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Donald Sutherland, veteran actor known for roles in ‘M*A*S*H,’ ‘Klute’ and ‘The Hunger Games,’ dead at 88

Donald Sutherland at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival in France
Dominique Charriau/WireImage/Getty Images
Donald Sutherland at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival in France

Originally Published: 20 JUN 24 13:18 ET

Updated: 20 JUN 24 13:26 ET

By Brian Lowry and Elizabeth Wagmeister, CNN

(CNN) — Donald Sutherland, a veteran actor known for roles in “M*A*S*H,” “Klute” and “The Hunger Games,” has died, according to a statement from his agency CAA.

He was 88.

Sutherland died Thursday in Miami after a long illness, according to his agency.

“With a heavy heart, I tell you that my father, Donald Sutherland, has passed away,” Kiefer Sutherland, Donald Sutherland’s son, wrote in a post on Instagram Thursday. “I personally think one of the most important actors in the history of film. Never daunted by a role, good, bad or ugly.”

Kiefer Sutherland continued to write that his father “loved what he did and did what he loved, and one can never ask for more than that. A life well lived.”

Tall and known for his intensity on screen, Sutherland earned an Emmy for his role as a Soviet official in the fact-based HBO movie “Citizen X,” as well as a pair of Golden Globes. His career spanned more than 50 years and 140 film credits, including recent roles in the limited series “Trust” as oil tycoon J. Paul Getty and HBO’s “The Undoing.”

Sutherland’s big break came when he was cast as one of “The Dirty Dozen” in the star-studded 1967 film, which became a major hit. He followed that with another war movie, “Kelly’s Heroes,” before playing the wisecracking doctor Hawkeye Pierce in the movie version of “M*A*S*H” and opposite Jane Fonda in her Oscar-winning portrayal of a high-class “call girl” in the crime mystery “Klute.” (Fonda and Sutherland also had an off-screen relationship around the time that they made the film.)

Reflecting his ability to play all sorts of roles, Sutherland’s 1970s resume included a remake of the horror film “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and a memorable turn as a pot-smoking professor in the National Lampoon comedy “Animal House.”

He also starred opposite Julie Christie in director Nicolas Roeg’s “Don’t Look Now,” a 1973 movie that became somewhat notorious for the raciness of its sex scene, which had to be trimmed in order to avoid an X rating.

A steady stream of roles followed in a wide variety of genres, from a small but pivotal part in Oliver Stone’s “JFK” to supporting work in “Ordinary People” (which won the Oscar for best picture), “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Backdraft” and “The Italian Job.”

Sutherland also starred as the legendary lover for director Federico Fellini in “Fellini’s Casanova.” Many younger filmgoers, meanwhile, will likely remember him as the evil president in “The Hunger Games” movies.

Born in Saint John, New Brunswick, Sutherland endured several bouts of ill health as a child, including polio. He attended the University of Toronto, where he studied engineering before gravitating toward drama and appearing on stage, graduating with degrees in both.

The 6’4” actor met his first wife, Lois Hardwick, in college, and the two married in 1959. He moved to London, where he found some stage work, and eventually to Hollywood in the 1960s, where “Dirty Dozen” and “M*A*S*H” put him on the map.

In the mid-1960s he divorced, marrying actress Shirley Douglas, whom he met while filming the horror movie “Castle of the Living Dead.” They had two children, Kiefer and Rachel, who also works in film as a post-production supervisor. That also ended in divorce, and in 1972 Sutherland wed his third wife, actress Francine Racette, with whom he had three sons.

In a 2020 conversation with “The Undoing” co-star Hugh Grant for Interview magazine, Sutherland said that he was always so nervous when a movie began shooting that he threw up the night before. He also discussed subtly altering his dialogue, as he put it, to “try to make the lines that I’ve been given fit my mouth.”

Sutherland appeared in three films with son Kiefer, beginning with the “24” star’s small part in the comedy-drama “Max Dugan Returns” in 1983, followed by the John Grisham adaptation “A Time to Kill.” The two didn’t perform in a scene together, however, until the 2016 western “Forsaken.”

“It was a memory and an experience that I will treasure for the rest of my life,” Kiefer Sutherland told “Good Morning America” at the time, saying he spent years looking for something that the two could do together.

Asked what advice he would give young actors, Sutherland told Reuters in 2019, “Try and be as truthful as you possibly can, read, read a lot, learn, memorize things, enjoy your artistry, study dancing, be a circus performer, learn how to juggle, so many things, but mostly you have to observe.”

Sutherland received an honorary award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences board in 2017 and was honored with the Order of Canada.

This story has been updated.

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