A Touch of magic

Playing the fa­ther of a spe­cial needs boy in his lat­est TV show has led to a bit of soul-search­ing for ac­tor Kiefer Suther­land, writes Dar­ren Devlyn

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Front Page -

FAME can be se­duc­tive, but for many it can prove self-de­struc­tive. Hol­ly­wood is lit­tered with ac­tors who have had big pro­files and big­ger pay pack­ets, but strug­gled to keep their lives on the rails.

Kiefer Suther­land has seen con­tem­po­raries cursed by fame that pos­si­bly came too soon.

Many of the so-called Brat Pack who shone along­side him in the ’ 80s — Emilio Es­tevez, An­thony Michael Hall, Lou Di­a­mond Phillips, An­drew McCarthy, Judd Nel­son, Molly Ring­wald and Ally Sheedy — have since had ca­reers that fizzed com­pletely or splut­tered like sec­ond-hand lawn­mow­ers.

Part of the se­cret to longevity, Suther­land says, is not plac­ing too much stock in your own hype.

As the star of films in­clud­ing The Lost Boys, Flat­lin­ers and The Three Mus­ke­teers, he dis­cov­ered what it was like to be ego-stroked.

Suther­land, how­ever, has also seen the show­biz pen­du­lum swing the other way. Be­fore es­pi­onage drama 24 re­vived his ca­reer and made him su­per-rich, his prospects had plum­meted.

A de­pressed Suther­land left Tin­sel­town, mov­ing to his ranch near Santa Mon­ica.

He spent the best part of two years com­pet­ing in rodeos, un­til the role of agent Jack Bauer in 24 re­stored his cred­i­bil­ity and bank ac­count — he al­legedly pock­eted a cool $40 mil­lion for the fi­nal three sea­sons of the show.

He loved playing Bauer, but when the cur­tain came down on the se­ries he felt no in­cli­na­tion to take on an­other pun­ish­ing TV sched­ule.

He was do­ing a play on Broad­way and felt he fi­nally had his free­dom back when He­roes cre­ator Tim Kring and the orig­i­nal pro­duc­ers of 24 ap­proached him with a script for a new show, Touch.

He says his imag­i­na­tion was cap­tured by the idea of playing strug­gling bag­gage han­dler and sin­gle dad Martin Bohm, whose spe­cial needs son, Jake (David Ma­zouz), has never spo­ken but seems able to pre­dict the fu­ture. ‘‘ I was very guarded, but read the script mainly out of re­spect for the peo­ple in­volved,’’ Suther­land says. ‘‘ I got to page 30 and thought, ‘ oh s..., I’m in trou­ble be­cause I’m fully in love with this script’.’’

Suther­land has spent enough time in the ca­reer wilder­ness to not com­plain about the life­style of a prime­time star. But he does stress there is a pres­sure in be­ing a TV drama lead­ing man.

A net­work has in­vested heav­ily in you. The hopes, and earn­ing po­ten­tial, of a cast and crew hang largely on you when you are the show’s draw­card. If the show fails and peo­ple who work with you are sud­denly un­em­ployed, it is easy to feel like it’s your fault and that you didn’t do enough to make the show suc­cess­ful.

‘‘ My mem­o­ries of 24 are of when it was a well-oiled ma­chine,’’ Suther­land says.

‘‘ You for­get about what it’s like to be ner­vous (at the be­gin­ning) . . . ohmy God, what ON­LINE Our iPad spe­cial re­port looks at the Brat Pack ac­tors who have made head­lines for all the wrong rea­sons. if no­body watches? All those fears come to the fore. We’ve been so re­lieved that peo­ple are en­joy­ing the show.’’

Part of the show’s ap­peal to Suther­land was that he iden­ti­fied strongly with the role of guilt-rid­den par­ent.

He has been mar­ried and di­vorced twice and has a daugh­ter and three stepchil­dren. His fa­ther, ac­tor Don­ald, di­vorced his mother, Shirley Dou­glas, when Kiefer was four and he was largely raised by Dou­glas.

‘‘ Af­ter read­ing it, and cer­tainly dur­ing the playing of it (char­ac­ter), I re­alised how many things I had taken for granted with my chil­dren, and how un­be­liev­ably lucky I was,’’ Suther­land says.

‘‘ The scene that stuck out to me the most was when I (Martin) was telling him (screen son) about a base­ball game. Be­cause be­hind all that were the dreams of be­ing able to play catch with my son, and take him to a base­ball game, and be able to very self­ishly try to mould him into a smaller me, but bet­ter.

‘‘ That mo­ment broke my heart be­cause I thought, what would it be like not to be able to hug my daugh­ter when I put her to bed.’’

Do some home­work on Suther­land and you won’t read much about his role as a dad. Head­lines sug­gest he’s a man who at times has needed more than a lit­tle help from his friends to get home safely from a bar.

He’s com­fort­able with the level of me­dia cov­er­age he re­ceives, even if some of it is un­flat­ter­ing.

‘‘ I like peo­ple and peo­ple have been re­ally nice to me.

‘‘ It doesn’t mean I don’t do stupid things on my own, but I would have done those re­gard­less of what I do for a liv­ing,’’ he says.

‘‘ I was lucky to have my fa­ther be­ing my fa­ther.

‘‘ If I went to a base­ball game with my dad peo­ple would ask for an au­to­graph.

‘‘ I knew that was part of it if you were lucky enough to be­come suc­cess­ful.’’ Touch, Chan­nel 10, Sun­day, 8.30pm

Re­flec­tive: Kiefer Suther­land with his Touch co-star David Ma­zouz.

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