Donald Sutherland

  1. David Tomlinson, Mary Poppins, 1963.       Richard Harris, James Mason, George Sanders  and Terry-Thomas were also  in the mix for Mr Banks in Walt Disney’s supercalifragilisticexpialidocious  version of PL Travers’ books –  an eight-Oscar triumph for Uncle Walt! This would have  been a major boost for a career barely begun. “I was always cast as an artistic homicidal maniac. But at least, I was artistic!”… spluttering through TV sketches with Terry-Thomas and Fortinbras in a tele Hamlet shot in the castle of Elsinore, itself.
  2. John Alderson,  Doctor Who #25: The Gunfighters, TV, 1966.     The first choice proved unavailable for Wyatt Earp when Doc1 William Hartnell was in Tombstone, Arizona, circa 1891.  Sutherlan’s sub was a true Brit (from County Durham) who had made many a TV and movie Western in Hollywood. 
  3. Rod Taylor, Zabriskie Point, 1970.        Italian style… Director Michelangelo Antonioni rejected him but two other Rome maestros, Bernardo Bertolucci and Federico Fellini, fell heavily for Sutherlan dsix years later… for Casanova.
  4. Dustin Hoffman, Straw Dogs, 1971.   Sutherland passed for “ideological reasons” (violence) and to make Paul Mazursky’s Alex In Wonderland. “And I was sooooo wrong.”  A (bad) Sam Peckinpah Western set in a Cornwall almost entirely inhabited by (violent) village  idiots. In  the mix for the (milque-toast) hero were Nicholson, Beau Bridges, Elliott Gould (booked by Ingmar Bergman for The Touch), Stacy Keach and  Sidney Poitier. They probably all agreed with Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert’s later review: “The most offensive thing about the movie is its hypocrisy; it is totally committed to the pornography of violence, but lays on the moral outrage with a shovel.”
  5. Jon Voight, Deliverance, 1972.      The studio “had very little confidence in the material,” said UK director John Boorman. He wanted Brando and Lee Marvin as Lewis and Ed. “We’re too old,” said Lee. (Not as aged as the mad notion of  Henry Fonda and James Stewart; the shoot,  along Georgia’s  mighty dangerous Chattooga River, would have killed ‘em).  When the idea of Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson represented half the $2m budget, the Warner suits looked at Charlton Heston,  George C Scott, and told Boorman: “Make it with nobodies for no money.”  “He came and virtually lived with me for two weeks and tried to persuade me to play the role.,” said Sutherland. “James Dickey [the author] was on the phone every day. But I didn’t want to do it because it was… violent!”   A bum move, he later agreed. 
  6. Walter Matthau, Charley Varrick, 1972.   You are Don Siegel. You make films with C lint Eastwood. You can’t get him this time.  So how do you replace Clint? With Walter Matthau or Donald Suthrland  of course!!!    Matthau worked well as the robber of small banks who suddenly has the biggest score of his life and realises his target was a drop for Mafia money-laundering.. Universal wanted a PG movie. So, Sutherland, sex and violence  turned off at the next exit. Cimino said it was the best film experience of his life. “I just didn’t know it at the time.”
  7. Burt Lancaster, Executive Action, 1973.       The first film to question the Warren Commission’s report into the JFK assassination was Sutherland’s baby.  As producer and star.  He ordered a scenario from Mark Lane and Donald Free, authors of Rush To Judgment and Secret Honour, but could not raise a budget. .  Old time partners rather than friends, Lancaster and Kirk Douglas sunk their own money into film hoping it would people skeptical.  Soon enough, it made them bored. Dalton Trumbo’s final script absolved the CIA – totally contrary to Sutherland’s take – and lacked the bravuva punch of  Oliver Stone’s JFK, 1991.. which feature Sutherland as Mr X.
  8. Robert Stephens, La nuit tous les chattes sont gris, France, 1977.    During their longstint on Bertolucci’s 1900, Sutherland agreed to co-star in the debut of French superstar Gérard Depardieu’s MAB Films – but final dates clashed.
  9. Judd Hirsch, Ordinary People, 1979.    Novelist Judith Guest’s anatomy of a family more in pain than love  reminded Robert Redford of “the missed signals” of his own upbringing, – it became  his directing debut. Paramount naturally wanted Redford to play the father. (D’oh!  When is Redford ordinary?) Ruling himself out, he  looked at Bruce Dern, Anthony Franciosa, and Ken Howard and decided on Sutherland – first up for the shrink, alongside  Richard Dreyfuss and Gene Hackman. But he wanted the father. Redford was surprised. “But I was also very touched by his directness. He wasn’t iffy, he laid it out and in that instant convinced meResult: ”An intelligent, perceptive, and deeply moving film,” said Chicago critic Roger Ebert.
  10. Nicol Williamson, Excalibur, 1981.        “He’s got his manic quality, this dangerous humour,”said UK director John Boorman. “So, he was a possibility for Merlin. He would’ve loved it but he was making Ordinary People. He’s the only actorI talked to it despite the rumours about Sean Connery, Lee Marvin and Max von Sydow.I didn’t know Nicol… We talked for anhour.He has a slightly eerie quality. Rather like Merlin, you feel he’s not quite human.”

