work for Microsoft have joined CWA.

“We continue to support our employees’ right to choose how they are represented in the workplace,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement. “We will engage in good faith negotiations with the CWA as we work towards a collective bargaining agreement.”

In recent years, video game workers across the industry have increasingly pushed back against their working conditions, including temporary contracts with limited job security and intense pushes to meet game deadlines. The industry has also recently been roiled by layoffs and dissent from workers over the use of artificial intelligence in their work.

Advertisement

Earlier this year, Microsoft said it would lay off 1,900 employees at Activision Blizzard and Xbox. Wired reported this week that to fill the gap of a reduced workforce, some Activision Blizzard concept artists were forced to use AI to aid in their work producing 2D images.

Paul Cox, a senior quest designer at Blizzard Entertainment who crafts the story that takes place in the narrative behind “World of Warcraft,” said that as industrywide layoffs ramped up, “it started to feel like we were lines on a spreadsheet, where people we can’t see are making decisions for us.”

“We want to make sure our voice has equal standing,” he said.

In May 2022, video game testers at Activision Blizzard’s Raven Software subsidiary voted to form a union with Communications Workers of America — a first for a U.S.-based game company — after going on strike for weeks.

Wednesday’s announcement by “World of Warcraft” workers also comes on the heels of a successful union vote by artists, engineers, programmers and designers at another Microsoft-owned studio. Last week, some 240 workers at Maryland-based Bethesda Game Studios, the company behind “The Elder Scrolls” and the “Fallout” series, signed union cards or otherwise indicated their support for the union in a tally.

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Movie Reviews

Film Review: Brush of the God (2024) by Keizo Murase

Published

on

Film Review: Brush of the God (2024) by Keizo Murase

A tribute to a late special effects modeler leads to fiction and reality intertwining.

Following a prolonged absence, tokusatsu veteran Keizo Murase returned to film as a sculptor for Daisuke Sato’s wonderful short film “Howl from Beyond the Fog.” Recently, he’s made his directorial debut with the independent feature “Brush of the God.” Originally conceived as a story written by the director, it has now been adapted, with a screenplay by Takeshi Nakazawa, and Sato producing and directing the special effects. With a small budget, the project would receive additional funding through donations on Motion Gallery and Kickstarter. The final product is a movie with a promising setup but underwhelming payoff.

Renowned special effects model artist Kenzo Tokimiya passes away, and a memorial service is held for him to honor his legacy. His work is on display, and his daughter is organizing the event. One of the attendees is Kenzo’s grandaughter, Akari Tokimiya, who feels torn about the event because she doesn’t have the fondest memories of her late grandfather. While there, she runs into her classmate, Takuya Kido, a big tokusatsu fan, and they discuss the artist’s legacy and what will become of his work. Then, they meet a man named Hozumi, a proclaimed acquaintance of the old master, who shows the two teens an outline for a film Tokimiya had planned but never got around to making called “Brush of the God.” He then pulls out a brush and requests that they find it and save the world from vanishing. The duo is then transferred into a fantasy world that turns out to be the fictional reality of the unfinished movie, with the script being their only major resource available. They come across numerous creatures, including a friendly winged bunny creature called Mugumugurus, yet realize that the stakes are high when they encounter the legendary monster Yamata no Orochi, an eight-headed serpent capable of devastating catastrophe.

The premise for “Brush of the God” is very promising and, on the surface, endearing. It is a passionate tribute to the special effects art form of tokusatsu while channeling the filmmaking mode of meta-cinema. There is prominent self-insertion, with Kenzo Tokimiya meant to represent Keizo Murase and reflect on his career. The work of the deceased artist within the movie humorously references Murase’s real-life contributions to the medium, including films like “Matango,” the “Daimajin” sequels, and “The Mighty Peking Man,” yet the fictional movies showcased still feel like they could exist. There’s even referencing real independent productions, prominently “Howl From Beyond the Fog.” Additionally, there are themes of family reconciliation, with Akari reflecting on who her grandfather was as a person beyond his craftsmanship, material that can make for compelling drama.

There’s undoubtedly passion behind this feature, yet “Brush of the God” fails to deliver a compelling story, largely due to lackluster direction and writing, further dampened by awkward staging. The plot is incredibly rushed with how it progresses, reliant on continuous convenient contrivances that stretch subversion. It never feels like things happen naturally, which becomes a glaring detriment when the film attempts to insert drama, primarily with Akari reflecting on her relationship with her grandfather. All the characters are forgettable, with the only attempts at development being with Akari Tokimiya, but even she feels underdeveloped, and the intended resolutions to her conflicts don’t feel earned by the end, due to the lackluster screenplay. These narrative faults are not helped by almost all the dialogue being blatant exposition, frequently spelling things out for the audience, which becomes irritating.

Advertisement

In addition to dull characters, the acting is generally poor here. Rio Suzuki and Takeru Narahara are distractingly subpar in their roles as Akari Tokimiya and Takuya Kido, with some especially clunky line delivery and emotional conveying. While intended to be mysterious, Takumi Saitoh looks more lost than engaged in playing Hozumi. There’s also a handful of cameos from recognizable faces in tokusatsu media, like Yumiko Shaku, Shinji Higuchi, and Shiro Sano, yet they are sadly just as wooden as the film’s leads, which can also apply to the rest of the cast here.

Another frustrating aspect of “Brush of the God” is the inconsistent production values, particularly the special effects. While this movie aims to stay true to classic tokusatsu techniques, the quality is all over the place. Granted, even with crowdfunding from Motion Gallery and Kickstarter, finances are more limited here than in a big studio production, and it’s admirable how determined Sato and the team remained. Yet, for every great visual effects moment, such as Orochi’s rampage on a city, there are numerous bad ones, with some very shoddy digital effects and green screen work. This issue also applies to the cinematography by Yoshihito Takahashi and Yoichi Sunahara, sometimes looking good while other times not so much. However, the music score by Shota Kowashi adds a nice mystical flare to the movie, and the ending theme song, “Kaiju,” performed by the pop band Dreams Come True, is an endearing tune.

Keizo Murase’s “Brush of the God” is a disappointing film, especially considering the talent the filmmakers have. There are elements to admire, yet a lot to criticize. Its heart is in the right place as an intended loving tribute to the special effects art form of tokusatsu, yet its narrative execution fumbles. For every visually stunning moment, numerous sections look incredibly poor. Keizo Murase and Daisuke Sato don’t quite capture the immersive magic here that they did with their previous and vastly superior creative collaboration, “Howl from Beyond the Fog.”

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Trending