Alongside Harrison Ford, Morgan Freeman and Chris Cooper, Donald Sutherland is one of cinema’s rare late starters. The vast majority of his most notable screen appearances all occurred after he was 35 – an OAP in Hollywood terms.
But the actor, known as one of the most criminal Oscar absentees of all time (he’s never received a nomination), has made up for lost time, with over 150 screen credits since.
This week, he makes a final appearance as the snarling bad guy of the Hunger Games franchise. To mark the occasion, here’s a look back at his finest big screen appearances.
Sutherland had cropped up in a few minor roles before this (including a key turn in The Dirty Dozen that he only bagged because another actor dropped out) but Robert Altman’s 1970 war satire gave him the chance to play his first lead. His performance as the rebel surgeon Hawkeye showcased his comic skills despite rumours of tension on set between the actors and Altman, with Sutherland reportedly trying to get the director fired.
Giving him another chance to flex his laid-back slacker shtick, Sutherland was for many the scene-stealing standout of this wartime comedy. Although he was surrounded by a far more experienced cast, including Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas and Don Rickles, his role as the negative wave-hating Oddball became the film’s main draw. His relaxed hippy demeanour belied Sutherland’s off-screen troubles, as the actor nearly died of meningitis during the shoot.
Alan J Pakula’s noirish thriller gave Jane Fonda a welcome chance to darken her oeuvre with a role as a prostitute and she deservedly won an Oscar for her work. But Sutherland was more than just her co-star: he was her equal as the private detective she becomes entangled with. Their chemistry was intense and Sutherland made a potentially hackneyed character feel real.
Don’t Look Now
Sutherland’s outrage over the impending remake of Nicolas Roeg’s haunting 1973 horror is perhaps understandable when you rewatch the film over 40 years on and notice its effect is still as devastating. As a man grieving over the tragic death of his daughter, Sutherland gives a heartbreaking performance. His realisation that perhaps she might have returned is masterfully handled, and a much-discussed sex scene with on-screen wife Julie Christie remains grounded yet erotic.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Before Sutherland says anything else disparaging about the Don’t Look Now remake, though, he should probably give his 1978 take on the paranoid alien tale another watch. A frightening update of Don Siegel’s 50s adaptation of Jack Finney’s cult novel, it proves remakes can work by transplanting the original’s small-town chaos to the big city without losing the story’s creepy edge. As with Don’t Look Now, it ends with one of the most terrifying horror finales of all time.