Transcript: Donald Sutherland | May 28, 2000

(Rhythmic string and wind music plays)

In animation, a word in pink slides by against a gray background as hands paint strokes using paintbrushes, play a piano, and touch as in a dance performance.

The title of the show reads “Dialogue.”

The title of the episode pops up against an image of Richard and his guest facing each other on a set decorated in red: “Donald Sutherland, Actor.” Large square reflectors illuminate them.

Richard sits facing the camera. He is in his fifties with blond hair graying at the temples and clean-shaven. He wears a black suit over a dark blue shirt and spotted blue tie. He wears round-framed glasses.

Richard says WELCOME TO DIALOGUE.
I'M RICHARD OUZOUNIAN.
I'VE BEEN A FAN OF
OUR NEXT GUEST
SINCE I FIRST SAW HIM
PLAY FORTINBRAS OPPOSITE
CHRIS PLUMMER'S HAMLET
IN THE 1960s.
THEN, OF COURSE, YOU
HAVE FILMS LIKE MASH,
ORDINARY PEOPLE, AND HIS
CURRENT STAGE APPEARANCE IN
TORONTO, IN ENIGMA
VARIATIONS.
WHAT AN ACTOR!
THIS DIALOGUE IS WITH
DONALD SUTHERLAND.

Donald smiles.

Richard continues DONALD, WELCOME
TO DIALOGUE.
IF I UNDERSTAND
CORRECTLY, BEING AN ACTOR
BEGAN FOR YOU GOING
TO THE MOVIES.

Donald is white-haired and full-bearded in his seventies. He wears a black suit over a light blue shirt and gray tie.

Donald says YES.

Richard asks IT WAS GREAT
EXPECTATIONS?

Donald says YEAH, YEAH.
WELL, I THINK PROBABLY I
SAW SOME CHARLIE CHAN OR STUFF
BEFORE THAT.
BUT THE ONE I REMEMBER WAS
IN THE CAPITAL THEATRE
IN ST. JOHN, NEW BRUNSWICK.
I WAS SITTING TO MY MOTHER'S
RIGHT AND FINLAY CURRIE
CAME OUT FROM BEHIND, WHEREVER
HE CAME OUT FROM BEHIND,
I GUESS A TREE, WAS IT?

Richard says YES, OR A TOMBSTONE
OR SOMETHING?

A caption reads “Donald Sutherland, Actor.”

Donald says I ALWAYS THOUGHT IT
WAS A TOMBSTONE BUT,
IN FACT, I THINK
IT WAS A TREE
AND PICKED UP PIP.
I LITERALLY JUMPED OUT OF
MY SEAT AND I WAS PROBABLY,
WHATEVER, 12 YEARS
OLD, 11 YEARS OLD,
BECAUSE DAVID LEAN
MADE IT IN '46,
SO I WOULD HAVE BEEN 11
WHEN HE MADE IT
AND IT COULDN'T HAVE GOTTEN
TO ST. JOHN UNTIL '47.
LITERALLY JUMPED OUT OF MY
SEAT AND INTO MY MOTHER'S LAP
AND SPENT MOST OF THE REST
OF THE FILM IN HER LAP.
THE IDEA WHEN YOU THINK OF
AN 11 OR 12-YEAR-OLD
HAVING THAT KIND OF
REACTION NOWADAYS, YOU KNOW,
WHAT A DIFFERENT - MY MOTHER
WOULDN'T ALLOW ME TO GO SEE
KING LEAR WHEN I
WAS 12 YEARS OLD,
BECAUSE SHE THOUGHT IT WOULD
BE BAD FOR MY BRAIN
OR SOUL OR WHATEVER,
I WAS TOO YOUNG.
SHE AND MY SISTER WENT AND I
WASN'T ALLOWED TO GO SEE IT.

Richard asks WAS SHE SURPRISED AT
THIS REACTION YOU HAD TO GREAT EXPECTATIONS?

Donald says I THINK SHE WENT, UGH,
KIND OF LIKE THAT.

Richard waves his finger and says “I WAS RIGHT, HE SHOULDN'T
GO SEE ANYTHING.”

Donald says NO, NO, NO.
THIS WAS A CLASSIC.
KING LEAR WAS OBLIVIOUSLY
A CLASSIC, TOO. NO -

Richard says SO, IF THE MOMENT
TERRIFIED YOU THAT MUCH,
WHY DID THAT MAKE YOU
WANT TO BE AN ACTOR?

Donald says I DON'T KNOW.
WELL, I GUESS IT MUST
HAVE BEEN PART OF IT EXCEPT
IT WAS JUST A WORLD THAT
I COULD BE PART OF.
AND I'D WANTED TO
BE A SCULPTOR,
BUT I WAS SICK MOST OF
THE TIME WHEN I WAS A KID.
I MEAN, I REMEMBER
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON'S
COUNTERPANE, ALL OF
THAT KIND OF STUFF.
I READ SO MUCH AND I GUESS
IT WAS JUST PART OF
A FAIRYTALE WORLD THAT
I WANTED TO BE A PART OF.

Richard asks WHAT WERE YOUR
PARENTS LIKE?

Donald says THEY WERE LOVELY.
MY MOM WAS A SCHOOL
TEACHER, MATHEMATICS.
MY FATHER WAS
A SALESMAN.

Richard says YOU HAD DECIDED BY THE TIME
YOU WERE IN YOUR LATE TEENS
YOU WANTED TO BE AN ACTOR.

