Blast from the past

Favorite Donald Sutherland movies for every decade he’s acted


Didn’t you hear the fantastic news? Canadian actor and film legend Donald Sutherland is one of the four filmmakers selected to receive Honorary Oscars.

The Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are set to present Honorary Awards to Sutherland but also to Charles Burnett, Owen Roizman and Agnes Varda.

The long overdue awards will be presented to the 4 filmmakers at the Governors Awards on Nov. 11 at the Ray Dolby Ballroom, but let me take a moment and do something special to one of my favorite actors of all time. Donald Sutherland.

What is left to say about Mr. Sutherland? That he’s one of the most talented and versatile actors ever? Yes that has been already said. How about the fact that he’s been ignored by the Academy and never received an Oscar nomination? Yes, that has been said too and it’s truly an unfortunate mistake. He’s been a striking yet steady presence in cinema for more than 5 decades, with his towering height and rich, mellifluous voice.

He played, heroes and villains. Fathers and father figures. Generals, lovers, astronauts and coaches. He’s been respected and adored from his audience and his peers and I know this post makes his legacy frivolous and insignificant but it’s because his opus is too big to be put in one text.

So in honor of Mr. Sutherland’s honoring… Let’s make a brief reminder about my favorite movie of his from every decade he was present in front of the camera. Ever since his debut in 1964’s Castle of the Living Dead.

60’s – The Dirty Dozen (1967)

Director: Robert Aldrich
Starring: Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Donald Sutherland…
Fun Fact about it: The film was controversial when it was released, as it depicted Allied soldiers as no different than Nazis.

70’s – Klute (1971)

Director: Alan J. Pakula
Starring: Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland, Charles Cioffi…
Fun fact about it: According to her autobiography, Jane Fonda hung out with call girls and pimps for a week before beginning this film in order to prepare for her role. When none of the pimps offered to “represent” her, she became convinced she wasn’t desirable enough to play a prostitute and urged the director to replace her with friend Faye Dunaway.

80’s – Ordinary People (1980)

Director: Robert Redford
Starring: Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore, Judd Hirsch…
Fun fact about it: Richard Dreyfuss was originally considered for the role of the psychiatrist, but when Redford called him Dreyfuss said, “I can’t talk to you right now, I’m having a nervous breakdown,” and he hung up the phone.

90’s – Outbreak (1995)

Director: Wolfgang Petersen
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Rene Russo, Morgan Freeman…
Fun fact about it: Betsy, the white-headed capuchin Monkey, also appears in the sitcom Friends (1994) as Marcel, Ross’ pet. The monkey’s prior role in Outbreak was spoofed by a poster showing Marcel as the star in the fictional movie “Outbreak 2: The Virus Takes Manhattan”. Both the movie and the television series are Warner Brothers productions.

00’s – Pride & Prejudice (2005)

Director: Joe Wright
Starring: Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfadyen, Brenda Blethyn…
Fun fact about it: Joe Wright cast Donald Sutherland after seeing him in Cold Mountain (2003). Sutherland reminded Wright of his father.

Since 2010 – The Hunger Games (2012)

Director: Gary Ross
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth…
Fun fact about it: Donald Sutherland saw the script by accident and, when he read it, lobbied for the role of President Snow because the script reminded him of Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory (1957). He succeeded in getting the role after he wrote a letter of plea to Gary Ross explaining why he should be cast.

Notable mentions:

M*A*S*H (1970)

Director: Robert Altman
Starring: Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Tom Skerritt…
Fun fact about it: During filming Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould became so frustrated with the directorial style of Robert Altman (who often had his actors talk over each other at the same time, to simulate real life conversation), that they went to the head of production to demand he be fired. They were concerned that the movie would end up as a mess, and a movie disaster at the box office might ruin their careers. They were told by the studio head not to worry, that the movie would only be seen at a few drive-ins across the country, and that hardly anyone would ever see the movie.

Don’t Look Now (1973)

Director: Nicolas Roeg
Starring: Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland, Hilary Mason…
Fun fact about it: Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie met for the first time on the set of this film. The first scene they had to shoot was the sex scene, as Nicolas Roeg wanted to “get it out of the way” and then move on to the “bone” of the matter. Christie was terrified.

JFK (1991)

Director: Oliver Stone
Starring: Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Jack Lemmon…
Fun fact about it: John Candy’s (Dean Andrews’) sweaty face during his talk with Garrison is real. Candy was petrified at the idea of appearing in a dramatic film with actors like Gary Oldman and Donald Sutherland. He sweated profusely throughout all his scenes.

Panic (2000)

Director: Henry Bromell
Starring: William H. Macy, Neve Campbell, John Ritter …
Fun fact about it: The Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal movie they can’t remember the title of is Running Scared (1986).


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