Why I WON’T BE CRYING Over Donald Sutherland

Sutherland had so much charisma that he could have shared it with the rest of the bland cast in the films he starred in, and he would still have been number one.

Jakub Piwoński

22 June 2024

I won’t write anything like “Donald Sutherland was a great actor” here, because that kind of farewell seems trite to me. I also have the impression that this particular actor did not crave applause and titles. His on-screen personality spoke for itself.

I’m not sorry that I won’t see him anymore. This is not one of those cases where one feels sad upon hearing that someone has passed away. There are two reasons for this. Truthfully, I’m not saying goodbye to Sutherland at all. The man left behind such a vast body of work that it will be a great pleasure to finally catch up on a few shameful omissions. Sure, it’s a pity he won’t add anything more, but let’s be honest – such a career is something to envy. Bravo!

Active until the very end, he didn’t slow down and didn’t succumb to old age. He lived a beautiful 88 years and throughout his career appeared in more or less top-tier productions. Recently, he was also involved with the world of television series. He wasn’t afraid of genre divisions or character nuances – he played positive and negative roles, could make us laugh and frighten us. A versatile actor with enormous charisma. He had so much of it that he could have shared it with the rest of the lackluster cast in the films he starred in, and he would still have been number one.


This charisma is precisely the second reason why I’m not particularly saddened by the news of his passing. Sutherland often portrayed such powerful, almost hypnotic individuals on screen that it was easy to feel that his presence was often more important than the film’s content itself. I think the secret of his acting lay in his face. That kind of penetrating gaze, that truly basilisk-like expression, to me, seemed like a divine spark; a gift received from fate, perfectly utilized in the service of acting. This is also why his son Kiefer will never match his father – his face is much softer, more ordinary, far less expressive.

For this reason, I feel that Donald Sutherland was a guy who melded so much with his on-screen Machiavellianism that he became its personification. I don’t believe he was afraid of death, so it doesn’t befit me to weep for him. If there is an attitude capable of banishing evil demons with a look and mocking death, it was exhibited by Sutherland, who looked and acted as if he floated above fear. For this reason, it was impossible to take your eyes off him.

Pop culture will remember him from The Hunger Games, tabloids from his affair with Jane Fonda, critics will remember him from Klute or MASH, while I will remember him from Eye of the Needle and a bit from Invasion of the Body Snatchers due to my fondness for science fiction. He will always evoke associations in everyone.


It’s incredible that over his entire career, he appeared in almost two hundred films (sic!), creating more or less significant roles, but always with that element of uniqueness resulting from his natural charisma. Surprisingly, he never received an Oscar nomination (though he did receive an honorary statue). However, I believe he was one of those actors who didn’t crave applause, titles, or success. In fact, I even feel that he didn’t crave audience sympathy. His roles often evoked unpleasant emotions. But he made use of that. He worked with what he was best known for, consistently, sometimes repeating himself, but always evoking some sort of emotion.

I don’t know how much I got caught up in the illusion that Sutherland so effectively created. I doubt he could have so effectively built his brand and image as an incredibly persuasive scoundrel if he didn’t somewhat identify with that element. Therefore, you can’t cry for him, when right now he’s probably negotiating his next role with death. From now on, he will be her angel.

Jakub Piwoński

Jakub Piwoński

Cultural expert, passionate about popular culture, in particular films, series, computer games and comics. He likes to fly away to unknown, fantastic regions, thanks to his fascination with science fiction. Professionally, however, he looks back more often, thanks to his work as a museum promotion specialist, investigating the mysteries of the beginnings of cinematography. His favorite film is "The Matrix", because it combines two areas close to his heart - religion and martial arts.

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