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Donald Sutherland – from Canada to Hollywood via Perth

Tributes have been paid to “one of our greatest actors” Donald Sutherland, who has died, aged 88, after a long illness.

The Canadian actor appeared in films such as The Dirty Dozen, M*A*S*H, Don’t Look Now, JFK, The Hunger Games and many more. But he also knew where to find a good chippy in Scotland.

The Hollywood star began his acting career in the UK in the late 50s, studying at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, although he quit after less than a year, to join the Perth Repertory theatre in 1960.

His first role, in the Rape of the Bell, by Benn Levy could have ended quickly, as he broke his toe on the first night. But he carried on nonetheless.

He later said: “I’ll always be grateful for the time I spent at Perth Theatre. It was my first real acting job and it gave me confidence and security.”

That wage was £8 a week and saw him tour Scotland performing plays.

It’s there that he found his favoured fish supper.

“The best fish and chips come from Arbroath, the best I’ve ever tasted.”

Even so, despite hailing from New Brunswick in Canada, he never quite coped with the Scottish weather:

“Canadians are used to cold but in Scotland they didn’t build for cold,” he said in the 90s.

“I’d a two-room cottage near Bell’s distillery and I’d wake up covered with frost.”

However, he left Perth after 18 months, “in a huff.” That’s according to his roommate, Michael Sheard (The Empire Strikes Back, Grange Hill). Sheard said that he was given the lead in Ibsen’s Ghosts, a role that Sutherland really wanted. 

In his book, Yes, Mr Bronson: Memoirs of A Bum Actor, Sheard wrote:

“As a result, Don left Perth Rep in a huff and walked straight into a film career, starting with Hammers Horrors and followed very shortly by The Dirty Dozen!” 

Sutherland died yesterday, after a long illness. His son, Kiefer Sutherland said:

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

His career, which spanned more than 50 years, included almost 200 films and television shows, from starring alongside Christopher Lee in the House of Horrors films, to appearing in The Saint, Kelly’s Heroes, Klute and The Eagle Has Landed. 

Never nominated for an Oscar, he received an honorary Academy Award in 2017. He won just won a single Bafta, for Don’t Look Now and Steelyard Blues. He won 2 Golden Globes for Citizen X and Path to War. Citizen X also brought him a Primetime Emmy.

He is survived by his wife Francine Racette; sons Roeg, Rossif, Angus, and Kiefer; daughter Rachel; and 4 grandchildren.

[Photo: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1]

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