- By Ivan Peterson
Donald Sutherland talks about his hope that the Hunger Games franchise will inspire young people around the world to become more politically active.
The films’ directors and producer have recently felt the need to publicly defend their decision to split the final novel into two films. Citing the lack of ‘action’ in Mockingjay Part 1 as a necessary, important and distinct chapter in the telling of the story, a sentiment most audiences agree with.
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 is his enemy.
“If she were his granddaughter, she would rule Panem” he says.
“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 sociopolitical message; that Panem is a society where the poverty stricken masses are ruled by a decadent elite, will help its young fans become more politically aware.
“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 unusually energetic young people who had gathered at the film’s premiere in Berlin had gathered out of more than just simple fandom. “It was extraordinary – the noise of them, the energy of them.”
Sutherland’s film career spans some 50 years and an astonishing 150 films
“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.”
Talking to the BBC in London, when asked about the pay gay between men and women in cinema, a topic Kate Winslet recently said was not an issue, and a vulgar topic for public discussion, Sutherland responded that: “It’s [Change] always coming – it’s coming too slowly.” However when pressed on Jennifer Lawrence’s recent and much criticised public outburst demanding more money for her work, because a select few male actors in the same films had been paid more (due to more experience) Sutherland remarked:
“As for people like Jennifer, they are actors because they can’t be anything else.”
Given that Sutherland is a keen advocate for equal pay between men and women in cinema, we are to assume that this remark was not intended negatively, more along the lines that acting is her passion and skill set, rather than financially motivated.
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.”