“Work and effort are the secret recipe.” – Donald Sutherland

Bicycles are the emblem of Zurich, a great ecological city in which even its famous film festival is characterized by having a spectacular green carpet that every year receives prominent celebrities in the seventh art.

And in that same red carpet we share the last glory of the Canadian actor, who received the award Zurich Film Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award, in recognition of his more than 60 years of career.

“Fellini said he hired me because he thought I had masturbator eyes. And I wonder: How did I know?

Have you ever started counting the film productions you worked on?


In total there are 190, according to the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), and only in 2018 you were part of the cast of four films and a series. After such an impressive career, are you planning to retire?

No (laughs).

With so much success, were you ever afraid of professional failure?

After Ordinary People (Oscar winner in 1980 as Best Film, Best Direction for Robert Redford Y Best Supporting Actor for Timothy Hutton), I couldn’t even get a hearing test. For a year no one offered me a role. It’s complicated.

Is it true that your children have names that pay tribute to outstanding directors?

Yes like my son Roeg, in honor of the director of Don’t Look Now (1973) Nicolas Roeg. A Angus Redford we call it that for Robert Redford. And on one occasion my wife Francine took to school Rossif, another of our children, with the baby Redford in her arms, the teacher said, “You can’t call it that.” And for a year he called the little one “Bongbon” (laughs) Already Rossif we name it like that for Frédéric Rossif, French film and television director expert in documentaries.

Your son Kiefer Sutherland and your granddaughter Sarah are actors, how does it feel to have opened the door to three generations of actors?

Lots of competition (laughs).

Does being a good actor hide a secret recipe?

Work… You make an effort, create a character and he does the rest. The recipe is to put that paper in your head to give it a life of its own, until it begins to fight and dominate. It doesn’t always happen, but most of the time, it does.

Tell us about your first attempts at the movies.

My first audition was in 1962. I prepared very well and the reaction was incredible… The author said that my work had been wonderful, that I managed to change the nature of the scene, and the director confessed that when he returned home he thought about what had happened. made with the character.

However, the producer mentioned that they wanted to call me to explain why they had not chosen me (laughs)… They were actually looking for someone who looked like the next door neighbor and didn’t look like that at all (laughs). These are words that I have tattooed on my head.

But “The Dirty Dozen,” your debut film in 1967, was a critical and box office success.

Yes, and with the address of Robert Aldrich. We shot her in London with Lee Marvin, John Cassavetes Y Jim Brown… And there were other actors who lived in London; in fact, I was in acting school and I dropped out six months later …

They hired us because we spoke with an accent and some were American, like Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Telly Savalas Y Charles Bronson. I was one more.

What do you remember from back then?

My wife insisted that I throw away all my memories when I found the script of The Dirty Dozen with a huge leather folder. It was beautiful.

But hey, I remember a little scene in which I had to pretend I was a general; that stupid sequence where Bob Aldrich and a Clint (Eastwood) and he turns to say to me: “The one with the big ears to do it.” In truth, he didn’t even remember my name.

And how did you decide to move to Hollywood?

A representative had called me when The Dirty Dozen It was about to be released and he told me I could have a good career if I moved to California.

I replied that I had no money and he replied that I might be fine in England. I ended up borrowing from Chris Palmer.

And with my wife back then I went to California, with my twins, Kiefer Y Rachel. When we got off the plane, my son threw up on me. I was one year old. And here we are.

And did you end up filming with directors like Bertolucci and Fellini?

Where do I begin? Fellini He said he hired me because he thought I had masturbator eyes. And I wonder: how did he know? He had me build my green dressing room. I didn’t even know that for us that tone was bad luck.

He came with a page of the script asking me to see it and when I asked him when he needed to film it, he would say: “This afternoon.” And if I questioned him: “At what moment?”, He would answer me: “Now.” But it was the kind of magic from Federico Fellini.

Is it true that you turned down the starring role in “Deliverance” (1972)?

True, and also the one who had Dustin Hoffman in Straw Dogs (1971). It was a time when I thought there should be no violence in the cinema (laughs). But if I had accepted, I would never have met my wife, Francine.

How have you managed to stay so current, with the conquest of a new generation in “The Hunger Games”?

Can I tell you how it all started with that project? I really enjoy reading scripts. And this one had seemed fantastic to me.

Thanks to history, I thought that there might be the possibility of young people getting up from their seats to go out to vote. I wasn’t very right, but I was also wrong about something else: I thought it was a character in a cartoon (laughs).

And the role that I ended up playing (President Snow) in the script was barely a couple of lines long. A short time later they ended up writing a lot of scenes that did not appear in the book.

(Photo: File)
By: Fabián W. Waintal / Photo: Archive

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“Work and effort are the secret recipe.” – Donald Sutherland

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