The apple, as they say, doesn’t fall far from the tree. Not only has Kiefer Sutherland followed the famous footsteps of his parents, Donald Sutherland and Shirley Douglas, into the acting biz but he seems to have also inherited some of the fire of his grandfather.
When I compliment Sutherland on his glasses, a pair of retro-looking heavy frames, his passion flares.
“In the 30’s Roosevelt made a deal between Moscot and the federal government,” he says. “Anybody who needed glasses during the great depression got these glasses for free. They made millions of them. So anyone who says there was never a National Healthcare in the States is a liar. That was the first national healthcare program where they provided glasses for free for the entire country.”
Echoes of his grandfather, Tommy Douglas the father of Canadian health care, hang in the air.
He’s equally passionate when he speaks of his admiration for his latest director, Lars Von Trier, the controversial filmmaker behind Melancholia.
“I have a great affection for Lars,” he says. “I’ve done eighty some odd films. I’ve done one hundred and ninety eight episodes of 24, which is the equivalent of another 100 movies and this was the most unique experience I’ve had as an actor.”
Von Trier, the outspoken Danish director broke down the way his actors were used to working, doing away with lengthy rehearsals and traditional blocking.
Sutherland explains how, on his first day of shooting, Von Trier threw him and co-star into a complicated scene. “He walks Charlotte Gainsbourg and I to a door. He says, ‘OK this is the room. I want you to play this scene on the other side of this door. We’re all set and ready to go, and you just go do it. ‘
When Sutherland objected Von trier told him to, “Stop talking.”
“We went and did the scene and he deconstructed everything I’ve learned as a technical actor,” he says. “John Hurt has my favorite line in the entire movie. He’s dancing and I’m walking with all the drinks for the table. As I walk by he says, ‘I have no idea what I’m doing!’ We all felt like that. I don’t know what I’m doing either! And that’s exactly how Lars wanted it. That was the spirit of it.
“It’s something that I will carry with me for the rest of my career.”