Donald says UH-HUH, BUT, NO,
EARLY TEENS.

Richard says EARLY TEENS.

Donald says YEAH, ABOUT 11, 12.

Richard says AND WHEN YOU BROACHED
IT TO YOUR DAD,
I UNDERSTAND HE HAD A REALLY
VERY ENLIGHTENED REACTION
IN WHICH HE SAID OKAY,
BUT HAVE ANOTHER CAREER?

Donald says I THINK IT WASN'T
ENLIGHTENED.
I THINK IT WAS JUST, WE
WERE BOTH BONE STUPID.
WE HAD NO IDEA.
I LIVED IN BRIDGEWATER,
NOVA SCOTIA.
THERE WERE 5,000
PEOPLE THERE.
WE HAD NO IDEA WHAT I
WAS GETTING INTO.
I DON'T KNOW WHAT WE
EVEN THOUGHT OF.
I MEAN, BUT WHATEVER
I WANTED TO DO,
HE'D SAY OKAY TO, AND HE
JUST SAID, YOU KNOW,
IT'S PROBABLY NOT A VERY
RELIABLE JOB, AND STUDY
TO BE AN ENGINEER SO YOU HAVE
SOMETHING TO FALL BACK ON.
YOU GET YOURSELF THAT
THEN I'LL FEEL SECURE,
AND I'LL GIVE YOU
WHATEVER IT IS, THE MONEY,
YOU NEED TO GO TO - FOR ONE
YEAR IN A DRAMA SCHOOL
IN ENGLAND, AND I CHOSE
THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO
BECAUSE IT HAD THE
HART HOUSE THEATRE,
AND IT ALSO HAD AN
ENGINEERING COURSE CALLED,
AT THAT TIME, ENGINEERING
AND THE BUSINESS,
SO I THOUGHT THAT WOULD
BE THE LEAST STRESSFUL OF,
YOU KNOW, MECHANICAL,
CHEMICAL, CIVIL ENGINEERING,
ALL OF THOSE KIND
OF THINGS.

Richard says AND YOU ALSO WERE
ACTING A FAIR BIT
AT THE UNIVERSITY AT
THAT POINT, WERE YOU?

Donald says A LOT, YEAH.
I WORKED WITH ROBERT
SHERIFF IN TWO PLAYS, DARKNESS AT NOON WITH ALENE
KAMINS AND THE MALE ANIMAL.
BOTH OF THEM WERE
DIRECTED BY ROBERT GILL.
I DID A BUNCH OF STUFF FOR
PEOPLE LIKE HERB WHITTAKER
AND STUFF OFF CAMPUS, AND IT WAS
THE TEMPEST THAT TURNED
EVERYTHING - IT WAS HERBERT
WHITTAKER'S REVIEW THAT
TURNED EVERYTHING AROUND
FOR ME BECAUSE I SAID
I'M GOING TO WORK REALLY
HARD, RIGOROUSLY HARD.
I HAD READ THAT REX HARRISON
KNEW WHERE EACH FOOT
WAS GOING WHEN HE
WENT ON STAGE.

Richard says RIGHT.

Donald says SO I PLAYED STEPHANO WITH
THAT KIND OF PRECISION.
MY FEET WENT - I KNEW.
IT WAS ALL PROGRAMMED
AND VERY -
ALL BY MYSELF,
HARD WORK.
AND THE AUDIENCES
JUST LAUGHED.
LAUGHED LIKE DREAMS AND
I REMEMBER HAVING
PICKED UP THE PAPER.
I SAID, IF HE GIVES
ME A GOOD REVIEW,
THEN I KNOW THAT I'M
PROBABLY GOING TO BE OKAY
AND I'LL GO FORWARD
AND BE AN ACTOR.
AND I WENT UP TO MY
BROTHER'S PLACE,
JUST NORTH OF EGLINTON,
AND THE SUBWAY
WAS JUST STARTING
TO WORK THEN.
AND ON SUNDAY NIGHT, YOU
COULD BUY THE MONDAY
GLOBE AND MAIL, AND I BOUGHT
THE GLOBE AND MAIL
AND SAT ON THE
SOUTHBOUND SUBWAY,
AND HE GAVE ME A
WONDERFUL REVIEW.
HE WAS TERRIFIC.
AND I THOUGHT THAT
WAS GOING TO BE MY LIFE,
THAT I WOULD WORK IN
REPERTORY THEATRE,
THAT I WOULD HAVE MAYBE
A LEAD ONCE IN A WHILE,
MAYBE A SECOND LEAD THAT -
IT WAS JUST A LOVELY LIFE.
I HAD A WONDERFUL LIFE.

Richard says HOW DID YOU GO FROM
THAT INTO THE MOVIES?
WASN'T IT AN
ITALIAN HORROR FILM,
“CASTLE OF THE
LIVING DEAD”?
OKAY, I'VE GOT TO
HEAR THIS.
HOW DID DONALD
SUTHERLAND WIND UP
IN “CASTLE OF THE
LIVING DEAD”?

