Donald Sutherland, the engineer who conquered Hollywood and Jane Fonda herself

The actor died this Thursday after a long illness. He has communicated it to his son, Kiefer Sutherlandthrough a heartfelt message on social networks: “With great regret I tell you that my father, Donald Sutherland, has died. Personally, I think he is one of the most important actors in the history of cinema. He never doubted a role, good, bad or ugly. He loved what he did and did what he loved, and you can never ask for more than that. A life well lived.” At 88 years old, Donald Sutherland leaves an incalculable cinematographic and artistic legacy, but not only was his career a success: so was his personal life.

Born on July 17, 1934 in Saint-John, Canada, he had Scottish, German and English ancestry, a genetic cocktail that resulted in an unquestionable attractiveness of 193 centimeters tall and the bluest eyes on the big screen. As a child he suffered from rheumatic fever, hepatitis and poliomyelitis but later enjoyed excellent health that only faltered during the filming of Kelly’s Violence. The actor contracted meningitis and was in a coma: “I felt the experience of leaving my body and entering a blue tunnel”, he assured. “From my bed in the hospital I heard the producer dictating a telegram to tell my wife not to come, that they would send her body.” A true nightmare that lasted six weeks.

But let’s go back to his youth. He graduated from Bridgewater High School and went on to college: “My father told me that I had to go to university to have a job, in case the acting thing failed. I was good at mathematics and I started to study engineering, but I failed. I never had the intention of being an engineer”, he said in an interview. He studied at the University of Toronto, where he graduated with a double degree in Engineering and Drama, and met his first wife, Lois Hardwickwhom he married in ’59. Two years earlier, they had settled in Great Britain, where Donald studied at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and performed on stages in the West End.

The beginning of his film career is in an Italian horror film: Doctor Terror (Freddie Francis, 1964). Since then, he was unstoppable, becoming one of the most renowned figures of the seventh art and one of the essential supporting characters in the history of cinema. This new world welcomed him with its arms, and Shirley Douglas also. In 1966, Donald divorced his first wife and married the actress, with whom he had his first two children: twins Kiefer and Rachel. Their love, however, did not last long: four years later, they went their separate ways, and in 1974, Donald rebuilt his life with Francine Racettewith whom he was the father of Rossif, Angus the Greek.

Far from controversy and gossip, he kept secret one of the most important romances of his life and also the reason for his second divorce: Jane Fondawhom he met in 1970 during the filming of the film Clute. The actor revealed it during an interview in 2022: “We were in a room at the Chelsea Hotel with a huge bed. To the right, some steps to the landing that led to the bathroom. There was a small oval window and a light came through it, shining brighter than the moon. I like to think it was the moon. I was lying on my back when Jane came out of the bathroom. She was naked too. When the moonlight illuminated her perfect breasts, I stopped breathing. Everything stopped. Then it all started again. When I remember it, she stopped breathing again.”

Known for his sense of humor, he showed it off in San Sebastián, a city he visited in 2019 to collect the Donostia Award: “Unfortunately I don’t have much money, I feed many mouths and I can’t retire”, he said between laughs. “Acting is my passion. The job of an actor is always looking for the next job, I only ask for movies whose script I fall in love with. Thanks to playing so many characters I have received a lot of information. Cinema has allowed me to live a life that I would never have dreamed of. “.

Owner of three magnificent mansions in Canada, Miami Beach and France, he assured: “I don’t know anything about Hollywood, just that it’s an industry, I don’t live here.” Despite everything, he never forgot his origins and was a staunch defender of nature: “I am Canadian and my great-great-grandparents were immigrants. Do you know that the Chinese already pollinate with people because there are no bees left? Have you noticed that they no longer There are insects on the windshield of your car? Two and a half million birds have disappeared. I have grandchildren and the world I am going to leave them is not a world in which they will be able to live. And the attitude of the United Nations in this regard is. shit.”