Like father, like son

Don­ald and Kiefer Suther­land work to­gether, shar­ing scenes and a bloodline, in the western film For­saken.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MOVIES - By SU­SAN KING

AS a young boy in an act­ing fam­ily, Kiefer Suther­land didn’t re­alise how big a star his father, Don­ald, was in Hol­ly­wood.

The se­ri­ous- minded ac­tor, best known as tough- nosed agent Jack Bauer on the long- run­ning se­ries 24, was in his late teens when he fi­nally got the op­por­tu­nity to see Don­ald Suther­land’s 1970s- era movies.

“Grow­ing up, I couldn’t watch my dad’s films be­cause they were re­stricted,” said the 49- year- old Suther­land in a joint in­ter­view in Los An­ge­les with his dad. His dad’s films were ground­break­ing but meant for an adult au­di­ence.

His mother, Shirley Dou­glas, and Suther­land di­vorced in 1970. “Ob­vi­ously, I would see him for Christ­mas or see him for the sum­mer. But I didn’t grow up with him. I grew up with my mum – the early years here and there in Canada.”

Suther­land was stay­ing at a fam­ily friend’s house who had all the tapes of his father’s films. And over the course of a week­end, he watched his dad in some of his sem­i­nal films such as 1976’ s 1900 and Fellini’s Casanova; 1973’ s Don’t Look Now; 1970’ s MASH and Kelly’s He­roes.

Watch­ing those films were a rev­e­la­tion for the teenage Suther­land. “I knew he was a fa­mous ac­tor, but I didn’t know how pro­lific he was. I didn’t know how di­verse all of those char­ac­ters were.”

Suther­land even called his father to apol­o­gise for not know­ing his mag­ni­tude of his ca­reer.

“He was very sweet,” re­called Kiefer of their con­ver­sa­tion. “I kind of al­ways thought that was the be­gin­ning of what I re­mem­ber our re­la­tion­ship to be.”

The two have wanted to work to­gether for decades. Kiefer Suther­land has a blink- or- miss part in his father’s 1983 com­edy, Max Dugan Re­turns, and the two starred in 1996’ s A Time To Kill, but they never shared screen time. Un­til now. The Sutherlands play an es­tranged father and son in the western For­saken.

Kiefer Suther­land’s John Henry Clay­ton is for­mer gun­slinger who has given up his guns and hopes to mend fences with his es­tranged father, the Rev. Clay­ton. But John Henry may be forced to strap on his guns again be­cause a vi­o­lent gang is ter­ror­is­ing ranch­ers into sell­ing their land be­fore the rail­road ar­rives.

The film also re­unites Kiefer Suther­land with di­rec­tor Jon Cas­sar, who worked on the first seven sea­sons of 24, and writer Brad Mir­man, who also worked with him on his 2011 Web se­ries, The Con­fes­sion.

It was Kiefer Suther­land who came up with the idea to turn the 1953 western clas­sic Shane on its ear.

“I talked to Brad and Jon about it – what if you in­verted Shane? In­stead of a gun­slinger find­ing a lit­tle boy and be­ing brought into a fam­ily, what if the gun­slinger is com­ing back to his own fam­ily?”

Mak­ing For­saken was a much more emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence for Kiefer Suther­land than he ini­tially thought.

“As much as I planned as an ac­tor that this is what I want to do with the char­ac­ter, I was not ex­pect­ing how pow­er­ful it was go­ing to be when I looked into my father’s eyes,” he said, glanc­ing over at Don­ald.

When it came time for John Henry to break down in his father’s church, Kiefer Suther­land “knew what was go­ing to hap­pen. We did that in the very first take. That is not how I would nor­mally work as an ac­tor. I feel it out on the first take and kind of move up. So there was a lot of plan­ning.”

Don­ald Suther­land looked sur­prised at his son’s rev­e­la­tion. “Did you plan?” he asked him.

“I did,” said his son. “There was some­thing about my dad be­ing there that was a real trig­ger for me.”

“I don’t plan,” Don­ald Suther­land said. “That’s re­ally in­ter­est­ing.”

Kiefer Suther­land posed a ques­tion to his dad about his per­for­mance as the crazy pla­toon com­man­der Od­dball in Kelly’s He­roes.

“There is no way in my opin­ion you could up with the di­ver­sity of char­ac­ter of Od­dball with­out hav­ing thought about that and planned it,” he said to his father.

“Hey,” re­joined Don­ald Suther­land forcibly. “Not only did I not think about it, I had been in the hos­pi­tal at Char­ing Cross ( in Lon­don) with spinal menin­gi­tis, dy­ing. They sent a wire to Shirley and said, ‘ Don’t come, we’ll send the body back.’ I was in a coma.”

A still frag­ile Suther­land even­tu­ally re­turned to the shoot in Yu­goslavia. “I had no idea how this sound came out of Od­dball’s mouth,” Suther­land said. “It wasn’t any­thing I had thought or planned. Ev­ery time ( di­rec­tor) Brian Hut­ton would say ‘ cut,’ I would break into tears and I’d say is that all right?”

Don­ald Suther­land hasn’t been more vul­ner­a­ble on screen than in a scene in For­saken where he breaks down un­con­trol­lably in front of John Henry.

“When I learned the lines, the char­ac­ter started to weep,” he noted. “It was his dis­cov­ery of his love for his son.”

His son re­called that “you asked Jon and me, ‘ Is there a point where you think it would be too much?’ and Jon said ‘ no.’ ”

It was around the same time that Kiefer Suther­land was dis­cov­er­ing his father’s films that Don­ald Suther­land learned just how tal­ented his son was, re­call­ing a time Kiefer was vis­it­ing him at his house in Brent­wood, Los An­ge­les.

“He came to my bed­room and said, ‘ I have an au­di­tion that I have to do to­mor­row,’” Don­ald Suther­land said. “‘ Do you mind if I do it for you?’ I say, ‘ Great. Do it.’ He is at the end of the bed and he does it. He’s fan­tas­tic. He says, ‘ That’s the way they want me to do it. Could I do it for you the way I want to do it?’ ”

Don­ald Suther­land be­gun to breathe heav­ily and was strug­gling to hold back the tears from the mem­ory.

“I said, ‘ Yeah, OK.’ And he did it. It was breath­tak­ing. It was true. It was pure. It was like an epiphany. I couldn’t breathe.”

He looked over at his son. “I can’t breathe.”

Nei­ther re­mem­ber what the au­di­tion was for. “But it was mov­ing as you can get,” Don­ald Suther­land said. “It was won­der­ful.”

— AP

Don­ald Suther­land, 80, and his son Kiefer, 49, have nearly 275 com­bined cred­its and 85 years of ex­pe­ri­ence be­tween them. Yet they only have shared the screen three times.

— Mo­men­tum Pic­tures

In For­saken, Don­ald and Kiefer fi­nally play father and son. Kiefer said he was caught off guard by how look­ing into his father’s eyes would ef­fect a scene.

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