Donald says BECAUSE A FELLOW
NAMED WARREN KIEFER
CAME BACKSTAGE AFTER
THE OPENING NIGHT OF
THE SPOON RIVER ANTHOLOGY
WITH BARBARA AND BETSY BLAIR.
HE CAME BACKSTAGE,
AND WITH PAUL MASLANSKY,
WHO LATER WENT ON TO
DO THE POLICE ACTION FILMS.
I DON'T KNOW WHAT THEY WERE, BUT
THE TWO OF THEM WERE PARTNERS.
THEY HAD A SMALL FILM
COMPANY IN ROME, AND HE SAID,
I WOULD LIKE YOU
TO DO A MOVIE,
AND I HAD AUDITIONED
FOR MOVIES BEFORE.
I'D AUDITIONED FOR
“THREE IN THE MORNING.”
AND THEY WERE PRETTY
DISCOURAGING TO ME.
I HAD DONE WHAT I THOUGHT
WAS THE BEST AUDITION
I HAD EVER DONE.
AND WHEN I WAS 16, I WAS
PRETTY SELF-CONSCIOUS
ABOUT THE WAY I LOOKED AND
I HAD ASKED MY MOTHER,
WHO WAS THE DAUGHTER OF
A PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER,
I SAID TO HER, AM
I GOOD LOOKING?
AND MY MOTHER, HER
FACE TURNED RED.
SHE STARED AT ME AND IT MUST
HAVE TAKEN HER A GOOD 30, 40
SECONDS TO SAY,
YOUR FACE HAS CHARACTER.
I MEAN, THIS DID
NOT SATISFY AT ALL.

Richard says NO, NO.

Donald says IT DIDN'T WORK.
IT WAS NO GOOD.
I WENT TO MY ROOM AND I CAME
OUT ABOUT TWO DAYS LATER.
BUT SO I DID THE
AUDITION FOR -
(He pauses disconcerted as a little white and black dog jumps onto his lap)
RUBY, YOU COMING
UP HERE? OKAY.

Donald says HI, RUBY.
I DID THE AUDITION FOR “THREE
IN THE MORNING” AND I HAD
DONE WHAT I THOUGHT SECRETLY
IN MY HEART OF HEARTS
A REALLY GOOD AUDITION.
AND THEY PHONED ME.
I DIDN'T SAY ANYTHING
TO ANYBODY BECAUSE
I WAS SUPERSTITIOUS, BUT I KNEW
I WAS GOING TO GET THIS PART.
AND THEY PHONED.
AND IT WAS A LOVELY,
LOVELY, LOVELY PART,
AND THEY PHONED ME
THE NEXT MORNING.
TWO PRODUCERS, THE
WRITER, AND THE DIRECTOR,
ALL FOUR OF THEM.
THEY SAID, “LISTEN, WE WANTED
TO PHONE YOU TO TELL YOU
THAT YOUR AUDITION WAS
JUST - IT WAS PERFECT.”
IT WAS ABSOLUTELY - AND
THE WRITER CHIMED IN.
HE SAID, “IT WAS EXACTLY
WHAT I HAD IMAGINED,
HOW THE CHARACTER
WOULD SOUND.”
“ALL THE INTENTION,”
THE DIRECTOR SAID. IT WAS

THEY WERE SO ENTHUSIASTIC.
I WAS SITTING THERE, THRILLED.
AND THEY SAID, BUT THE
REASON WE ARE ALL PHONING YOU
TOGETHER IS BECAUSE WE
FEEL SO STRONGLY ABOUT
HOW WELL YOU DID THE AUDITION,
AND WE WANTED TO EXPLAIN
TO YOU TOGETHER WHY WE
WEREN'T GIVING YOU THE PART.
AND MY BREATH WENT OUT.
I DIED, AND THEY SAID, WE
ARE NOT GIVING YOU THE PART
BECAUSE WE HAVE ALWAYS
IMAGINED THIS TO BE A SORT
OF “GUY NEXT DOOR.”
SORT OF FELLOW,
AND TO BE ABSOLUTELY
TRUTHFUL, WE MET AND
HAVE DECIDED THAT YOU DON'T
LIKE YOU HAVE EVER LIVED
NEXT DOOR TO ANYBODY.
[laughs]
I WAS DISMAYED.
I WAS CRUSHED.
AND SO WHEN WARREN
KIEFER CAME BACKSTAGE
AND SAID THAT HE
WANTED ME TO PLAY A WITCH,
I THOUGHT IT WAS
TOTALLY APPROPRIATE.

Richard says RIGHT.

Donald says AND SO I WENT TO ROME.
I HAD NEVER
BEEN TO ITALY.
I WENT TO ROME AND
PLAYED A WITCH.
THEY PUT COLLODION
ON MY FACE.
YOUR MAKEUP ARTISTS WILL
APPRECIATE WHAT THAT DOES.
IT TOOK MY TAN AWAY
AND DESTROYED MY FACE
AND I ALSO
PLAYED A GUARD.
I HAD TWO ROLES IN IT.
IT WAS LOVELY AND I
MET SHIRLEY DOUGLAS
AND WE HAVE A SON
NAMED KIEFER.

Richard says NOW, THERE WAS AN
ASSORTMENT OF MOVIES,
THINGS LIKE SEBASTIAN AND
THE DIRTY DOZEN, AND THINGS LIKE THAT,
BUT THE BREAKTHROUGH
MOVIE IN SOME WAYS,
I GUESS YOU'D HAVE TO
SAY, WAS MASH IN 1974.

Donald says YEAH, I THINK REALLY
THE BREAKTHROUGH MOVIE,
CURIOUSLY, WAS “THE DIRTY DOZEN.”
BECAUSE I WAS JUST HIRED
OFF THE STREET TO PLAY
ONE OF THE LOWER - THERE
WERE SIX CANADIANS WHO
WERE HIRED IN ENGLAND
TO PLAY THE LOWER SIX.

