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The San Sebastian Film Festival honours Donald Sutherland with the Donostia Award for more than fifty years of excellent performances

The award will be presented prior to the screening of ‘The Burnt Orange Heresy’, a thriller directed by Giuseppe Capotondi


The Canadian Donald Sutherland will be honoured with a Donostia Award recognising his more than fifty years of excellent performances. The actor, who has participated in almost 200 productions, will attend the 67th edition of the San Sebastian Festival on Thursday 26 September to receive the accolade prior to the screening in the Kursaal of The Burnt Orange Heresy, a thriller directed by Giuseppe Capotondi. The film, with a cast featuring Mick Jagger, Claes Bang and Elizabeth Debicki will close the coming edition of the Venice Festival.

Capable of shining with the same intensity either as the lead character or in a supporting role, Sutherland has shown great talent when embodying dozens of characters, with no regard for genre: from drama to war movies, including thrillers, horror and science fiction films. Despite never having received a Hollywood Academy Award nomination for any of his myriad parts, in 2017 he was presented with an Honorary Academy Award for his acting career. In addition, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1978 and this year he was awarded the highest Canadian Honor, Companion of the Order of Canada.

Donald McNichol Sutherland was born in 1935 in Saint John, New Brunswick (Canada). Although he had planned to become an engineer, he finally decided to take up acting and started his career in numerous television series, particularly The Saint and The Avengers. Having made his big-screen debut with Il castello dei morti vivi (The Castle of the Living Dead, Warren Kiefer, 1964), an Italian horror production with Christopher Lee, he obtained his first major success with The Dirty Dozen (1967), Robert Aldrich’s classic war movie, alongside fellow cast members Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson and Telly Savalas. Sticking to the same genre, he went on to star in M.A.S.H. (Robert Altman, 1970), Kelly’s Heroes (Brian G. Hutton, 1970) and Johnny Got His Gun (Dalton Trumbo, 1971).

He was a private eye in Klute (Alan J. Pakula, 1971), for which Jane Fonda won an Academy Award; he morphed into a lustful seducer in Il Casanova di Federico Fellini (Fellini’s Casanova, Federico Fellini, 1976); put a face to the perverse fascist Attila Mellanchini in the immortal historical fresco Novecento (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1976), and played the lead part in the disturbing Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Philip Kaufman, 1978).

Worthy of mention in the following decade are feature films including the Academy Award-winning Ordinary People (Robert Redford, 1980), where he brought life to the head of a family devastated by the death of one of its members, and Eye of the Needle (1981), in which he was a Nazi spy. In his later works he performed alongside stars like Al Pacino (Revolution, Hugh Hudson, 1985), Sylvester Stallone (Lock Up, John Flynn, 1989) and Marlon Brando and Susan Sarandon (A Dry White Season, Euzhan Palcy, 1989).

Sutherland was among the impressive cast of JFK (Oliver Stone, 1991), in which he played Mister X, the mysterious character who offered confidential information to attorney Garrison (Kevin Costner) regarding President Kennedy’s assassination. He was a former arsonist in Backdraft (Ron Howard, 1991), Kristy Swanson’s mentor in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Fran Rubel Kuzui, 1992) and Demi Moore’s protector in Disclosure (Barry Levinson, 1994). Also at that time, he worked under the orders of filmmakers such as Wolfgang Petersen (Outbreak, 1995), Joel Schumacher (A Time to Kill, 1996) and John Turteltaub (Instinct, 1999).

In Space Cowboys (2000) he donned a space suit to star in a tale of veteran astronauts alongside Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner and the film’s director, Clint Eastwood. In the same decade he participated in the remake of The Italian Job (F. Gary Gray, Velodrome, 2003); in the drama Cold Mountain (Anthony Minghella, 2003), for which Renée Zellweger landed an Academy Award; and in the new adaptation of Pride & Prejudice (Joe Wright, 2005).

One of Donald Sutherland’s best known roles in recent years is as President Snow, the main villain of The Hunger Games, the saga with actress Jennifer Lawrence heading the cast and of which four instalments have been made. In La migliore offerta (The Best Offer, Giuseppe Tornatore, 2013) he was accompanied by Geoffrey Rush, and in the western Forsaken (Jon Cassar, 2015), he played the father of Kiefer Sutherland, his son too in real life. Two years ago, the Perlak section hosted the screening of The Leisure Seeker (Paolo Virzi, 2017), co-starred by Helen Mirren, and in a few days, director James Gray will present at the Venice Festival Ad astra, one of the latest works by the Canadian actor, who can be seen surrounded by Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones and Liv Tyler, among other performers.

In television, Sutherland is currently filming opposite Nicole Kidman in The Undoing, HBO’s six-episode limited series written by David E. Kelley and directed by Susanne Bier. He most recently starred as J. Paul Getty in director Danny Boyle’s series Trust (2018). He won both Emmy and Golden Globe awards as Best Supporting Actor for his performance in the HBO film Citizen X (1995) and the Golden Globe for his portrayal of Clark Clifford, advisor to President Lyndon B. Johnson, in the HBO historical drama Path to War (2002), directed by John Frankenheimer. Additional television credits include, among others, the international action crime series Crossing Lines (2013-2015) and the adaptation of Ken Follett’s bestseller The Pillars of the Earth (2010).

Donald Sutherland will receive the Donostia Award at a gala taking place on September 26 at 22:00 in the Kursaal, followed by the screening of The Burnt Orange Heresy, to be distributed in Spain by Filmax. Tickets are now available for purchase from the Festival website at a price of 45 euros.

The Burnt Orange Heresy

Giuseppe Capotondi  (USA)

Cast: Donald Sutherland, Mick Jagger, Claes Bang, Elizabeth Debicki

Set in present day Italy, irresistibly charismatic art critic James Figueras hooks up with provocative and alluring fellow American, Berenice Hollis. He’s a classic anti-hero in the making with a charm that masks his ambition, whilst she’s an innocent touring Europe, enjoying the freedom of being whoever she wishes. The new lovers travel to the lavish and opulent Lake Como estate of powerful art collector, Cassidy. Their host reveals he is the patron of Jerome Debney (Sutherland), the reclusive J.D. Salinger of the art world, and he has a simple request: for James to steal a Debney masterpiece from the artist’s studio, whatever the cost. As the couple spend time with the legendary Debney, they start to realise that nothing about the artist nor their mission is what it seems. But James is a man of deep, lurking ambition and he will do anything, from arson and burglary to murder, in order to further his career.

Tickets for the Donald Sutherland Donostia Award gala are now on sale at a price of 45 euros. The award will be presented prior to the screening of his latest film, ’The Burnt Orange Heresy’, on Saturday 26, in the Kursaal.

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