Old interview reveals why Donald Sutherland never sought American citizenship

Donald Sutherland, who died on Thursday at 88 after a long illness, opened up in one of his last interviews on his reasons for never seeking a dual Canadian and American citizenship.

“Because we don’t have the same sense of humour. It’s true. We don’t. I’m a Canadian through and through,” Sutherland said on the CBC radio show Q with Tom Power in March.

Sutherland, whose film career spanned seven decades, was born in New Brunswick, Canada, on 17 July 1935.

In the interview, he remembered an incident with an American border guard who asked why the actor didn’t get an American passport to help him travel across the border easily.

“Anyway, I love the country. I’m very, very proud that they gave me a stamp,” Sutherland said, referring to Canada’s postal service releasing a commemorative stamp to honour the actor’s career.

“Do you know that [the stamp] goes everywhere in this country and abroad? That puts me on letters that go everywhere. I love it. I am so touched by it,” he added.

Sutherland’s death was announced by his son, 24 star Kiefer Sutherland, who posted a photo on social media on Thursday and wrote: “With a heavy heart, I tell you that my father, Donald Sutherland, has passed away.

“I personally think one of the most important actors in the history of film. Never daunted by a role, good, bad or ugly. He loved what he did and did what he loved, and one can never ask for more than that. A life well lived.”

Sutherland started his career in the theatre and had a handful of minor roles on British television before his first film role in the 1964 Italian horror The Castle of the Living Dead.

His breakout came in 1967 when he joined the ensemble cast of Robert Aldrich’s war film, The Dirty Dozen. Shortly after this, Sutherland landed one of his most memorable roles as “Hawkeye” Pierce in Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H*, the 1970 comedy about medics in the Korean War.

He is also known to younger audiences from his portrayal of President Snow, the main antagonist of The Hunger Games film franchise, which ran from 2012 to 2015.

Donald Sutherland and Nicole Kidman in The Undoing (Sky)
Donald Sutherland and Nicole Kidman in The Undoing (Sky)

Sutherland continued to work well into the later years of his life, in films like Ad Astra in 2019 and Moonfall in 2022, as well as television series like ABC’s Dirty Sexy Money, Starz miniseries The Pillars of the Earth, and HBO’s 2020 miniseries The Undoing.

During the Vietnam War, he, Fonda, Peter Boyle and Howard Hesseman put together a travelling revue called FTA (Free the Army, popularly known as F*** the Army). Documents declassified in 2017 show that Sutherland was on the National Security Agency watchlist between 1971 and 1973 at the request of the Central Intelligence Agency because of his anti-war activities.

He was married three times, first to Lois May Hardwick from 1959 to 1966, then Shirley Douglas from 1966 to 1970 (with whom he shared twins Kiefer and Rachel) and finally to French Canadian actress Francine Racette.

Sutherland is survived by Racette; sons Roeg, Rossif, Angus, and Kiefer; daughter Rachel; and four grandchildren. A private celebration of his life will be held by the family.