Donald Sutherland will be honored with the Donostia Award at the 67th edition of the San Sebastian Festival, recognizing his more than fifty years of acting career. Sutherland will will receive the accolade prior to the screening of The Burnt Orange Heresy, a thriller directed by Giuseppe Capotondi. The film, with a cast featuring Mick Jagger, Claes Bang and Elizabeth Debicki will close the upcoming 2019 Venice Film Festival.
Donald McNichol Sutherland was born in 1935 in Saint John, New Brunswick (Canada). Although he had planned to become an engineer, he finally decided to take up acting and started his career in numerous television series, particularly The Saint and The Avengers. Having made his big-screen debut with Il castello dei morti vivi (The Castle of the Living Dead, Warren Kiefer, 1964), an Italian horror production with Christopher Lee, he obtained his first major success with The Dirty Dozen (1967), Robert Aldrich’s classic war movie, alongside fellow cast members Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson and Telly Savalas. Sticking to the same genre, he went on to star in M.A.S.H. (Robert Altman, 1970), Kelly’s Heroes (Brian G. Hutton, 1970) and Johnny Got His Gun (Dalton Trumbo, 1971).
He was a private eye in Klute (Alan J. Pakula, 1971), for which Jane Fonda won an Academy Award; he morphed into a lustful seducer in Il Casanova di Federico Fellini (Fellini’s Casanova, Federico Fellini, 1976); put a face to the perverse fascist Attila Mellanchini in the immortal historical fresco Novecento (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1976), and played the lead part in the disturbing Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Philip Kaufman, 1978).
Worthy of mention in the following decade are feature films including the Academy Award-winning Ordinary People (Robert Redford, 1980), where he brought life to the head of a family devastated by the death of one of its members, and Eye of the Needle (1981), in which he was a Nazi spy. In his later works he performed alongside stars like Al Pacino (Revolution, Hugh Hudson, 1985), Sylvester Stallone (Lock Up, John Flynn, 1989) and Marlon Brando and Susan Sarandon (A Dry White Season, Euzhan Palcy, 1989).
Sutherland was among the impressive cast of JFK (Oliver Stone, 1991), in which he played Mister X, the mysterious character who offered confidential information to attorney Garrison (Kevin Costner) regarding President Kennedy’s assassination. He was a former arsonist in Backdraft (Ron Howard, 1991), Kristy Swanson’s mentor in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Fran Rubel Kuzui, 1992) and Demi Moore’s protector in Disclosure (Barry Levinson, 1994). Also at that time, he worked under filmmakers such as Wolfgang Petersen (Outbreak, 1995), Joel Schumacher (A Time to Kill, 1996) and John Turteltaub (Instinct, 1999).
In Space Cowboys (2000) he donned a space suit to star in a tale of veteran astronauts alongside Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner and the film’s director, Clint Eastwood. In the same decade he participated in the remake of The Italian Job (F. Gary Gray, Velodrome, 2003); in the drama Cold Mountain (Anthony Minghella, 2003), for which Renée Zellweger landed an Academy Award; and in the new adaptation of Pride & Prejudice (Joe Wright, 2005).
One of Donald Sutherland’s best known roles in recent years is as President Snow, the main villain of The Hunger Games, the saga with actress Jennifer Lawrence heading the cast and of which four installments have been made. In La migliore offerta (The Best Offer, Giuseppe Tornatore, 2013) he was accompanied by Geoffrey Rush, and in the western Forsaken (Jon Cassar, 2015), he played the father of Kiefer Sutherland, his son too in real life. Two years ago, the Perlak section hosted the screening of The Leisure Seeker (Paolo Virzi, 2017), co-starred by Helen Mirren, and in a few days, director James Gray will present at the Venice Festival Ad astra, one of the latest works by the Canadian actor, who can be seen surrounded by Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones and Liv Tyler, among other performers.
THE BURNT ORANGE HERESY
GIUSEPPE CAPOTONDI (USA)
Cast: Donald Sutherland, Mick Jagger, Claes Bang, Elizabeth Debicki
Set in present day Italy, irresistibly charismatic art critic James Figueras hooks up with provocative and alluring fellow American, Berenice Hollis. He’s a classic anti-hero in the making with a charm that masks his ambition, whilst she’s an innocent touring Europe, enjoying the freedom of being whoever she wishes. The new lovers travel to the lavish and opulent Lake Como estate of powerful art collector, Cassidy. Their host reveals he is the patron of Jerome Debney (Sutherland), the reclusive J.D. Salinger of the art world, and he has a simple request: for James to steal a Debney masterpiece from the artist’s studio, whatever the cost. As the couple spend time with the legendary Debney, they start to realize that nothing about the artist nor their mission is what it seems. But James is a man of deep, lurking ambition and he will do anything, from arson and burglary to murder, in order to further his career.