Exclusive: Kiefer Sutherland interview
Kiefer William Frederick Dempsey George Rufus Sutherland, was born in London, but grew up in Canada before heading south to make his name in pictures. Son of the actor Donald Sutherland (Don't Look Now; MASH), Kiefer made his first brief screen appearance alongside his dad in Max Dugan Returns. He became a name in his own right in the 1980s in films such as Stand By Me, The Lost Boys, Young Guns and Flatliners. (He found himself in the tabloid headlines when his marriage to Flatliners co-star Julia Roberts was called off days before the ceremony.) His career hit a fallow patch in the 1990s, but was revived a decade later with his performance as Jack Bauer in the hit TV show, 24.
LOVEFiLM: Did you ever expect to find yourself on a long running TV show?
Kiefer Sutherland: I didn't even expect it when we were shooting the pilot. I thought, "This is great: I'll get paid for the pilot, it's different, it'll never get picked up". You have to sign for years in advance, but I wasn't really worried. Then Stephen Hopkins started doing all these long hand held shots and I thought, "They'll never go for that". I was very wrong.
LF: Has people's perception of you changed since you became known as Jack Bauer?
KS: Oh yeah - favourably. The films that I had been doing before - I'd made a film called Eye For an Eye where the character was unrelentingly evil, then I followed that up by playing the evil that racism is in A Time to Kill. It was a responsible decision, just not a very pragmatic one when trying to plan a career.
Forrest Whitaker laughed at me one day. He said, "Whoever you didn't piss off by raping and killing Sally Field's kid, you sure took care of by heading up the Ku Klux Klan." When he said that I realised I was in big trouble.
LF: And were you?
KS: Oh yes. You can play a horrible person on stage and afterwards people will come up to you and say, "Oh my God, you scared me - that was really great work." And you can play an awful, horrible character on film and they'll actually hate you. It becomes very personal.
LF: So Jack Bauer rehabilitated you?
KS: Well it certainly gave me the opportunity to play a character that was more evolved. He's still hardly a perfect man, but his intentions are good, and like any human being he's going to fall short from time to time - it's just that the consequences when he falls are grave.
But I loved the idea of playing a guy who had these incredibly lofty responsibilities but couldn't keep track of his 16-year-old daughter. For me it was a real breath of fresh air.
LF: During Season 4, criticism from the US Muslim community prompted a Public Service Announcement where you reiterated that the show is fiction and should be seen as such. Are you concerned that you are feeding a growing paranoia?
KS: I don't think we're feeding paranoia, the paranoia exists, the paranoia's a reality. You might have accused us of that if 9/11 and a bunch of other things hadn't happened, but not now.
I remember one of the writers questioning making the terrorist Middle Eastern, and at some point you have to say, "Well that's just stupid". It's just moronic - if you're going to pretend that the largest terrorist threat in the world right now isn't coming out of the Middle East, then I don't think you're looking at the reality of our world and where we're at right now.
LF: Do you get a buzz from all the technology on the show?
KS: Well, I still write with a pen. I heard this fantastic analogy on The West Wing: you want to know the great difference between the Russian and American cultures at the height of the cold war? The US spent over a million dollars developing a pen that would work in zero gravity. Do you know what the Russians did? They used a pencil.
Part of the reason I don't use computers or the internet is because I'm kind of snarky like that, and the other part is I can't type and I don't want to learn how to.
LF: How long do you think 24 can continue?
KS: The show can go on forever. The idea of dealing with a particular circumstance over 24 hours can go on forever - you could do it for a hundred years.
How long can I sustain this character whose enduring this one day is a good question, and I don't know the answer. That's really for the audience - and they will let you know very quickly when they think you are done. I don't know how long an audience will accept my character continuing to have yet another really bad day.