‘As we get older, society views us as more disposable’

Some conversations stay with you for ever. Like the one Kiefer Sutherland had with his pal and fellow actor Robert Downey Jr more than 30 years ago.

Already roommates, they had just been cast in the Vietnam War film 1969“Which was not a great movie by any stretch”, he says.

“We’re at a friend’s place. I remember we were bouncing up and down in the pool and talking about what we were going to do. I don’t know how the conversation began, but I remember telling Bobby, ‘If we can just make it to 40, if we don’t screw it up so bad… then we’ll work for ever.’ “

Sutherland, now a healthy-looking 55, was spot on. “It’s ironic when I think how well Bobby has done since 40,” he says. Sutherland may not have enjoyed quite the comic book-driven good fortune of his friend di lui – Downey Jr has played Iron Man in nine Marvel blockbusters – but there can be few complaints.

A mainstay of the Hollywood Brat Pack in the 80s, notably in the Young Guns films, he enjoyed a renaissance at the turn of the millennium when he played counter-terrorism agent Jack Bauer in the nerve-shredding series 24. From decapitating suspects to driving off multi-storey car parks, there wasn’t much he didn’t do.

The show came around “at a time when the dynamic of television was changing”, he says. “And I certainly didn’t see that coming. I was just in the right place at the right time. ” Indeed, Sutherland got in the door just as the golden age of television began.

He returned to TV with 2016’s Designated Survivor, playing at low-level US politician elevated to president after an explosion wipes out his superiors.

For those of us who grew up on Sutherland as a young movie star, though, it is heartening to see him back in a feature film, The Contractora thriller with Chris Pine that hits Prime Video in early May.

It is directed by Tarik Saleh (whose other new movie, Boy from Heavenhas just been selected for Cannes’ competition), and deals in the murky world of private contracting – where real-life companies such as Blackwater operate from the within shadows of the American military.

“A lot of people [will] have their eyes opened to a world that they just might not know about, ”says Sutherland.

He plays the resolute, hard-as-nails Rusty Jennings, who uses his coffee-bean empire as a cover for covert Black Ops. He hires Pine’s character, James Harper – a discharged Special Forces soldier desperate for work – for a mission to Berlin that soon goes south.

Kiefer Sutherland performs live on stage at Fabrique Milano (Photo: Elena Di Vincenzo / Mondadori Portfolio / Getty)

It has a Jason Bourne vibe about it – espionage, gun play, and frenetic chases – though Sutherland argues it is a little different.

“It separates itself from a straight-up action movie, because it deals with things that are actually very moving.”

Like what? “As we get older, we kind of feel less important. Society views us as more disposable, ”he says. He is alluding to the way Harper is dumped out of the military after a minor infraction, despite di lei loyal service di lei.

Sutherland is Zooming from his kitchen, dressed in a white T-shirt revealing multiple tattoos up his arms (including Mickey Mouse holding a Tommy Gun).

He might not look it, but he is from genuine Hollywood stock – the son of Canadian actors Donald Sutherland and Shirley Douglas, who died last year. His 86-year-old father is still working – soon to be seen in Hollywood satire Swimming with Sharks alongside Diane Kruger.

“Yeah, he doesn’t stop. You always worry about the time when someone like that does stop – that something would be terribly, terribly wrong. “

He’s fiercely proud of his father’s remarkable film legacy, and has co-starred with him more than once, most recently in 2015 western Forsaken.

“He’s still the only actor that I’ve actually ever worked with that I got caught looking at.” It was while they were filming a scene in Forsaken. “He was doing something – and I can’t even remember what it was – that I found just fascinating. I was kind of watching him like a student. And then there was this long pause. It was like, ‘Oh shit! That’s me! ‘ And I had to say, ‘Sorry!’ I forgot what I was supposed to do. “

Born in London, Sutherland grew up in Toronto with his mother after his parents divorced in 1970. In his mid-teens, he made his screen debut in Neil Simon’s 1983 comedy Max Dugan Returns – which also starred his father – before going on an incredible streak of hits in his early twenties: Stand by Me, The Lost Boys, Flatliners (with Julia Roberts, to whom he was engaged until she called the wedding off at the 11th hour), and A Few Good Menwith Tom Cruise.

“I was so young when I did them that I was just, ‘Oh, I guess this is just what it’s gonna be like.'”

It wasn’t. After that creative burst, Sutherland went through what he calls “a dry spell” in the late 90s – a series of long-forgotten films like Break Up, Ground Control and A Soldier’s Sweetheart. What kept him going? “I had to feed my kids!” he chuckles.

He has one daughter, Veep actor Sarah, from his marriage to Camelia Kath, which ended in 1990, and also became stepfather to Kath’s daughter, Michelle. His second marriage di lui, to model Kelly Winn, ended in divorce in 2004.

Kiefer Sutherland with his father, Donald, in Forsaken (Photo: Dan Power)

“I realized that I had to become very selective about what I did, because I’d made a couple of things that just weren’t very successful,” he continues. “If I wasn’t careful, I was going to put myself in a position where I was just not going to be hireable.”

He took a break from acting, tending a 900-acre ranch in Montana and becoming a part-time rodeo star. He even won the national team roping competition. Twice.

“I kind of developed other interests. And so when I came back to start 24, I felt really fresh, and I felt I was a different person. I’d lived a different life for a while. And I think that was kind of invaluable for me at that point.

“So I think if I was to accuse myself of being smart about anything, it was to know to take a break for a little while and regenerate myself, so that I would have something to say when I came back to work.”

24 threw him right back into the spotlight, winning him an Emmy and multiple other awards across its eight seasons. He returned to play Bauer in 2014’s miniseries 24: Live Another Day. Would he play him again? “Someone would have to write something that made sense. And then I would be thrilled to do it. “

However, he is wary that he might be too old now. I counter that Harrison Ford is currently revisiting Indiana Jones at the age of 79.

“And I think he’s caught some crap for it,” he grunts.

Sutherland is soon back on the small screen in The First Lady, looking statesmanlike as Franklin D Roosevelt opposite Gillian Anderson’s Eleanor Roosevelt. The glossy show, which focuses on three women – Roosevelt, Betty Ford (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Michelle Obama (Viola Davis) in the White House, has just started airing in the US.

“Franklin Roosevelt is my favorite American president, historically,” says Sutherland, “and it’s the first time I had the opportunity to play an historical figure. And that provides its own set of challenges. ” He calls it “some of the best writing that I’ve read… and been fortunate enough to be a part of, really, in my whole career”.

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If that weren’t enough, Sutherland is also enjoying a flourishing music career. “It’s one of the great loves of my life. If I was better, it’s what I’d be doing for a living, but I’m not that good! “

He is being falsely modest: there is a pleasing Springsteen-esque sound to his vocals. His rock’n’roll outfit di lui, the Kiefer Sutherland Band, released a third album, Bloor Street – named after the Toronto neighborhood where he grew up – at the start of this year. “It went really well in the UK,” he grins.

The pandemic meant he had to cancel his planned live dates, rescheduling the European leg of the “Chasing the Rain” tour until this October. “I’m dying to play,” he sighs. He shouldn’t worry; like he told Downey Jr, he’ll be working for ever.

The Contractor is on Prime Video from 6 May. The First Lady will be on Paramount + this summer

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