Entertainment & Arts

Donald Sutherland: 'I could tell you stories but I'd never get another job'

Donald Sutherland as President Snow Image copyright Murray Close
Image caption Donald Sutherland is back as President Snow in the final Hunger Games film

Donald Sutherland talks about his hopes that the Hunger Games franchise will inspire young people to become more politically active and explains why he'll never retire from acting.

In The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2, Donald Sutherland is back as Panem's tyrannical President Snow.

This final chapter sees rebel heroine Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) on a mission to assassinate President Snow and liberate her fellow citizens.

Sutherland maintains that President Snow has "immense love and respect" for Katniss, even though she's his enemy.

"If she were his granddaughter, she would rule Panem," he says, when we meet at a London hotel to discuss the latest entry in his 50-year movie career.

"In the first film he is looking for someone to succeed him. She has everything. She's his definitive choice. He challenges her constantly, and she meets those challenges. And right up to the very end, he tries to deliver her little pieces of knowledge and truth."

The Canadian actor hopes the film's socio-political message - Panem is a society where the poverty-stricken masses are ruled by a decadent elite - will help its young fans become more politically aware.

Image copyright Lionsgate

"I have been convinced for the last 30 years that they weren't thinking politically at all," says Sutherland. "The purpose of everybody involved in this was try to get them engaged. As Bruce Springsteen said, 'Blind faith in your leaders... will get you killed.'"

He wonders whether the thousands of young people who had gathered at the film's premiere in Berlin ("It was extraordinary - the noise of them, the energy of them.") had more than to do with "simple fandom".

What about the possibility of a revolution in Hollywood over the gender pay gap? Jennifer Lawrence made headlines last month when she wrote about her anger at getting paid less than her male counterparts. Does Sutherland sense a change is coming?

"It's always coming - it's coming too slowly," he says, "because men rule.

"If you change that it, takes pieces of profit away from the people that own the machinery.

"They don't let go of profit. They can have a billion dollars of profit, and they don't want to let go of a piece of it.

"They give it to charity and museums, but they won't pay more."

He pauses for a moment. "I could tell you stories, but I'd never get another job," he says.

'Bunch of money'

Sutherland's film career spans some 150 films, including The Dirty Dozen; Robert Altman's M*A*S*H, Kelly's Heroes, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Don't Look Now (with Julie Christie) and Klute (with Jane Fonda).

What has been the biggest change he's noticed over his career. "Obviously technical changes, but also people making a lot of money," he says.

"I don't think anybody of my generation became an actor to make money. It never occurred to me. I made £8 a week here [on stage in London]. When I starred in a play at the Royal Court, I made £17 a week, that was in 1964.

"Nowadays, some young people aspire to be an actor because they think that they will make a bunch of money. That's an interesting change. As for people like Jennifer, they are actors because they can't be anything else.

"In terms of the people who power the industry there's not really a change - many of them are really good guys. They make good films."

Having turned 80 this year, Sutherland has no intention of slowing down. "I keep working," he says.

"It's a passionate endeavour. Retirement for actors is spelt 'DEATH'."

But he does bemoan roles that require him to die dramatically on screen.

"They say you've got to come in, say, 'Hello,' and then die," he says.

"It's not like you die in bed and close your eyes. You've got to fall on the floor, and you can't put your hand out to protect yourself.

"My shoulders are shattered from it."

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 is released in the UK on 19 November

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