  11. David Naughton, An American Werewolf In London, 1981.     Momentarily committed to John Landis’ would-be Hollywood debut, as he shopped around studios with Shlock under his arm. Talk about a sign of things to come…
  12. Mickey Rourke, The Year of the Dragon, 1984.   Sutherland was all lined up for scenarist Oliver Stone’s  tougher and more erotic version of Chinatown cop Stanley White. But then, MGM had a spare summer opening slot and director Michael Cimino had to accept making a PG movie. 
  13. Gene Hackman, No Way Out, 1986.  For his excellent thriller (labyrinthine and ingenious, said Roger Ebert) the under-praised Aussie director Roger Donaldson tried all ages for the villain politico. From James Caan and Al Pacino at 46 to Gregory Peck at 70. Plus James Coburn, Sean Connery, James Cromwell, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Dustin Hoffman, Tommy Lee Jones, Robert Mitchum, Donald Moffat, Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Burt Reynolds, Jason Robards Donald Sutherland and Jon Voight.   Hackman was 56.
  14. Sean Connery, Der Name der Rose/The Name of the Rose, France-Italy-West Germany, 1986.       Réalisateur Jean-Jacques Annaud was not keen on 007 as Umberto Eco’s medieval monk turned detective.  Columbia Pictures even refused financing if Connery was involved as his post-Bond star was imploding. Naturally, Brando topped Annaud’s further 14 ideas. Five Americans:  Robert De Niro (dropped when he insisted on a duel scene – with  real swords!), Frederic Forrest, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Roy Scheider; four Brits: Michael Caine, Albert Finney, Ian McKellen, Terence Stamp; two Canadians:  Sutherland and Christopher Plummer; plus the ,French Yves Montand, Irish Richard Harris  and Italian Vittorio Gassman.  Connery’s reading was the best and his career exploded anew. Two years later, he won his support Oscar for The Untouchables.
  15. Jack Nicholson, Batman, 1988.
  16. Derek Jacobi, Dead Again, 1990.     Sutherland and Maximilian Schell were early selections for the stuttering antiques dealer-cum-hypnotist Franklyn Madson. (Talk about giving the game away). Jacobi, of course, was was the definitive stutterer – as the Roman emperor in I, Claudius, TV, 1976. He used to be Kenneth Branagh’s mentor, acting teacher and director of his stage Hamlet, and this is the second of his five Branagh films.
  17. Burt Reynolds, Striptease, 1996.    Sutherland, Michael Caine and Gene Hackman refused the sleazy Congressman.    Eager for a comeback via hot cameos, Burt Reynolds agreed to audition.  “I knew I had to do something a little drastic. So I took my hair off and sent it sailing across the room.”  Like Connery in Wrong Is Right (aka The Man With The Deadly Lens), 1982. The difference being that  Sean did it in the film.
  18. Ian Holm, The Sweet Hereafter, 1997.        Booked  for the lawyer Mitchell Stephens, Sutherland had to leave the flawless fiilm. Holm was the literal eleventh hour (closer to midnight!) subsititute. Chicago critic Roger Ebert highly praised this “unflinching lament for the human condition.”
  19. Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine, 2005.  It was neck and neck between Arkin and Sutherland to be the Grandpa of a way better dysfunctional Hollywood family than per usual. You can hear either of them… “Fuck a lotta women kid, not just one woman, a lotta women.” Arkin won an Oscar. As did scenarist Michael Ardnt, ex-assistant to Matthew Broderick. original screenplay. Ardnt’s next credits included such pears as Toy Story 3, Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens!




 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  19