Richard says RIGHT.

Donald continues AND WE WERE ALL SITTING
AROUND A BIG GREEN TABLE. EVERYBODY
REHEARSING, YOU KNOW,
AND WITH THEIR SCRIPTS AND
THEIR LEATHER-BOUND SCRIPTS,
AND I HAD NO LINES
IN THE PICTURE.
I WAS JUST GOING TO AD-LIB
SOME STUFF OR SOMETHING.
BUT WE WERE THERE AS VOICES
IF THEY NEEDED A VOICE
TO SAY YES, SIR,
OR SOMETHING.
AND CLINT WALKER, WHO WAS
PLAYING A NATIVE AMERICAN
CHARACTER NAMED POSEY, SAID
TO BOB ALDRICH, HE SAID,
LISTEN, I DON'T THINK IT'S
APPROPRIATE FOR ME AS A STAR
IN CALIFORNIA OR FOR THE
NATIVE AMERICAN PEOPLE
THAT I REPRESENT THAT
I PLAY THIS STUPID SCENE
WHERE I PRETEND
TO BE A GENERAL.
AND BOB ALDRICH JUST DIDN'T
EVEN SAY ANYTHING TO HIM.
WE ALL HAD CREWCUTS -
TURNED AROUND AND SAID,
YOU WITH THE BIG
EARS, YOU DO IT.
HE DIDN'T EVEN
KNOW MY NAME.
SO IT WAS A FLUKE AND
OUT OF THAT SCENE, I MEAN,
THAT SCENE AND CHRIS PLUMMER
GIVING ME 1,500 BUCKS
TO GO THERE, AND INGO
PREMINGER SEEING THAT
AND SAYING, I WANT YOU TO DO
“MASH” AND HIRING ME TO DO IT
BEFORE HE HIRED BOB ALTMAN
OR ELLIOT GOULD, OR ANYBODY.
SO IT WAS THAT.
I MEAN, CERTAINLY THE
SUCCESS OF MASH SOLIDIFIED IT
AND MAYBE NOTHING WOULD
HAVE HAPPENED IF MASH
HADN'T HAPPENED, BUT...

Richard says WHAT WAS THAT LIKE
WORKING WITH BOB ALTMAN?
I MEAN, NOW THAT HE BECAME
KIND OF A LEGEND,
HOW HE WORKED AND
EVERYTHING, WAS IT FUN?
WAS IT CRAZED?

Donald says IT'S NOT THE WAY
I LIKED TO WORK.
I MEAN, I'M MUCH
MORE TOLERANT NOW,
BUT I HAD COME OUT OF A
PRETTY REGIMENTED SYSTEM.
I LIKED PRECISION.
I LIKED TO HIT A
MARK AND DO THAT.
NOBODY DID THAT.
I DIDN'T KNOW
WHAT DOPE WAS.
I CAME FROM PEOPLE
WHO DRANK WHISKY.
AND SO I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT
THIS SMELL WAS ON THE SET.
I DIDN'T UNDERSTAND.
I THOUGHT MAYBE IT WAS
THE FIRES THEY HAD
FOR THE SMOKE, BUT THEY
WERE VERY LOOSE, YOU KNOW?
THE SOUND FELLOW,
SOUND EDITOR,
GOT AN ACADEMY AWARD.
HE DESERVED A NOBEL PRIZE
BECAUSE WE DIDN'T SAY
THE SAME THINGS TWICE.
WE'D HAVE A MASTER SHOT,
A MEDIUM SHOT, A CLOSE-UP,
AND IT WAS NEVER
THE SAME DIALOGUE.
HOW HE GOT IT TO
MATCH IS BEYOND ME.

Richard says WERE YOU WORKING ON A
DIFFERENT WAVELENGTH
FROM SOME OF THE
ACTORS IN THE MOVIE, TOO?
LIKE HOW DID YOU GET ALONG
WITH ELLIOT GOULD, FOR EXAMPLE?

Donald says OH, ELLIOT GOULD, HE
WAS LIKE MY BLOOD BROTHER.
I LOVED HIM. I LOVE HIM.

Richard says SO THE RELATIONSHIP WE SEE
ON SCREEN WAS THERE, TOO.

Donald says ABSOLUTELY, YEAH.

Richard says I'M THINKING NOW, THE
OTHER PERFORMANCES,
THE PEOPLE WHO WERE
THE BAD GUYS,
AS IT WERE,
LIKE ROBERT DUVALL.

Donald says BOBBY IS FUNNY.
I HAVE MADE - OH A BUNCH,
IT MUST BE FIVE PICTURES
WITH BOBBY DUVALL. IN THE EAGLE HAS LANDED,
BOBBY DUVALL PLAYED THE NAZI SS
GUY IN BERLIN WHO FLEW MY
CHARACTER FROM SOMEWHERE
IN GERMANY.
I WAS TEACHING ENGLISH.
I WAS AN IRISH
EX-PATRIOT AND, YOU KNOW,
THE ENEMY OF MY
ENEMY IS MY FRIEND.

Richard says RIGHT.

