Donald Sutherland dies at 88: ‘One of the most important actors’ son Kiefer says

Kiefer Sutherland has called his father Donald Sutherland “one of the most important actors in the history of film” following the Canadian actor’s death aged 88.

The star of Ordinary People, M*A*S*H, The Hunger Games film series and Six Degrees Of Separation died on Thursday in Miami, Florida, following a “long illness”, his agent CAA said.

In a tribute, the 24 TV show star Kiefer wrote on Instagram: “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.”

Liam Hemsworth, Sam Claflin, Donald Sutherland and Stanley Tucci
Left to right, Liam Hemsworth, Sam Claflin, Donald Sutherland and Stanley Tucci (Ian West/PA)

During his esteemed career, Sutherland won a Golden Globe for the TV movie Path To War for playing presidential adviser Clark Clifford and another gong along with an Emmy Award for the mini-series Citizen X.

In 2017, he received an Academy Honorary Award for his acting but failed to get an Oscar nod during his lengthy career.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called him a “truly a great Canadian artist”, while speaking to reporters on Thursday.

Sutherland’s most recent roles included The Hunger Games film franchise, playing dictator president Coriolanus Snow, and as a judge in the 2023 TV show Lawmen: Bass Reeves.

The official account for The Hunger Games movie call him “the kindest man in the world” who portrayed “the most corrupt, ruthless dictator we’ve ever seen”.

The statement also said: “Such was the power and skill of Donald Sutherland’s acting that he created one more indelible character among many others that defined his legendary career.”

UK Premiere of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 – London
Donald Sutherland at the UK film premiere of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 in November 2014. (Ian West/PA)

He also had roles in thriller The Mechanic, Roman epic The Eagle, war film The Dirty Dozen, satire The Day Of The Locust, horror Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, period drama Pride & Prejudice and drama Space Cowboys.

British actress, Brenda Blethyn, who played his wife Mrs Bennet in the 2005 film Pride & Prejudice, wrote on X/Twitter that working with him was a “joy” and she was “so so sad to hear” of his death.

Sutherland is perhaps best known as the womanising Captain Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce Jr in the 1970 film version of M*A*S*H, and would eventually become a leading campaigner against war.

His co-star Elliott Gould, who played the sarcastic Captain “Trapper” John Francis Xavier McIntyre, called Sutherland  a “giant” of acting who was “enormously kind and generous”.

Gould recalled that when they worked together they were both “young fathers” and said his death “really profoundly hurts because Donald was like my brother, and a big part of my own career”.

Kiefer Sutherland
Kiefer Sutherland paid tribute to his father (Ian West/PA)

In 2012, he became a Commander of the Arts in France and was praised by the former French culture minister Frederic Mitterrand for his “extraordinary” career.

Sutherland was about to publish his memoir Made Up, But Still True, later this year, which was set to explore “an unfiltered account of his memories of his life” from how life-changing a role M*A*S*H had been along with “his far too many brushes with death”.

The actor had infantile paralysis and rheumatic fever before almost dying from spinal meningitis as a child, and later left Canada for the UK to study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (Lamda).

Sutherland’s early roles in the 1960s included European and UK productions such as Castle Of The Living Dead, which starred Christopher Lee, and Fanatic with Tallulah Bankhead, before he was cast in The Dirty Dozen as one of the American convicts sent on a secret mission as part of the D-Day landings in the Second World War.

He was also known for political drama series, Commander In Chief, and dramas Human Trafficking and Dirty Sexy Money, and thriller The Undoing.

A statement from CAA said: “Acclaimed actor Donald Sutherland died today in Miami, Florida after a long illness. He was 88 years old.”

It also said: “Sutherland is survived by his wife Francine Racette, sons Roeg, Rossif, Angus, and Kiefer, daughter Rachel, and four grandchildren.

“A private celebration of life will be held by the family.”

Sutherland’s son Roeg is an executive at the talent agency CAA, and his sons Rossif and Angus have also worked as actors.