Donald Sutherland (Nigel Honeycutt) Q&A
QUESTION: How did you find the accent for this character?
DONALD SUTHERLAND: Are you familiar with the name Tim Monich? Any film that Leonardo DiCaprio does, the accent has been researched and instructed by Tim Monich. Daniel Day-Lewis in Gangs of New York, it would be Tim Monich. Any film of Marty Scorsese, it's Tim Monich. What he does is he says, ‘What kind of a man do you think he is? What do you want him to be? Where do you want him to be from? What's he learned?’ He will give you 10 CDs of different people, and then you will pick the one that you think is closest to your character; it sounds like you think your character feels. Then he will write out your script phonetically, and you work with him until you have it. I phoned him a lot throughout the shooting, and then when we did the dubbing and the post-synchronization, he was there. He is understated, supportive and non-interpretive. In other words, he doesn't ever make an adjustment to your work based on your performance. It's only the sound and position of your voice. In Pride and Prejudice, the woman who did that is Jill McCulloch, who is kind of a partner in crime with Tim Monich.
QUESTION: What is your favorite thing that you had to learn as an actor?
DONALD SUTHERLAND: Gosh, I've never thought about that. But it's true. I have learned a bunch of stuff.
QUESTION: I'm sure you still enjoy the research side.
DONALD SUTHERLAND: Yeah, I do. But that's what it's about. I mean, that's all of what it is – to do the research for the character. I can't think at the moment, off the top of my head or the bottom of it, what I might have learned that would have been profitable.
QUESTION: Some kind of fighting maybe?
DONALD SUTHERLAND: Oh, no swords. In a film called Start the Revolution Without Me, the original title of which was Louie, There's a Crowd Downstairs, that was a comedy about the French Revolution, I had a sword fight, and the guy was supposed to fall into the Seine, so he was wearing a wetsuit, and I was just supposed to go inside the costume, in between the costume and the wetsuit, and then I was wearing white gloves, and I schlepped out on the thing. And he fell backwards into the Seine. And my gloves were red with his blood because I had missed. God, no. I have accidents.
QUESTION: Are you a klutz?
DONALD SUTHERLAND: Quite a bit of a klutz. Yeah, I am a klutz.
QUESTION: In the earlier days of your career, were there more risks tried by filmmakers?
DONALD SUTHERLAND: I made The Dirty Dozen in 1966. The United States was in Vietnam. It was three years after John F. Kennedy had been shot, and two years before Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy would be shot. I know that David Brown and Richard Zanuck were in New York for the opening of M*A*S*H. It opened on a morning. I was in Yugoslavia shooting Kelly's Heroes. And I saw the Blue Tunnel because I died; I was in a coma and I died for a few minutes because I had spinal meningitis and they didn't have the penicillin to treat it. But they were in San Francisco for the screening; it was just a sneak, had been wonderful. People in California were excited about it. And they wanted to see if anybody was going to come to the movie. And they went out at whatever it was, 10:00 on this morning, and lined around the block for people waiting to get in to see it. The audiences were people who believed they could change society. The audiences were people who went to war, who were drafted, and who stood up and said, ‘We don't want to be drafted and we don't want to go to war, and we don't believe in this war. And we don't believe in your government.’ They were the Chicago Seven. It was, ‘LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?’ So it was a totally different complex. And what you've hit on is a kind of a lack of energy and a lack of passion and a subdued passion. It's just a different period of commitment and social involvement. No, I find it personally astonishing that in 2004, the numbers, with the exception in Vermont, were higher in that election for George Bush. You know, despite whatever idiosyncrasy his Diebold might have had.
QUESTION: At a certain point in your career, you started getting these roles playing rich guys.
DONALD SUTHERLAND: Oh, no, that's only recent.
QUESTION: But, as an actor, you've been around rich people. Have you used it as a comment on people you've seen?
DONALD SUTHERLAND: No, no, not a comment on. I don't know people who are that wealthy. I mean, I know some who are that wealthy, but they're so discreet about their wealth, that they look like they have less money than I do, and I'm broke. So, they're interesting people. In Fierce People, and Dirty Sexy Money, and Fool's Gold – each of them had a different take on money. But it's extraordinary. The power and the facility. The fact that you never have to think about what you're spending. I mean, I add up a bill in a restaurant, and they don't even see the bill. My son Rossif was at Princeton. And one of their friends came up with a new Porsche. And Rossif said, ‘Oh, who's Porsche?’ She said, ‘It's mine.” He said, ‘You got a Porsche? How come?’ She said, ‘I just bought it.’ He said, ‘You bought it? How?’ She said, ‘I put it on my father's credit card.’ ‘But what's he gonna say?’ ‘He'll never notice.’ And he didn’t. He didn't notice. That's how you see every once in a while, the secretary’s put $5 million in a Swiss bank.
QUESTION: We've just seen the Nick Roeg picture, and your costar of course was Julie Christie.
DONALD SUTHERLAND: And Julie's nominated. That's wonderful.
QUESTION: Do you root for her?
DONALD SUTHERLAND: Oh my, I don’t know who the other nominees are. I had been away. But, sure. I mean, she's a wonderful girl. She's a brilliant, devoted actor. Rigorous. It's magical with her. She doesn't actually have to do anything. When you cast her, her being is the action. And she's passionate and disciplined about that. I look forward to seeing it.
QUESTION: You just worked with Nick Roeg again, didn't you?
DONALD SUTHERLAND: Yeah, I did. Yeah, Puffball.