Donald Sutherland's real-life paternal experiences trump his TV, movie roles

Rick Bentley
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

Donald Sutherland's role in the new feature film "Fool's Gold" has him playing a rich man who is doing his best to deal with an outrageous daughter. The veteran actor plays a similar patriarch on the ABC drama "Dirty, Sexy Money."

But it is his real-life role as a father that gets the most emotional response from Sutherland. The interview to promote the new movie comes only days after his son, Keifer Sutherland, was released from jail. The younger Sutherland spent 48 days behind bars for a second drunk driving charge.

The "24" star had planned to do his time in two stints as he would take advantage of a hiatus of shooting the Fox series. The writers strike stalled the start of production on "24" so Sutherland completed his sentence, all done in solitary confinement.

"Offspring are strange and complicated beings. I've been incredibly fortunate. If there is a wealth that I've had in my life freely, truly it's my five children," Sutherland says during an interview at the Casa del Mar Hotel.

Sutherland's face lights up as he talks about how proud he is of his son as both a man and an actor.

"His sensibility is so balanced and measured and deliberate and the use that he made of his time - 48 days is a long time in solitary confinement, 23 hours a day. The only thing that he could do to get out was to do the laundry of the other inmates," Sutherland says.

The only contact father and son had during those 48 days was a 14-minute phone call every third day. Sutherland smiles and explains that he never realized how fast 14 minutes could go by.

As for his work in television and film as a wealthy dad, Sutherland says those types of well-to-do characters are not like everyone else.

"They're never very far from a really good doctor. Many of them don't think of what things cost. The ones that I know personally, some of them are self-made and some have familial ties, they're extraordinarily well educated," Sutherland says.

His character in "Fool's Gold" is an example. The film father finds an imaginative, and expensive, way to connect with his globe-trotting, club-hopping daughter. They go on a treasure hunt.

Sutherland hops back and forth between films and TV. He's excited about the opportunity to get back to playing Tripp Darling on "Dirty, Sexy Money." The actor says he expects the final nine episodes of the series will be completed this year, despite the writers strike.

A total of 13 episodes have been shot and new shows will be ready once the strike ends. The series has been on hiatus to make room for ABC's "Cashmere Mafia."

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