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Jane Fonda ‘heartbroken’ following death of co-star Donald Sutherland

The veteran star died on Thursday from a ‘long illness’.

Oscar-winner Jane Fonda has led tributes to her Klute co-star and former partner, Donald Sutherland, following his death at age 88.

The star of Ordinary People, M*A*S*H and The Hunger Games franchise died on Thursday from a “long illness” in Miami, Florida, his agent CAA said.

Kiefer Sutherland described his father as “one of the most important actors in the history of film” as he confirmed news of his death on Instagram.

“Never daunted by a role, good, bad or ugly. He loved what he did and did what he loved, and one can never ask for more than that. A life well lived,” the 24 star said.

Meanwhile, US actress Fonda shared an image of a younger Sutherland in a black-and-white photograph from their 1971 film Klute, which won her an Oscar for best actress.

“I am heartbroken,” she captioned the Instagram post.

Fonda and Sutherland dated for several years, and in 1971, they staged a travelling anti-war roadshow in front of US soldiers – a reaction to Bob Hope’s United Service Organisations (USO) tour for the troops amid the Vietnam War.

It was turned into a documentary titled FTA in 1972, capturing the anti-war sentiment of the era.

Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland
Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland in Klute (Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy)

“He was my fascinating co-star in Klute and we loved working together,” the Barbarella star said.

“Donald was a brilliant actor and a complex man who shared quite a few adventures with me, such as the FTA Show, an anti-Vietnam war tour that performed for 60,000 active duty soldiers, sailors, and marines in Hawaii, Okinawa, the Philippines, and Japan in 1971.”

Sutherland is perhaps best known as the womanising Captain Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce Jr in the 1970 film version of M*A*S*H and eventually became a leading campaigner against war.

His co-star Elliott Gould, who played the sarcastic Captain “Trapper” John Francis Xavier McIntyre, called Sutherland a “giant” of acting who was “enormously kind and generous” in a statement given to the PA news agency.

Gould recalled they were both “young fathers” when they worked together and said his death “really profoundly hurts because Donald was like my brother, and a big part of my own career”.

Donald Sutherland
Canadian actor Donald Sutherland arriving at London’s Heathrow Airport in September 1985 (David Parker/Alamy)

During his esteemed career, Sutherland won a Golden Globe for the TV movie Path To War for playing presidential adviser Clark Clifford, and a second for the mini-series Citizen X, which also earned him an Emmy Award.

He starred in the 1980 drama Ordinary People, which later won four Oscars, including best picture, supporting actor for Timothy Hutton, and best director for Robert Redford.

In 2017, Sutherland received an Academy Honorary Award for his acting but failed to get an Oscar nod during his lengthy career.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called him “truly a great Canadian artist”, after learning of his death during a news conference relating to a national school food programme.

While others paying tribute included British actress Dame Helen Mirren, who appeared alongside Sutherland in 2017’s The Leisure Seeker, following their 1990 drama Bethune: The Making Of A Hero.

Donald Sutherland and Dame Helen Mirren
Donald Sutherland and Dame Helen Mirren attend the photocall for The Leisure Seeker during the 74th Venice Film Festival in Venice (Paul Treadway/Alamy)

“Donald Sutherland was one of the smartest actors I ever worked with,” Dame Helen said in a statement given to PA.

“He had a wonderful enquiring brain, and a great knowledge on a wide variety of subjects. He combined this great intelligence with a deep sensitivity, and with a seriousness about his profession as an actor.

“This all made him into the legend of film that he became.”

Sutherland’s most recent roles included playing dictator President Coriolanus Snow in The Hunger Games film franchise and as a judge in the 2023 TV show Lawmen: Bass Reeves.

The official account for The Hunger Games film called him “the kindest man in the world” who portrayed “the most corrupt, ruthless dictator we’ve ever seen”.

https://x.com/TheHungerGames/status/1803899517403574543

Sutherland also had roles in thriller The Mechanic, Roman epic The Eagle, war film The Dirty Dozen, satire The Day Of The Locust, horror Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, drama Space Cowboys and period drama Pride & Prejudice.

In a post on X, British actress Brenda Blethyn, who played Sutherland’s wife, Mrs Bennet, in the 2005 film Pride & Prejudice, said working with him was a “joy” and that she was “so so sad to hear” of his death.

In 2012, Sutherland became a Commander of the Arts in France and was praised by the former French culture minister Frederic Mitterrand for his “extraordinary” career.

Sutherland was set to publish his memoir, Made Up, But Still True, later this year. The book explores his life-changing M*A*S*H role and his “far too many brushes with death.”

The actor had infantile paralysis and rheumatic fever before almost dying from spinal meningitis as a child and later left Canada for the UK to study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

Sutherland is survived by his wife Francine Racette, sons Roeg, Rossif, Angus, and Kiefer, daughter Rachel, and four grandchildren.

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