Donald says AND SO THEREFORE THE
GERMANS WHO WERE AGAINST
THE BRITS WERE MY FRIEND, AND
HE GOT ME TO COME INTO
HIS OFFICE IN BERLIN
AND HE SAID, “Mr. DEVLIN -.”
MY CHARACTER'S NAME
WAS DEVLIN.
HE SAID, “Mr. DEVLIN, WE
ARE GOING TO FLY YOU
OVER LONDON, ENGLAND.
YOU ARE GOING TO PARACHUTE
DOWN AND WE WANT YOU
TO GO INTO CITY AND
KIDNAP WINSTON CHURCHILL.”
HE SAID IT TO ME, MY
CHARACTER LAUGHED.
I MEAN, IT WAS JUST
A LUDICROUS IDEA. RIDICULOUS.
AND I SAID TO BOBBY, I
SAID - YOU KNOW,
LAUGHING IS THE HARDEST
THING IN THE WORLD TO DO.
YOU KNOW, TO LAUGH THE SAME
WAY YOU DID AT A PUNCH LINE,
AFTER YOU'VE HEARD THE
PUNCH LINE THREE TIMES,
YOU CAN'T DO IT.
IT'S HARD.
SO, I SAID TO BOBBY,
YOU'RE BEHIND THE CAMERA.
THE CAMERA IS HERE
AND BOBBY WAS HERE.
I SAID, HELP ME.
HE SAID, ALL RIGHT.
SO I'M SITTING THERE AND
THEY'RE DOING MY CLOSE-UP
AND HE SAID, “Mr. DEVLIN,
WE WANT YOU TO FLY
OVER LONDON, ENGLAND.
YOU ARE GOING TO PARACHUTE
DOWN AND WE WANT YOU
TO GO INTO THE CITY
AND KIDNAP DUSTIN HOFFMAN.”
[laughs]
PRECISELY.
YES, THAT'S
WHAT HAPPENED.

Richard says THAT WOULD HAVE
MADE A GREAT MOVIE.

Donald says OH, YEAH, HE'S LOVELY.
HE'S LOVELY, BOBBY.
HE'S A WONDERFUL,
WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL ACTOR.
FIERCE MAN.

Richard says YOUR OWN
POLITICALIZATION.
YOU MENTIONED YOU'RE
MARRIED TO SHIRLEY DOUGLAS
AND OBVIOUSLY HAVING A VERY
POLITICAL FATHER-IN-LAW,
BUT YOU SAID YOU WERE
THIS KIND OF NAIVE GUY
WHO CAME TO L.A. WHEN
YOU WERE DOING THAT,
BUT YOU BECAME
VERY POLITICAL,
MAKING MOVIES LIKE
“JOHNNY'S GOT HIS GUN,”
AND STEELYARD BLUES AND
THINGS LIKE THAT.
WHEN DID DONALD
SUTHERLAND BECOME MORE
OF A POLITICAL ACTIVIST?

Donald says WELL, KIND OF OVERNIGHT.
I MEAN, IT'S REALLY A
SUPERFICIAL THING.
YOU KNOW, I BECAME
SUCCESSFUL AND WITH THAT
COMES A CERTAIN
AMOUNT OF POWER,
AND I THOUGHT THAT I HAD THE
RIGHT TO USE THAT POWER
FOR BETTER GOOD AND
IT WAS LUDICROUS.
I WAS WELL-INTENTIONED
BUT NOT VERY WELL INFORMED.
AND IN MY PURSUIT OF
TRUTHFULNESS IN CHARACTERS,
I REALLY SHOULD HAVE HAD A
MUCH TOUGHER LOOK AT MYSELF
AND THE WORLD THAT
I WAS LIVING IN.
BECAUSE I COULD HAVE
BEEN OF MORE VALUE.
I WAS JUST VERY,
VERY NAIVE.

Richard says AROUND THIS TIME, TOO,
YOU HAD ANOTHER DEFINING
EXPERIENCE WHILE YOU WERE
SHOOTING, KELLY'S HEROES.

Donald says UH-HUH.

Richard says YOU DEVELOPED MENINGITIS
AND NEARLY DIED.

Donald says REALLY DEFINES YOU.

Richard says OH, GOD, AND YOU KNOW,
I WAS LOOKING AT THE LIST
OF MOVIES AFTER I FOUND
THIS OUT AND GOING BACK,
AND THE DEVIL-MAY-CARE
DONALD, YOU KNOW, FROM MASH
AND ALICE IN WONDERLAND AND STUFF,
SEEMED TO GET MUTED FOR A
FEW YEARS AFTER THAT.
I'M WONDERING IF HAVING
HAD THAT EXPERIENCE,
OR WAS IT JUST THE
LUCK OF THE ROLES,
OR DID YOU BRING A NEW
AWARENESS OF MORTALITY
TO WHAT YOU WERE DOING?

Donald pauses to think, then says OH, I DON'T KNOW.
YOU KNOW SOMETHING,
I'VE NEVER THOUGHT OF THAT.
I WENT THROUGH WHAT THEY CALL
A NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE.
I SAW THE BLUE TUNNEL.
I HAD THAT OUT-OF-BODY
EXPERIENCE AND
I'VE NEVER SLEPT VERY
WELL SINCE THEN.
I GO TO SLEEP AND THEN
THREE HOURS LATER I'M AWAKE.
I'VE NEVER EVEN
CONSIDERED THAT.
I'VE ALWAYS THOUGHT THAT
IT HAD MORE TO DO WITH
DIRECTORS THAN WITH
MYSELF, THAT THEY WERE THEIR
CHARACTERS AND THAT I
JUST TOOK INFORMATION
AND GAVE IT TO THEM.

