Don­ald Sutherland On Alzheimer’s and run­ning off with He­len Mir­ren

ZOOMER Magazine - - CONTENTS MARCH 2018 -

THINK OF as a road trip movie for the life well­trav­elled set, less and more “Don­nie and the Dame.” That’s Canuck act­ing leg­end Don­ald Suther­land, 82, and Dame He­len Mir­ren, 72, who play a mar­ried cou­ple bat­tling Alzheimer’s and can­cer re­spec­tively and who break from the shack­les of their daily rou­tines to peel off in their camper van for one fi­nal ad­ven­ture. MIKE CRISO­LAGO: Why are hope­ful films about aging im­por­tant? DON­ALD SUTHER­LAND: There is a hope­ful­ness in be­ing old if you get out there a lit­tle bit. If you stick your­self in a cor­ner and don’t move, it just gets worse and worse. I work be­cause it’s a pas­sion­ate endeavour. I don’t know what it’d be like to re­tire but I guess just so long as you don’t give up. MC: He­len Mir­ren said she en­joyed spend­ing hours in a camper van with you. DS: All I can tell you is that, one day, we were driv­ing along the road, and they were film­ing be­hind us. And I turned to her and said, “What if we just go?” And she said, “Could we?” And I said, “Should we?” And she said, “Prob­a­bly not.” And then we ac­cel­er­ated and, sud­denly, the [pro­duc­tion peo­ple are] go­ing, “Slow down!” So the temp­ta­tion was there, al­ways. MC: What sort of re­search did you do for your role? DS: My mother had de­men­tia ... but prob­a­bly the most in­flu­en­tial as­pect of my prepa­ra­tion was an or­gan­i­sa­tion called Pines of Sara­sota. They train care­givers for Alzheimer’s and de­men­tia pa­tients. They have cour­ses, video demon­stra­tions ... and by study­ing that, I got the re­verse. MC: Does play­ing a char­ac­ter like this make you con­sider your own fu­ture pur­suits? DS: You’d hope that I would learn some­thing from some­thing but I never do. I just keep go­ing as if noth­ing’s go­ing to change, and then a foot falls off. MC: You re­ceived an hon­ourary Os­car at the Gover­nors Awards in Novem­ber. What does that mean to you? DS: It has been the most en­cour­ag­ing, won­der­ful [ex­pe­ri­ence]. Francine, my wife, and I were in Rome. We’re sit­ting on the bal­cony and we have a bot­tle of wa­ter and two plates of spaghetti mari­nara. And the phone rings. I an­swered it, and a voice says, “Don­ald, it’s John Bai­ley.” He said, “I have been made pres­i­dent of the Acad­emy of Mo­tion Pic­ture Arts and Sciences.” And I said, “Con­grat­u­la­tions.” He said, “No, no, no. I’m phon­ing to con­grat­u­late you.” It was thrilling. And I said, “Speak to Francine.” He spoke to Francine. And then we hung up and ate spaghetti mari­nara.

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