Donald Sutherland, ‘MASH’, ‘Hunger Games’, and ‘Ordinary People’ actor, has died at 88

Donald Sutherland, the iconic actor renowned for his roles in The Hunger Games and countless other films and TV series, has passed away at the age of 88. Known for his distinctive voice and commanding screen presence, Sutherland’s death marks the end of a remarkable era in film history.

Sutherland, perhaps best known to younger audiences as the villainous President Snow in the Hunger Games series, died peacefully in Miami following a long illness. His death was confirmed on Thursday, June 20 by Missy Davy from CAA.

“A private celebration of life will be held by the family,” Davy shared, reflecting the actor’s wish for an intimate remembrance among those closest to him.

Donald Sutherland is survived by his five children, including his actor son Kiefer Sutherland, and five grandchildren. His family, including his two ex-wives, Shirley Douglas and Lois Hardwick, and his long-time partner and wife, actress Francine Racette, remember him fondly. Sutherland and Racette were married in 1972 and together they raised children Roeg, Rossif, and Angus. His daughter Rachel Sutherland, from his marriage to Douglas, also survives him.

Throughout his career, Sutherland delivered unforgettable performances. His role as Mr. Bennet in the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley, and his portrayal of Hawkeye Pierce in the 1970 classic M*A*S*H are just a few examples. His standout roles included parts in Ordinary People (1980) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978). His final lasting impression was his portrayal of President Snow in the Hunger Games series.

In recent years, Sutherland continued to show his versatility with notable performances in TV series such as The Undoing, Trust, and Swimming with Sharks.

Sutherland’s talent was widely recognized. He won an Emmy for the 1995 TV movie Citizen X and received an Honorary Academy Award in 2017 for a lifetime of indelible characters rendered with unwavering truthfulness. Despite never being nominated for a competitive Oscar, his career, which truly took off after 1967’s The Dirty Dozen, was celebrated by both peers and fans.

In his acceptance speech for the Honorary Academy Award, Sutherland noted, “This award is very important to me, to my family.”

Reflecting on his career, he expressed profound gratitude: “It’s like a door has opened and a cool, wonderfully fresh breath of air has come in. I wish I could say thank you to all of the characters I’ve played, thank them for using their lives to inform my life.”

He also paid a heartfelt tribute to his wife, Francine Racette: “And, of course, thank you to Francine Racette, from whom everything has come—that’s my family—from whom everything has come, and to whom everything is owed. I have been a partner to her for over 45 years, and in all that, she has supported me with her intelligence, her intuition, her instruction, her ability to make me laugh in the direst of situations, her extraordinary sense of taste, her residual belief in me.”

He continued, adding how Racette’s strength astounded him, “Amongst all of these, her ability to absorb and sustain the extraordinary ups and downs of this crazy movie life we have gone through. I mean, she deserves a medal for that. So, Francine, I’m going to get you a medal.”

Kiefer Sutherland reflected on his father’s broad career in an interview with The Guardian in 2022: “It’s hard to think of another actor who’s been as prolific and made films as diverse as Ordinary People, Don’t Look Now, Fellini’s Casanova, Bertolucci’s 1900, and The Hunger Games. His influence was to make my career as diversified and interesting as possible, which he taught me by doing, not by saying, which was really cool.”

Reflecting on his iconic role in The Hunger Games, Sutherland shared in a 2014 Variety interview how he didn’t anticipate the impact it would have. He recounted how fans, especially young ones, would constantly ask for photos. He jokingly noted, “Usually, right before the picture is taken the young woman will say, ‘Why do you look so mean?’” He also vividly recalled when he first realized the franchise’s significance: “I was at my dermatologist, and she asked me what I was doing next. I told her I was about to do something called The Hunger Games. She gasped and started calling everyone into the room, and they all came running. That was my first inkling it might be something big.”