Richard says BUT YOU'VE GOT TO FIND
THAT INFORMATION
SOMEWHERE INSIDE YOU.

Donald says YEAH, OH, YEAH, YEAH. MAYBE.
IT MAY BE. CRTAINLY
I WAS SEVERELY CHASTENED
BY THE EXPERIENCE.

Richard says I THINK OF LIKE BY THE TIME
YOU GET TO “DAY OF THE LOCUST.”
WHICH WAS ABOUT FOUR OR
FIVE YEARS AFTER THAT,
AND YOU'RE PLAYING
HOMER SIMPSON,
AND THAT MAN SEEMS TO LOOK -
THERE ARE SCENES IN THE
MOVIE I STILL RECALL
EVERY TIME, YOU KNOW,
I AM AWAY FROM
IT FOR A WHILE,
WHERE YOU'RE LOOKING WITH
SHEER TERROR AT THE WORLD
THAT'S AROUND YOU, AND
IT'S LIKE YOU'VE SEEN
SOMETHING BEYOND THERE.

Donald says YEAH. BUT
FOR ME, THAT GUY WAS - HOMER
SIMPSON WAS MORE OF WHAT I
WAS LIKE WHEN I WAS 13
YEARS OLD THAN ANYTHING
BEFORE OR SINCE, YEAH.
IT WAS, I BELIEVE, LITERALLY
WHAT WAS WRITTEN ON SOAP
BOXES AND ANYTHING I FELT
I DOUBTED, AND I HAD
NO FAITH IN MYSELF AT ALL.
I FELT I WAS SO DIFFERENT
FROM THE REST OF THE WORLD
AND I FELT I WAS SO WRONG.
EVERYTHING. EVERY SEXUAL THING,
ARTISTIC THING, EVERYTHING.

Richard says HE REALLY IS AN
ADOLESCENT THEN.
THAT'S WHERE IT
CAME FROM.

Donald says YEAH, I THINK SO.
HOMER SIMPSON,
YEAH, SURE.

Richard says AND DID JOHN SCHLESINGER
KIND OF PUSH YOU THERE,
OR DID YOU FIND THAT
OUT YOURSELF?

Donald says NO, I WAS THERE.
I ASKED JOHN IF I
COULD PLAY THE ROLE.
I WANTED TO DO IT.
I HAD READ THE WEST BOOK
AND I ASKED IF IT WAS -
IF HE WOULD LET ME DO IT.
AND HE LOOKED AT A BUNCH
OF OTHER PEOPLE AND THEN
HE DID, YOU KNOW, BUT
HE WAS VERY HAPPY
JUST TO LET ME
GO MY WAY.

Richard says YOU SAID YOU STOPPED
READING CRITICS FOR A WHILE
AFTER DAY OF THE LOCUST BUT
ONE OF THE BEST OF REVIEWS
OF YOU IN “ORDINARY PEOPLE.”
TALKED ABOUT THE SCENE YOU
HAVE WITH JUDD HIRSCH WHERE
HE COMMENTED ON YOUR HANDS.

Donald asks WHOSE REVIEW WAS THAT?

Richard says I'M TRYING TO REMEMBER
NOW WHO IT WAS.

Donald asks IT WASN'T JAY COX NO?

Richard says NO, IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN
CANBY, I THINK,
SAID THAT YOUR HANDS
SAID EVERYTHING
THE MAN WAS FEELING
IN THE SCENE.
YOUR FINGERS,
IN PARTICULAR.
DO YOU EVER MAKE A
DECISION LIKE THAT?
YOU'D HAVE TO BE
SITTING ON THEM.

Donald says NO.
NO, NO, AND NO, YOU KNOW, I
HAVE TO CONTROL MY HANDS.
YOU KNOW, IN THIS PLAY, I
SOMETIMES MOVE MY HANDS
TOO MUCH AND I HAVE TO
JUST - IT'S JUST THAT...
I SHOULD REALLY FORM IT
AND BE SPECIFIC,
AND I ALLOW IT TO BE
A LITTLE TOO LOOSE,
AND MY CONTENTION IS
THAT THE CHARACTER
LIVES ALONE IN THE PLAY.

Richard says RIGHT.

Donald says IN THE VARIATION.
AND SO HE LIVES ALONE AND
HE TALKS A LOT TO HIMSELF,
AND PEOPLE WHO TALK TO
THEMSELVES GESTICULATE.

Richard says AND IT'S ALL YOUR
OWN SPACE ANYWAY.

Donald says YEAH, AND IT'S
MY OWN SPACE.
BUT MY SON WAS THERE
AND HE SAID, “LISTEN,
I HAVE PROFESSORS AND
WHEN THEY TALK TO PEOPLE,
THEY'RE SHY.”
I SAID, BUT THIS
GUY'S NOT SHY.
THIS GUY IS SO EXCITED AT THE
OPPORTUNITY HE HAS TO DO,
TO MANIPULATE, TO DO WHATEVER
HE WANTS WITH THIS GUY.
BUT I DO, MY HANDS ARE -

Richard says I WAS GOING TO SAY, RIGHT
NOW I'VE ALREADY TOLD YOU,
I FEEL GUILTY BECAUSE I MADE
YOU SELF-CONSCIOUS OF YOUR -

Donald says THAT'S ALL RIGHT.

