1 year ago

The Rake - April_2016

arbiter DADDY’S BOY;


BLOOD PRESSURE There has been a rapprochement in the tense father-son relationship between Donald and Kiefer Sutherland, and after eight decades between them in the movie business, they are celebrating by finally crossing paths on screen. by stuart husband A few years ago, Kiefer Sutherland put in a call to Volvo. His father, Donald, had been supplying the resonant voiceovers for the Swedish car giant’s television commercials for some years; Kiefer, only half-jokingly, was now offering to do the job for half the price. “You won’t get a better Donald Sutherland sound-a-like,” he’s alleged to have protested, even as he failed to steal his father’s thunder. There can be few starker illustrations of a son attempting to, if not escape his father’s shadow, at least give it a little goosing. It was an acknowledgement on Kiefer’s part that he and Donald shared a wealth of attributes — lantern jaw, intense blue eyes, wiry frame, and, yes, a rich baritone, but also that, after a decade’s worth of Very Bad Days as Jack Bauer in the T.V. series 24, he’d carved out an acting niche for himself (a clipped, brusque, resolute action hero) that provided a nice counterpoint to the disciplined underplaying that Donald had honed in the likes of MASH, Don’t Look Now, and, latterly, as President Snow in The Hunger Games franchise. When your dad is prone to making pronouncements on your situation — such as, “My presence has been a thorn in his sense of originality” and “He even looks like me, only shorter” — the benison of distance is doubtless more acutely sought. Kiefer, for his part, says that “my dad has had an incredibly strong and profound effect on me”, a statement that, given their often fraught history, seems freighted with ambivalence. Now, after eight decades between them in the business, the Sutherlands are finally crossing paths on camera. Fittingly, Forsaken is an old-school western that plays with notions of paternal legacy and filial burden. Kiefer plays a taciturn gunslinger who returns home to attempt to re-establish a bond with Donald, the priest who rejected him for his violent ways. “Doing this was daunting, for all the right reasons,” Kiefer said of the film. “This was a seven-week shoot, and it was the longest time I had ever gotten to spend with my father.” Donald Sutherland has always loomed large, and not just for his son: an interviewer recently described shaking hands with him — with Sutherland’s 80-year-old, six-foot-four, white-hairedand-bearded eminence — as “like being greeted by the head wizard at a Nordic potions academy”. He’s a venerable Canadian export, having been born in New Brunswick. He dropped out of an engineering course to pursue drama, but to this day he remains at a loss to explain why: “I’d never been in a theatre, I’d never seen a play. I had no idea why I decided I was an actor.” He made his breakthrough in 1968’s The Dirty Dozen alongside Lee Marvin, and plunged headfirst into the era’s heady counterculture, not only having an affair with Jane Fonda, his co-star in Klute, but also making an anti-Vietnam War documentary with her. Kiefer William Frederick Dempsey George Rufus Sutherland was born in 1966, during Sutherland’s second marriage, to Canadian actress Shirley Douglas. Like his brothers, Roeg, Rossif and Angus Redford, he’s named after a director his father worked with — in his case, Warren Kiefer, who helmed Donald’s movie debut in 1964, a little-seen low-budget horror effort called Castle of the Living Dead (they should probably all be relieved that Donald never got to work with Peter Bonerz, the esteemed director of Police Academy 6). Home life in L.A. was freewheeling and fervid. Shirley, a political activist, was once accused of trying to buy hand grenades for the Black Panthers (she claimed she was “simply” trying to buy mace, and the charges were later dropped). Meanwhile, one of the often-absent Donald’s earliest memories of Kiefer was “when he was two, he was running in circles and he hit his head against the wall. I told him to stop, but he said he was just trying to make me laugh.” It wasn’t the last time Kiefer would attempt to gain his father’s attention. His parents split when he was four, and he was taken by his mother to live in Toronto, where he burned through several prestigious boarding schools, briefly taking up sports (and becoming one of Ontario’s top 440-yard schoolboy runners, training that came in handy for the numerous mercy dashes that Jack Bauer was compelled to undertake in 24), before switching to acting, with his father getting him a small part in one of his own films, 1983’s Max Dugan Returns, seemingly against his better judgment. “My dad said that this profession was very hard and that it wasn’t what he wanted for me,” Kiefer said some years later. “He was very honest about that.” As a teenager, Kiefer claims “not to have been aware” of his father’s fame — to the extent that he was unsure exactly whom he’d played in MASH. Things got more complicated with Don’t Look Now, Nicolas Roeg’s Gothic horror thriller from 1973 celebrated for its spooky atmospherics and the verisimilitude of its extended sex scene between Donald and Julie Christie. (To this day, Donald is obliged to protest their relative innocence: “Camera operators in the room, wires everywhere … I’d like to see anyone produce an erection under those circumstances,” he said last year, effectively torpedoing any promise of a lateflowering career in porn.) It is one of his favourites of his father’s films, Kiefer says, although he adds: “I had such a crush on Julie Christie … I had to block my dad out with my hand while I was watching it.” And then there was Ordinary People, Robert Redford’s 1980 drama about a disintegrating family. A few years after it came out, Kiefer encountered Timothy Hutton, who played Donald’s son in the film. “I was about 22 at the time and I walked up to him,” he recalled. “I said, ‘You stole that moment from me and my dad. I didn’t grow up with him and I wanted that moment with my father.’ Timothy looked at me and said, ‘I have got to buy you a drink now’.” 28

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