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Actor Donald Sutherland has died at age 88

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Actor Donald Sutherland has died at the age of 88. He starred in more than 150 movies and TV shows over the years, including popular films such as "Ordinary People" and the "Hunger Games" franchise. Sutherland died today in Miami following an illness. Mansee Khurana has this remembrance.

MANSEE KHURANA, BYLINE: Donald Sutherland was a Canadian actor who spent a lot of time playing American soldiers.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE DIRTY DOZEN")

DONALD SUTHERLAND: (As Vernon L. Pinkley) What kind of a general, sir?

LEE MARVIN: (As Major John Reisman) Just a plain, ordinary, everyday, home-loving American general.

SUTHERLAND: (As Vernon L. Pinkley) I'd rather be a civilian sir.

KHURANA: His breakout role was a convict-turned-soldier in "The Dirty Dozen." And then he played Hawkeye in the 1970 movie "M*A*S*H."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "M*A*S*H")

SUTHERLAND: (As Hawkeye Pierce) Are you a beer drinker, sir, or would you like to share a martini with me?

ELLIOTT GOULD: (As Trapper John McIntyre) Martini? I - that would be - I'd love a martini.

KHURANA: That same year, he played a rogue tank commander in the movie "Kelly's Heroes."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "KELLY'S HEROES")

SUTHERLAND: (As Sergeant Oddball) A Sherman can give you a very nice edge.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SUTHERLAND: (As Sergeant Oddball) These are my boys.

KHURANA: All of these movies came out while the Vietnam War was raging. And Donald Sutherland was very vocal about his opposition to the war, even though he played so many soldiers. He performed alongside Jane Fonda in a road show in front of U.S. military soldiers. It was a leftist response to USO tours at the time. Their skits and songs were filmed in a documentary in 1972.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "FTA")

DONALD SUTHERLAND AND JANE FONDA: (Singing) Foxtrot, tango, alpha. Help me. Tell me what does it mean?

UNDENTIFIED PERSON: [Expletive] the Army and Navy and the Marines.

KHURANA: Sutherland and Fonda were in the midst of a romantic affair at the time. Both actors ended up on NSA watch lists for two years as a result of their antiwar activities, but Sutherland ascended into leading movie roles. He was probably most memorable as off-kilter authority figures - for example, a pot-smoking professor in "National Lampoon's Animal House."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "NATIONAL LAMPOON'S ANIMAL HOUSE")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Is this right?

SUTHERLAND: (As Dave Jennings) Just try not to drool quite so much on the end of it.

KHURANA: Over the years, he played doctors, sadistic prison wardens and paranoid government figures.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "JFK")

SUTHERLAND: (As X) Why must I, the chief of special ops, selected to travel to the South Pole at that time to do a job that any number of others could have done?

KHURANA: But more recently, he became well known for his bone-chilling portrayal of the tyrannical president in the "Hunger Games" film franchise.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY - PART 2")

SUTHERLAND: (As President Snow) We both know I'm not above killing children, but I'm not wasteful.

KHURANA: Donald Sutherland's actual children followed in his footsteps, including actor Kiefer Sutherland. Even though Donald Sutherland acted alongside many dozens of Oscar-winning actors, he himself was never nominated for one. In 2017, the Academy presented him with an honorary award. Here's a clip from his speech.

(SOUNDBITE OF 89TH ACADEMY AWARDS BROADCAST)

SUTHERLAND: I don't deserve this. But I have arthritis, and I don't deserve that either.

(LAUGHTER)

SUTHERLAND: Thank you.

KHURANA: But Donald Sutherland's reputation as a gifted character actor who played complicated sardonic figures was well deserved.

Mansee Khurana, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Mansee Khurana
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