Donald Sutherland, Iconic Sci-Fi And Horror Actor, Dead At 88

By Jonathan Klotz | Updated

Hunger Games Donald Sutherland

After a long battle with illness, Hollywood legend Donald Sutherland passed away at the age of 88. From his start in the early ’60s to 2022, Sutherland was a constant presence in theaters and, sometimes, on the small screen as well. One of the most critically adored stars of all time, his passing marks another loss from Hollywood’s boldest, most experimental era.

From Humble Beginnings

The Canadian-born star slowly worked his way up from the British theater scene, working alongside Christopher Lee in horror films, notably Castle of the Living Dead, before becoming one of Hammer Studios featured stars in Die! Die! My Darling!. Donald Sutherland’s big break came in 1967 as part of The Dirty Dozen, sharing the screen with the likes of Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, and NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown. He went from the World War 2 action epic to another breakout role rooted in real-life conflict when he starred in MASH.

A 70s Icon

Donald Sutherland played Hawkeye Pierce in the MASH film, his biggest leading role to date, which went on to spawn the groundbreaking television series. After that, Sutherland was a leading man for decades, jumping between genres with ease, from the comedy Klute with Jane Fonda to the psychological horror Don’t Look Now. He co-starred with Sean Connery in The Great Train Robbery and was part of the ensemble, along with Jeff Goldblum, that made Invasion of the Body Snatchers a sci-fi classic.

The Biggest Award Snub In History

The first 20 years of his career would be considered a success by most actors today, but when the 80s came around, Donald Sutherland’s career took off even further, thanks to his role as Calvin Jarrett in Ordinary People, for which he won the Golden Globe. Snubbed by the Academy Awards that year, in what is still considered, over 40 years later, as one of the biggest mistakes in the organization’s history, Sutherland was now a made man in Hollywood.

Though he no longer had to prove himself as a serious actor to anyone, that didn’t stop him from giving it his all in every role, lending his gravitas and steely demeanor to everything from Backdraft to Pride and Prejudice.

The Hunger Games

donald sutherland

Despite the incredible success of his early career, Donald Sutherland is likely most well known for his role as President Snow in The Hunger Games opposite Jennifer Lawrence. Considered one of the best casting choices in the franchise, Sutherland’s presence in the films was one of quiet menace, managing to play sadistic without going over the top, one of the traits of his classic acting style. While those were the last major films of his career, the star moved to the small screen, taking the lead in the legal series Crossing Lines and a streaming series, The Undoing, alongside Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman.

Not Afraid To Speak His Mind

invasion of the body snatchers

Donald Sutherland may have ended his career in a blockbuster and on streaming services, but he played a large part in the rise of the 70’s avant-garde war films. It was revealed by the CIA only a few years ago that the star was once on their watchlist for his outspoken criticism of the Vietnam War. Unafraid to speak his mind, Sutherland even talked in interviews about refusing roles due to the level of violence involved; notably, he passed on starring in Deliverance.

The Loss Of A Legend

A part of the bold and daring 70s in Hollywood, Donald Sutherland is survived by his wife and his four sons, including Keifer Sutherland, his daughter, and four grandchildren. Sutherland’s low-key, intense acting style, in which he could seemingly flip a switch to go from menacing to caring, amplified by his iconic, gravelly voice, will leave a void in Hollywood for years to come.

Fans today can look back and marvel at a career in which just one decade of it would be one of the best of all time, never mind 60 years of consistent excellence.