You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Donald Sutherland Slams Climate Inaction: ‘The Attitude at the UN Is Bulls—‘

SAN SEBASTIAN  —  While Donald Sutherland has never shied from speaking his mind, events of recent days have lent his voice an extra tremble of urgency.

“The attitude at the U.N. is bulls—,” said the Canadian actor, echoing the frustrations of climate activist Greta Thunberg that world leaders are not reacting with sufficient gravity to the crisis of climate change.

“I have children, I have grandchildren, and the world that I have left them, and am going to leave them, is not one they’ll be able to live in,” Sutherland said from the San Sebastian Film Festival, where the actor is promoting his latest film, “The Burnt Orange Heresy” and is due to receive the Donostia Award.

“[In China] individuals now have to pollinate flowers because there are no more bees. When you’re driving your car, there are no more bugs on your windscreen. We’ve lost 2.5 billion birds. That’s what we should be talking about!”

As the 84-year-old performer explained from this San Sebastian press conference, he has allowed his social conscience to steer his career choices – and that includes accepting roles in big budget franchise productions.

Asked about his work in “The Hunger Games” series, Sutherland replied that he took the role because, “I thought it could energize the youth of the United States and politicize them – revolutionize them, maybe.”

“It didn’t,” he shrugged, “but it had a shot.”

Despite his work on studio fare like the “The Hunger Games” or the recent “Ad Astra” – which he praised, noting he was grateful to director James Gray for opting to shoot on film — Sutherland does not view himself as industry man.

“I don’t know anything about Hollywood,” he said. “I just work.” He noted that “The Burnt Orange Heresy” is an Italian production and implied that he felt more like a citizen of the world. “I [divide my time between] Canada, France, and Miami Beach… which is a separate state. It should be an island onto itself, [and] maybe have a relationship with the United States, or maybe not.”

The actor reflected on his illustrious career, talking about his roots in Canada, his memorable collaborators, and some of the uniquely strange situations he’s found himself in since starting out a screen actor in the early 1960s.

While shooting the 1970 film “Kelly’s Heroes” on location in Eastern Europe, the actor contracted spinal meningitis and soon fell into a coma.

“I had that out of body experience where you watch your body go down this blue tunnel,” he reflected. “I was lying in my coma in the bed in the hospital, but I could still hear. And I heard the producers dictating a telegram to my then-wife telling her not to come, and that they would ship the body home.”

The moral of the story? “If you’re ever with anyone in a coma, talk to them. They can hear you,” he added.

Sutherland was quick to praise his “Burnt Orange Heresy” director Giuseppe Capotondi and co-star Elizabeth Debicki (“She’s wonderful – and taller than me! Very impressive”), and loving cited his work with Nicolas Roeg and Robert Altman, but he pointedly refused to answer when asked whether he himself had a favorite Donald Sutherland film.

“It’s like asking me which is my favorite child,” he began. “I have five children, and if I said one was my favorite, the other four would kill me. [My films are also] my children… so I don’t have a favorite. I have huge relationships with them all.”

He then waited a beat, and a knowing wink, added, “but I really loved working with Fellini.”


Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Jon Voight'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil' film

    President Trump to Award Jon Voight the National Medal of Arts

    President Trump will present actor Jon Voight, musician Allison Krauss, and mystery writer James Patterson with the national medal of arts. Voight is one of few in Hollywood who has been vocal about his support of President Trump in the past, calling him “the greatest president of this century.” The White House announced four recipients [...]

  • Zack Snyder arrives at the 2018

    'Justice League': Gal Gadot, Ben Affleck, Zack Snyder Support Release of 'Snyder Cut'

    Zack Snyder, Gal Gadot, and Ben Affleck have taken to social media to request that Warner Bros. release the Snyder cut of “Justice League.” Snyder, who helmed “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman” and was “Justice League’s” original director, had to leave production on the film partway through after his daughter died, with Joss [...]

  • Whose Side Is 'Marriage Story' On?

    Whose Side Is 'Marriage Story' On? (Column)

    Do we choose sides when we watch “Marriage Story,” Noah Baumbach’s brilliant and wrenching drama of divorce? The question, on the face of it, sounds facile in a dozen ways the movie isn’t. Rarely are there winners in divorce, and there are two sides to every breakup. “Marriage Story” is a movie that reflects that [...]

  • The Letter

    IDFA: Kenyan Documentary ‘The Letter’ Debuts Trailer (EXCLUSIVE)

    Variety has been given access to the trailer for Kenyan documentary “The Letter,” by producer-director duo Christopher King and Maia Lekow, which world premieres Nov. 23 at IDFA. The film follows a young man who travels to his grandmother’s rural home when he learns she’s been accused of witchcraft. He soon discovers that the threatening letter she [...]

  • Warner Bros. Box Office

    With 'Good Liar' and 'Doctor Sleep,' Warner Bros.' Box Office Misfortunes Mount

    When Warner Bros. was crafting its 2019 slate, the studio took pains to offer more than just superhero movies. To be sure, there were lots of masked vigilantes too, but more than any of its big studio brethren, Warner Bros. was willing to take a risk on the kinds of thrillers, adult dramas, coming-of-age stories, [...]

  • Constance Wu

    Will Constance Wu Ever Watch 'Hustlers'?

    Despite her leading role, Constance Wu has never seen “Hustlers” and, spoiler alert, it’s very unlikely that she will. Wu explained why she doesn’t want to watch the film to Mindy Kaling (“Late Night”) during a conversation for “Variety Studio: Actors on Actors.” “This is crazy,” Kaling said in the beginning of the interview. “I [...]

  • Ford v Ferrari

    'Ford v Ferrari' Outmatches 'Charlie's Angels' at International Box Office

    Disney and 20th Century Fox’s “Ford v Ferrari” sped ahead of fellow new release, Sony’s “Charlie’s Angels,” at the international box office. Director James Mangold’s racing drama collected $21.4 million from 41 foreign markets, representing 67% of its overseas rollout. “Ford v Ferrari” also kicked off with $31 million in North America, bringing its global [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content