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Donald Sutherland - Biography

What Casanova star Donald Sutherland lacks in matinee idol looks he has more than made up for with magnetism. The tall, lean thespian has built up an unforgettable repertoire of scene-stealing roles opposite some of the silver screen's most famous beauties. His sizzling chemistry with then-girlfriend Jane in Klute and renowned love scene with Julie Christie in supernatural thriller Don't Look Now have become cinema classics.

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Donald's career took off after he landed a role in the 1967 flick The Dirty Dozen. Producer Ingo Preminger was impressed and cast him in another war movie, M*A*S*H*, as the irreverent lead Benjamin Franklin 'Hawkeye' Pierce. It made him an instant star. The prolific Canadian talent was born in Saint John, New Brunswick, on July 16, 1935, the son of Dorothy and Frederick McNichol Sutherland, who ran the local gas, electricity and bus company. At 14 he got his first job as a part-time news correspondent for a local radio station in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, going on to study engineering and drama at the University of Toronto. There he joined a campus comedy troupe and, upon graduating, set his sights on a performing career. After relocating to England he was accepted at the London's prestigious Academy of Music And Dramatic Art, but just 12 months into the three-year course he dropped out and went to work with the Perth Repertory Theatre where he remained for several years. In 1962 he made his TV debut in an episode of The Saint, making the transition to the big screen with horror flick Dr Terror's House Of Horrors. Following his big break in 1970's M*A*S*H*, Donald cemented his credentials in another war movie, Kelly's Heroes in which he played scene-stealing Oddball, a hippy tank commander. By now his love life was making headlines. He had divorced first wife, actress Lois Hardwicj, in 1966 after seven years of marriage and the same year wed another actress Shirley Douglas, daughter of Saskatchewan premier Tommy Douglas. The couple had two children together, twins Kiefer and Rachel, and became deeply involved in the left wing political scene. But in 1970 that marriage also ended after Donald struck up an affair with his beautiful Klute co-star and fellow anti-Vietnam War protester Jane Fonda. The affair certainly helped raise his profile, and he was at the height of his fame when he made some bad career decisions including turning down the role undertaken by Jon Voight in Deliverance. One of the films he said yes to Alien Thunder brought happiness, however, in introducing him to his third wife, French-Canadian actress Francine Racette. Donald and Shirley divorced in 1971, freeing him to marry Francine, with whom he now has three grown-up sons, the following year. Not all his Seventies films were as forgettable as S*P*Y*S. Memorable performances included a grieving father in Don't Look Now and psychopathic fascist Attila in Bertolucci's 1900. From the Eighties onwards he turned to more character roles, picking and choosing from some of the meatiest supporting parts going, such as Mister X in Oliver Stone's JFK. A supporting role in 1995 flick Citizen X brought an Emmy and Golden Globe, while his turn as an evil Major General in Outbreak also delivered criitical acclaim. In 1997 he was cast alongside son Kiefer Sutherland, also an actor, in the award winning A Time To Kill. Despite working non-stop since the Sixties Donald had no intention of slowing up post millennium. He continued to be cast in high-profile, big-budget movies such as Cold Mountain, the re-make of The Italian Job and Pride And Prejudice. In 2005 he followed in the footsteps of his 24 star son and, aged 70, appeared in a TV series, Commander In Chief with Geena Davis. When that wound up a year later he took on the role of family patriarch Tripp Darling in prime-time ABC network series Dirty Sexy Money. The New Brunswick native, who has a lakefront home in Quebec's Eastern Townships, still loves the thrill of film-making apparently, travelled to New Zealand in 2007 to make Fool's Gold with Kate Hudson. "I have never planned anything," he told one interviewer. "I have been doing this job for over 50 years. I have been paid to work with some wonderful people and it has been a hug gift to me. I love grabbing my wife and going to a distant location to film."

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