Richard says YOU DOING THAT.
WHEN YOU WERE A KID, YOU
SAID, YOU HATED YOUR FACE,
OR YOU WORRIED ABOUT
YOUR FACE BECAUSE, YOU KNOW,
YOUR MOTHER TOLD YOU,
IT HAD CHARACTER -

Donald says I HATED EVERYTHING
ABOUT MYSELF.
I HATED MY HEIGHT.
I HATED MY FEET.
I HATED EVERYTHING.

Richard says BUT WHAT DO YOU FEEL
ABOUT, LIKE, YOUR FACE NOW?
IF SOMEONE SAID,
DONALD SUTHERLAND,
HOW ARE YOU
LOOKING NOW?
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?

Donald says WELL, I WOULD LIKE TO
HAVE HAD MY JAW BROKEN
AND BROUGHT FORWARD
LIKE THAT, BUT -
AND I ALWAYS WANTED
TO HAVE BROWN EYES,
BUT I'VE GOT BLUE ONES.
HOW DO I FEEL
ABOUT MY FACE?
MY WIFE LIKES MY FACE,
SO I'M OKAY WITH IT,
BUT IT'S PRETTY
BORDERLINE, YOU KNOW,
AND IT'S LIKE WHEN WE
CAME AND SAT DOWN HERE,
I SAID TO YOUR CAMERAMAN
THERE, CAN YOU LIFT
THE CAMERA UP, ONLY
BECAUSE I KNOW THAT
DOWN THERE, AND WITH
THE SHORT FOCAL IMPLEMENT,
IT REALLY DISTORTS AND THE
EYES POP OUT AND THE EARS
DO THAT, AND I END UP
LOOKING LIKE THAT.
AND ONLY JUST WITH THE
LENS OF A CAMERA - I MEAN,
I CAN LOOK REASONABLE
OR I CAN LOOK REALLY,
REALLY UGLY,
OR REALLY DANGEROUS,
YOU KNOW?
IN THE FIRST TELEVISION SHOWS
THAT I WAS GIVEN ROLES IN,
YOU KNOW, AND THINGS LIKE
THE SAINT AND STUFF,
I WAS ALWAYS CAST AS THE
ARTISTIC HOMICIDAL MANIAC.
YOU KNOW, IT'S EASY TO DO.

Richard says ONE OF YOUR OWN WONDERFUL
SONS, KIEFER SUTHERLAND,
WOULD YOU EVER LIKE TO
BE DIRECTED BY HIM?

Donald says I'D ALWAYS
SAID THAT I WANTED TO.
IT KIND OF WENT BY
THE BOARDS, AND MY OWN SON,
MY YOUNGER SON, ROEG.

Richard says WHO DID THE WONDERFUL
TRANSLATION OF ENIGMA VARIATIONS.

Donald says YEAH, YEAH, JUST A
TERRIFIC TRANSLATION.
AND WHEN YOU GO
TO THE THEATRE,
THE ANNOUNCEMENT THAT YOU
HEAR AT THE BEGINNING
OF THE THEATRE SAYS
ABOUT YOUR CANDY WRAPPERS.

Richard says CANDY WRAPPERS.

Donald says THAT'S MY SON.
THAT'S ROEG.
SO HE'S WITH ME
EVERY NIGHT.
I LOVE IT.
NO, HE HAS WRITTEN A SCREENPLAY
AND HE HAS YET TO SHOW IT TO ME,
BUT THE INTENT IS THAT I
WOULD BE A PART OF THAT,
SO IT LOOKS PROBABLY
LIKE RATHER THAN - I THINK
KIEFER IS GOING TO DO A
TELEVISION SERIES THAT
PROBABLY I WILL BE DIRECTED
BY MY - BY ROEG FIRST.

Richard says THAT'S AMAZING.

Donald says YEAH.

Richard says DO YOU HAVE A PROBLEM
WITH THAT KIND OF -

Donald says OH, NO.

Richard says NO OEDIPAL THING?

Donald says WALTER HUSTON WAS ONE OF MY
TRULY FAVOURITE ACTORS.
AND HIS WORK WITH
HIS SON WAS SENSATIONAL.

Richard says YES.
NOT TO HOLD YOU TO SOMETHING
YOU SAID 20 YEARS AGO,
YOU WERE ASKED BACK
IN '81 BY MACLEAN'S
IF YOU HAD A FANTASY
ROLE YOU'D NEVER PLAYED,
WHAT KIND OF ROLE
IT WOULD BE?
DO YOU REMEMBER
WHAT YOU SAID?

Donald says NO.
WHAT DID I SAY?

Richard says YOU SAID YOU WOULD LIKE TO
BE IN A WHITE TIE AND TAILS,
YOU KNOW, DOING A TOP HAT/TAILS
KIND OF PERFORMANCE,
AND I DON'T THINK YOU
HAVE YET, HAVE YOU?

Donald says NO, BUT I DID, IT'S TRUE.
ABSOLUTELY TRUE.
WHAT AN INTERESTING THING,
BECAUSE I CAN FEEL IT.
GEE WHIZ, BUT I'D HAVE
TO BE A BIT THINNER.
I LOVED THAT
BUSINESS IN “BETHUNE.”
WHERE HE HAD A TOP HAT.
IT WASN'T WHITE
TIE AND TAILS.

Richard says RIGHT.

