Hollywood legend Donald Sutherland dies at 88

Donald Sutherland
Donald Sutherland in 2013 when he was appearing as President Coriolanus Snow in the Hunger Games franchise - Action Press/Shutterstock

Donald Sutherland has died at the age of 88 after “a life well lived”, his actor son Kiefer said on Thursday.

Sutherland said his father, who died in Miami, Florida after a long illness was “one of the most important actors in the history of film”.

Donald Sutherland’s career spanned more than six decades with roles in films ranging from M*A*S*H  in 1970 to Don’t Look Now alongside Julie Christie in 1973 and Invasion of the Body Snatchers and National Lampoon’s Animal House, both released in 1978.

Sutherland with Julie Christie in Don't Look Now
Sutherland with Julie Christie in Don't Look Now - Everett/Shutterstock

His later roles included JFK in 1991, Pride and Prejudice in 2005 and the Hunger Games series from 2012 to 2015.

Among his many critically acclaimed roles was the 2002 television movie Path To War, which he starred in alongside Michael Gambon and Alec Baldwin, and for which he won a Golden Globe.

He also won an Emmy for his supporting role in the hit 1990s mini-series Citizen X.

Sutherland in one of the most famous scenes in Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Sutherland in one of the most famous scenes in Invasion of the Body Snatchers - Supplied by LMK

Despite notching up around 200 film and TV credits in his lengthy career, he did not win a major award for any of his film roles but was presented with an honorary Oscar in 2017.

Kiefer Sutherland, also an Emmy-winning actor, paid tribute to his father in a post on X, formerly Twitter, on Thursday.

“With a heavy heart, I tell you that my father, Donald Sutherland, has passed away,” he wrote.

“I personally think 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 than that. A life well lived.”

Sutherland as Professor Dave Jennings in Animal House
Sutherland as Professor Dave Jennings in Animal House - Everett Collection Inc / Alamy Stock Photo

Donald Sutherland’s agency, CAA, also shared the news. “Acclaimed actor Donald Sutherland died today in Miami, Florida, after a long illness. He was 88 years old,” it said in a statement.

Born in Canada, Sutherland moved to London in 1957 and trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

It was in Britain that his career first took off with small roles in West End productions and on the small screen.

Sutherland became known to a younger generation because of his role as President Snow in the Hunger Games films
Sutherland became known to a younger generation because of his role as President Snow in the Hunger Games films - Moviestore Collection Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

His big break in the US came in 1967 when he secured a role in Robert Aldrich’s 1967 World War II drama The Dirty Dozen.

But it was his roles in Kelly’s Heroes and the Korean War comedy M*A*S*H that really catapulted Sutherland to stardom

In 1976, he starred in yet another war film, The Eagle Has Landed, alongside Michael Caine and Robert Duvall.

Sutherland with Elliot Gould in M*A*S*H
Sutherland with Elliot Gould in M*A*S*H - Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

Over the decades, he showed his range with parts in Robert Redford’s Ordinary People and Oliver Stone’s JFK that cemented his Hollywood status.

Off screen, the star suffered a number of severe illnesses, including polio, rheumatic fever, hepatitis, pneumonia and scarlet fever.

Donald Sutherland with Keira Knightley in Pride and Prejudice
Donald Sutherland won praise for his role as Mr Bennet in 2005's Pride and Prejudice, in which Keira Knightley starred as Elizabeth - Everett Collection/Rex Features

In 1968, he contracted spinal meningitis which left him in a coma. “They didn’t have the antibiotics, so I went into a coma, and they tell me that for a few seconds, I died,” he once told an interviewer.

“I saw the blue tunnel, and I started going down it. I saw the white light. I dug my feet in.”

He never retired, working regularly up until his death. “I passionately love to work,” Sutherland told TV interviewer Charlie Rose in 1998.

In 2019, Sutherland was promoted to the rank of Companion in the Order of Canada
In 2019, Sutherland was promoted to the rank of Companion in the Order of Canada - Blair Gable

“I love to feel my hand fit into the glove of some other character. I feel a huge freedom – time stops for me. I’m not as crazy as I used to be, but I’m still a little crazy.”

The actor’s memoir, Made Up, But Still True, was scheduled to be published in November.

Sutherland is survived by his wife, Francine Racette, sons Roeg, Rossif, Angus, and Kiefer, daughter Rachel, and four grandchildren.