Donald Sutherland on Why Legendary Canadian Actor Never Sought an American Passport

Legendary Canadian actor Donald Sutherland, who died on Thursday after a long illness and a celebrated Hollywood film and TV career, revealed why he never sought dual Canadian and U.S. citizenship by acquiring an American passport.

“Because we don’t have the same sense of humor. It’s true. We don’t. I’m a Canadian through and through,” Sutherland told the CBC radio show Q with Tom Power in March during one of his last media interviews.

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Sutherland, who had been living in recent years in Quebec, around 12 miles from the U.S. border, recalled giving that answer to an American border guard who asked why the Canadian actor, who already had a green card to work stateside, didn’t get an American passport to more quickly cross the border to complete errands.

“Anyway, I love the country. I’m very, very proud that they gave me a stamp,” Sutherland added during the radio interview that followed soon after Canada Post, the country’s mail service, in October 2023 unveiled a commemorative stamp to honor the actor’s seven-decade acting career.

In fact, Sutherland, looking back on his life, said he was most proud of the stamp as his biggest achievement. “Do you know that that goes everywhere in this country and abroad? That puts me on letters that go everywhere. I love it. I am so touched by it,” he said.

CBC’s Tom Power at one point asked Sutherland why his own postage stamp apparently mattered more to him than his film and TV career, at which point the Hollywood actor pointed to his own parents — father Frederick Sutherland and mother Dorothy McNichol.

“Well, I hadn’t achieved something that I felt my mother and my father, you know,” he said, before breaking off and recalling a scene in M.A.S.H. where he and Elliot Gould were in a jeep in Tokyo and a female officer with the U.S. Army yelled out to ask whether they wanted to say hello on camera to their mothers. “And I said, well, my mother’s passed, but I would like to say hello to my dad if that’s OK. And she said OK. So I waved at the camera and said, ‘Hi, Dad,’” Sutherland recalled of his onscreen lines.

It turned out Sutherland’s parents, then alive, watched M*A*S*H in a Las Vegas movie theater. ”And when I said ‘Hi Dad,’ my father stood up in the Las Vegas cinema and said, ‘Hi Donny.’ And my mother tried to drag him down into the seat and his suspenders were elasticized. I mean, she nearly slingshotted him through the air,” Sutherland recounted proudly.

During the radio interview, Sutherland made it a point when asked what his children thought of his own Canadian postage stamp of recounting he had never been nominated for a competitive Oscar, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences made up for the oversight by giving him an honorary statuette in November 2017 at the Governors Awards.

“They loved it,” Sutherland said of his children: Kiefer Sutherland, an occasional co-star, Rossif Sutherland, Roeg Sutherland, Rachel Sutherland and Angus Sutherland. “I mean, they gave me an honorary Academy Award because I have, I’ve never been nominated.”

His lengthy film credits include The Split (1968); Paul Mazursky‘s Alex in Wonderland (1970); Start the Revolution Without Me (1970); Little Murders (1971), in a reunion with Gould; John Schlesinger’s The Day of the Locust (1975), a mordant look at Hollywood; The Eagle Has Landed (1976); Bernardo Bertolucci‘s 1900 (1976); The Eye of the Needle (1981); Max Dugan Returns (1983); Oliver Stone‘s JFK (1991); A Time to Kill (1996); as track coach Bill Bowerman in Without Limits (1998); Clint Eastwood‘s Space Cowboys (2000); a remake of Pride & Prejudice (2005); American Gun (2005); Ask the Dust (2006); Man on the Train (2011); The Leisure Seeker (2017); and The Burnt Orange Heresy (2020).

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