Donald Sutherland’s big break came in Robert Aldrich’s The Dirty Dozen, when co-star Clint Walker refused to play a scene—as Sutherland explained to the Daily Telegraph:
‘...Clint Walker sticks up his hand and says, ‘Mr Aldrich, as a representative of the Native American people, I don’t think it’s appropriate to do this stupid scene where I have to pretend to be a general.’ Aldrich turns and points to me and says, ‘You — with the big ears. You do it’....It changed my life.’
“Big Ears” was born Donald McNichol Sutherland in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, in July 1935. He moved to England in the late 1950s, where he briefly studied at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, leaving after 9 months to start his professional career as an actor. Sutherland was soon acting in various BBC plays, and guest starring in episodes of such cult TV series as The Saint and The Avengers. Sutherland also co-starred with Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Michael Gough in the classic Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, where he played a newly-wed doctor who suspects his wife is a vampire. After a stint in repertory theater, including 2 disastrous productions, Sutherland’s career seemed stalled. The Dirty Dozen changed that.
During the 1970s, Sutherland made some of the most iconic and seminal films of the decade, including M*A*S*H (a film he originally hated), Kelly’s Heroes (which nearly cost him his life), Klute, Little Murders (a cameo), the unforgettable Don’t Look Now, The Day of the Locust (as the original Homer Simpson), 1900, Casanova, The Eagle Has Landed and National Lampoon’s Animal House.
When asked on the set of Bear Island, in 1979, if he considered himself a star, Sutherland replied that Peter O’Toole is a star, as he has that certain something, while he just makes a lot of movies. Personally, I’d beg to differ. Sutherland gives a brief history of his career, discussing the highlights M*A*S*H, working with Fellini on Casanova and the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Some man, some talent, some head of hair.
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With thanks to NellyM