Donald says YOU KNOW SOMETHING, I THINK
IT WAS WHITE TIE AND TAILS.
JUST ONE LITTLE DANCE
WITH HELEN MIRREN.
I LOVE THAT, BUT I WOULD
LOVE TO HAVE BEEN A SONG -
I WOULD LOVE TO HAVE BEEN
TOMMY TUNE OR SOMETHING.

Richard says REALLY?

Donald says -OH, WOW, YEAH, BUT I CAN'T
SING A NOTE AND, YOU KNOW,
I CAN DANCE OKAY FOR MY
WIFE ON A TABLETOP.

Richard says YOU DON'T SEE A FUTURE
FOR YOURSELF DOING
HENRY HIGGINS OR
SOMETHING?

Donald says NO, NO, NO.

Richard asks IS THERE ANYTHING YOU
HAVEN'T ACCOMPLISHED STILL
YOU'D WANT TO ACCOMPLISH?
I MEAN, YOU HAD, WHAT,
WELL OVER A 100 MOVIES.

Donald says YEAH.

Richard says A TRIUMPHANT
RETURN TO THE STAGE.
[laughs]
I MEAN, WHAT ELSE
DO YOU NEED?

Donald says SOMETHING.

Richard asks WELL, WHAT ELSE
DO YOU WANT?

Donald says I DON'T KNOW.
I DON'T KNOW.
THE POINT ABOUT COMING
BACK TO THE STAGE WAS,
WE WERE GOING TO
DO IT IN LONDON
BECAUSE WE WERE
LIVING IN PARIS,
AND WE WERE JUST GOING
TO HAVE A FAMILY LIFE.
WHEN WE DID LOLITA
IN NEW YORK,
IT WAS WONDERFUL
BECAUSE WE HAD A CHANCE
TO BE TOGETHER,
YOU KNOW?
YOU'RE ON THE ROAD
WHEN YOU MAKE A MOVIE.
YOUR FAMILY LIFE IS
DISJOINTED AND SEPARATED
AND IT'S SAD AND LONELY,
AND YOU MISS LOTS OF THINGS.
I MADE A DECISION, OH, MY GOSH,
IT MUST BE 20 YEARS AGO,
THAT I WOULDN'T WORK IN THE
SUMMERS BECAUSE I HAD TO HAVE
AT LEAST THOSE TWO MONTHS
TO SPEND WITH MY KIDS.
WE WERE GOING TO GO TO
NEW YORK WITH THIS PLAY,
THAT HAD BEEN
OUR INTENTION.
BUT REGRETTABLY, WHEN
THE - WHAT IS THE NAME
OF THE WOMAN WHO WORKS
FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL?

Richard says TAYLOR?

Donald says YEAH, THAT'S IT.
WHEN HER REVIEW CAME OUT,
WE LOST THE THEATRE IN NEW YORK,
SO - YOU KNOW,
IT'S TOO BAD.
IT'S TOO BAD, BUT, YOU KNOW,
ROBERT CUSHMAN'S REVIEW,
AND THE HAYMARKET
SAID, BINGO, WE WANT YOU.

Richard says YUP.

Donald continues WILL YOU GO?.
BUT LONDON IS A
LONG WAY AWAY.
MY MOTHER-IN-LAW
WAS ILL.

Richard says IT'S HARD.

Donald continues YOU KNOW, I HAVE KIDS.
NEW YORK WOULD HAVE BEEN
SO NICE BECAUSE I COULD
HAVE GONE HOME TO QUEBEC
ON SUNDAY NIGHT AND I WOULD
HAVE HAD ALL DAY MONDAY
AND THEN NOT TO HAVE
TO COME BACK TO THE
THEATRE UNTIL TUESDAY NIGHT.
IT WOULD HAVE BEEN A
LIFE AND FRANCINE
WOULD HAVE COME
DOWN TO NEW YORK.
IT'S SO EASY.
OH, GOSH.

Richard says NOW, SOMETHING CUSHMAN
SAID, AND SOMETHING
YOU SAID EARLIER,
HAVE COME TOGETHER.
YOU TALKED ABOUT YOUR MOTHER
WOULD NEVER LET YOU
GO SEE KING LEAR
WHEN YOU WERE 11.

Donald says YEAH.

Richard says AND ROBERT CUSHMAN HAD
WONDERED ALOUD IN HIS REVIEW
IF YOU COULD PLAY KING
LEAR AND THOUGHT YOU COULD.

Donald says YEAH.

Richard asks HAVE YOU EVER WANTED
TO PLAY LEAR?
HAVE YOU WANTED TO
DO SHAKESPEARE?

Donald says SURE.
I MEAN, YEAH,
OF COURSE.

Richard says OUTSIDE OF FORTINBRAS AND
THE HAMLET THAT YOU DID.

Donald says YEAH, I KNOW, ANTHONY
PAGE WANTS ME TO DO IT.
I HAVE BEEN LOOKING AT IT, BUT
I THINK - I THINK PROBABLY...
I THINK PROBABLY THIS
IS IT, YOU KNOW?

Richard says DONALD SUTHERLAND,
THANK YOU FOR ALL THESE
MOVIES AND THANK YOU FOR
ENIGMA VARIATIONS.
FOR “DIALOGUE,”
I AM RICHARD OUZOUNIAN.
GOODBYE FOR NOW.

Music plays as the end slate reads “Dialogue.”

A production of TVOntario. Copyright 1999, The Ontario Educational Communications Authority.

Watch: Donald Sutherland