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Bildergalerie Donald Sutherland Portrait
Image: Getty Images/A. Harvey

Honorary Oscar for Donald Sutherland's monumental career

Jochen Kürten db
November 10, 2017

Canadian actor Donald Sutherland received the honorary Oscar at Academy Awards for his life's work. It's surely compensation for never having been awarded an Oscar for his many stellar performances.


Retirement, it would seem, is a word that doesn't exist in Donald Sutherland's vocabulary. The 82-year-old actor still makes one film after the other. Three films per year, even if he is performing in supporting roles, are quite a feat at his age. Perhaps Sutherland simply loves to act.

These past years, he hasn't been particularly picky, either. Perhaps the films he's featured in haven't been great works of art, but he has always played his roles with total dedication. Presumably, he has a grand time on the set, and that may be easier when playing small supporting roles or portraying odd characters.

Born in Saint John, Canada in 1935, Sutherland later played in quite a few horror and science fiction films that are unlikely to go down in movie history. He debuted in 1964 in "The Castle of the Living Dead" alongside Christopher Lee.

Read more: Young German filmmakers win Student Oscars

'The old man'

Though only in his late 20s, Sutherland portrayed an old man in his very first movie role – and he must have been convincing because it was the start of a soaring career. In the 1970s, Hollywood directors including Robert Altman and Alan Pakula scrambled to book the young actor.

European filmmakers also had an eye on the Canadian actor who was making such a stir in Hollywood. British director Nicolas Roeg cast Sutherland in the role of the grieving father in the 1973 film "Don't look now." He also starred in epic films like Bernardo Bertolucci's "1900" and Federico Fellini's "Casanova."

Unquestionable talent

That cinched it. The actor and the characters he portrayed radiated such assurance that roles in less than stellar films could not harm him. Whereas other actors had to grapple with lulls in their careers, producers and directors kept on asking for Sutherland.

Much later, long after Sutherland was recognized as an international "brand," the actor began to concentrate on distinctive supporting roles. As President Snow in the hugely successful 2012 science fiction adventure film "The Hunger Games," he made himself a name among younger moviegoers, too – even if Snow was by no means a likeable character.

Finally, the golden statuette

Like many of his film colleagues, Sutherland never won an Oscar for Best Actor or Best Supporting Actor. Many an actor who may one day hold one of the coveted statuettes in his hands might be far less known and successful than Donald Sutherland. The fact that he is now being awarded the honorary Oscar is compensation the actor deserves.

Sutherland is to receive the distinction at the Governors Awards ceremony in Los Angeles on November 11.

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