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Esteemed Canadian Actor Donald Sutherland Star of ‘M*A*S*H’ and ‘The Hunger Games’ Dies at 88

Donald Sutherland, one of Canada’s most versatile and gifted actors whose career spanned over five decades, has died at the age of 88. Sutherland, known for his iconic roles in films such as MASH*, Klute, Ordinary People, and The Hunger Games series, passed away on Thursday, according to an announcement made by his son, actor Kiefer Sutherland, on social media.

Kiefer Sutherland expressed his grief, stating, “With a heavy heart, I tell you that my father, Donald Sutherland, has passed away. I personally think he was 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.”

Donald Sutherland’s career, which began in the 1960s, was marked by a series of celebrated performances in both film and television. The tall actor, distinguished by his deep voice, piercing blue eyes, and mischievous smile, was known for his ability to transition seamlessly from character roles to romantic leads. He starred opposite remarkable talents like Jane Fonda and Julie Christie, and often portrayed oddballs and villains with notable ease.

During the peak of his career in the 1970s, Sutherland took on a myriad of unforgettable characters. He portrayed an unconventional Army surgeon in MASH* (1970), a quirky tank commander in Kelly’s Heroes (1970), a small-town detective in Klute (1971), a stoned professor in Animal House (1978), a local official combating an alien presence in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), and a grieving father in Ordinary People (1980). Each of these roles showcased his remarkable range and established him as one of Hollywood’s most sought-after actors.

In his later years, Sutherland won acclaim from a new generation of fans with his portrayal of the despotic President Snow in The Hunger Games series, beginning in 2012. In reflecting on his career while accepting an honorary Academy Award for lifetime achievement in 2017, Sutherland said, “I wish I could say thank you to all of the characters that I’ve played, thank them for using their lives to inform my life.”

Born on July 17, 1935, in New Brunswick, Canada, Sutherland was raised in Nova Scotia. He began performing in school productions and later moved to Britain to refine his craft before making his way to the United States. His big break came with a role in the war film The Dirty Dozen (1967), alongside a top-notch ensemble cast.

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Sutherland rocketed to fame with his groundbreaking performance as the nonconformist surgeon Hawkeye Pierce in Robert Altman’s MASH* (1970). The satirical film, set during the Korean War, struck a chord with its anti-war sentiment amidst the Vietnam War era. That same year, he starred with Telly Savalas and Clint Eastwood in Kelly’s Heroes, depicting a mission to steal Nazi gold.

In 1971, Sutherland starred with Jane Fonda in Klute, a film that sparked a romantic relationship between the two and saw them both active in the anti-Vietnam War movement. Two years later, Sutherland appeared in Don’t Look Now, featuring a notable sex scene with Julie Christie. His roles in 1978 showcased his versatility once again with the uproarious comedy Animal House and the sci-fi thriller Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Sutherland’s portrayal of a despairing father in Ordinary People, directed by Robert Redford, helped the film secure four Academy Awards in 1980, including Best Picture. His work in the 1990s included notable films such as JFK (1991), Backdraft (1991), Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992), Outbreak (1995), A Time to Kill (1996), and Instinct (1999). He won an Emmy Award for the HBO TV movie Citizen X in 1995.

In the 2000s, Sutherland continued to deliver stellar performances in films like Cold Mountain (2003) and Pride & Prejudice (2005). His role as the malevolent President Coriolanus Snow in The Hunger Games deeply resonated with audiences and added another celebrated character to his extensive portfolio.

Reflecting on his character in The Hunger Games, Sutherland once explained, “The reality was he had a country to run. At least he was running it, which is more than you can say for some people.” He recounted humorous interactions with fans, particularly young girls, in airports, where they would ask for photos and request that he “look mean.”

Despite being lauded as one of the finest actors of his generation, Sutherland never received an Academy Award nomination for any of his roles. Over his lifetime, he was married three times and had five children, including actor Kiefer Sutherland.

Donald Sutherland’s death marks the end of an era in Hollywood, leaving behind a legacy of memorable performances that continue to inspire and entertain audiences worldwide.