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Sutherland displays diverse talent in film, TV

Brian Doxtader | Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Before he was saving the world as government agent Jack Bauer on Fox’s hit show “24,” Kiefer Sutherland was one of Hollywood’s busiest and most versatile actors. In a career that now stretches over two decades, he has quietly become one of the industry’s most respected performers, amassing an impressive resume of films and roles that highlight an actor who isn’t afraid to take risks whether he is acting on the silver screen or the small screen.

Sutherland comes from acting lineage, as both his parents – Donald Sutherland and Shirley Douglas – are noted thespians. Donald has been a Hollywood staple for over three decades, having appeared in films like “M*A*S*H,” “JFK” and “Cold Mountain.”

The younger Sutherland began acting as a teen, and made his first movie appearances as a teenager in the early ’80s. He appeared in a series of roles for the first half of the decade, but his breakthrough came as the bully Ace Merrill in Rob Reiner’s 1986 classic “Stand By Me” and the vampire leader David in Joel Schumacher’s cult film “The Lost Boys.”

Bigger parts in films like “Young Guns” followed, and memorable turns in “Flatliners” (where he met Julia Roberts, with whom he had an extended romance) and Reiner’s “A Few Good Men” helped elevate him into a minor star. The ’90s, however, were a mixed bag for Sutherland, as he often took esoteric roles, such as the mad scientist Dr. Schreber in Alex Proyas’ 1998 film “Dark City.” The ranginess of Sutherland’s choices demonstrated his versatility, though his penchant for smart, ominous villains hinted at the intensity he would bring to the character of Jack Bauer.

Fox launched “24” in 2001 with Sutherland in the lead as government agent Jack Bauer. The show’s novel concept, cinematic style and twisting plot turns made it an instant hit, and helped launch Sutherland into the public consciousness.

Since then, Sutherland’s film work has slowed considerably. He has only starred in a handful of movies in the past half-decade, the most notable of them Joel Schumacher’s tight, fast-paced thriller “Phonebooth,” D.J. Caruso’s “Taking Lives” and Clark Johnson’s disappointing “The Sentinel.” The latter picture featured Sutherland in a role that isn’t much different from Jack Bauer, as he plays a Secret Service agent who is attempting to uncover a plot to kill the president.

The movie-like production values of “24” has proven immensely popular over the course of its five years, earning both the show and Sutherland numerous awards and accolades. The actor’s complex characterization of Bauer has been extremely well-received by critics and audiences. Sutherland deftly balances a spectrum of emotions stemming from Bauer’s sense of duty and personal vendettas.

Sutherland has been recognized by media outlets for his work on “24,” and has won several awards amongst numerous nominations. Most notable among them include the 2002 Golden Globe for “Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama,” the 2006 Emmy for “Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series” and a pair of Screen Actors Guild Awards for “Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series” (in 2004 and 2006).

Jack Bauer has become something of a cultural icon, though Sutherland’s versatility and talent means that he probably won’t become pigeonholed. Though he may always be associated with the antiterrorist agent, Sutherland has already proven that he is capable of other roles. Like Sean Connery’s James Bond, Sutherland’s Jack Bauer will always be his most immortal role – but unlike Connery, Sutherland doesn’t have to prove himself as an actor after “24” ends.