Donald Sutherland death: Chameleon character actor known for 'M*A*S*H' dead at 88

Donald Sutherland, the versatile Canadian actor whose prolific career in TV shows and movies showed a diverse range, from authority-loathing surgeon Hawkeye Pierce in the "M*A*S*H" movie to authoritarian villain President Snow in "The Hunger Games" franchise, has died. He was 88.

"With a heavy heart, I tell you that my father, Donald Sutherland, has passed away," his son Kiefer Sutherland posted on social media Thursday along with a black and white photo of the father-son pair.

He added: "I personally think one of the most important actors in the history of film. Never daunted by a role, good, bad or ugly. He loved what he did and did what he loved, and one can never ask for more than that. A life well lived."

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Starring in more than 200 TV shows and movies, Sutherland beat an indelible and idiosyncratic path during his six-decade career. He was the pot-smoking professor in 1978's "Animal House," the titular detective John Klute starring alongside then-lover Jane Fonda in the 1971 thriller "Klute," a pod person in the 1978 horror remake "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," an 18th-century Venetian explorer in 1976's "Fellini's Casanova" with director Frederico Fellini, and an embattled father working to save his emotionally troubled upper-middle-class family in "Ordinary People."

“I’ve always had a horizontally organized career," Sutherland told USA TODAY in 2018. "You’ve got a big plate of fruit and cheese, and you can take a piece here and there. You won’t like all of it, but you’ll like some of it.”

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An Emmy winner and the patriarch of his own family of actors and entertainment professionals (including son Kiefer Sutherland, star of "24" and "Designated Survivor"), Sutherland is inarguably the greatest Hollywood actor never to earn a single Oscar nomination. He was most egregiously overlooked for his widely praised "Ordinary People" role, which saw screen wife Mary Tyler Moore earn one of six Oscar nominations  – and newcomer Timothy Hutton win one of four Oscars playing Sutherland's screen son.

John Bailey, the cinematographer on "Ordinary People," helped to correct this wrong as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president in 2017, calling Sutherland personally to inform the actor that he would be awarded an honorary Oscar.

"Thank you for putting my name on this. This is very important to me, to my family," Sutherland said from the 2017 Governors Awards podium, looking at his Oscar. "I wish I could say thank you to all the characters I have played, thank them for using their lives to inform my life."

Born to Dorothy and Frederick Sutherland in the Canadian seaport city of Saint John, New Brunswick, the young Sutherland found he was destined for character acting during an eye-opening discussion with his mother.

"I went to her, and I said, 'Mother, am I good-looking?' And my mother looked at me and went. 'Your face has character, Donald.' " Sutherland recalled to "60 Minutes" in 2018.

After studying drama and starring in London stage and TV productions, Sutherland earned the one-line part on "The Dirty Dozen," portraying goofy felon Vernon Pinkley in an all-star cast that included Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson and Telly Savalas. But when actor Clint Walker declined to do a scene where his character impersonates a general, director Robert Aldrich looked at Sutherland.

"He went, 'You with the big ears, you do it.' I don't think he knew my name. But, you know. It changed my life,' " Sutherland told 60 Minutes.

Sutherland starred in 'The Dirty Dozen' and 'Kelly's Heroes'

Sutherland shot into stardom brandishing his own brand of quirky Vietnam War-era contempt in war movie portrayals, starting as convict soldier Vernon Pinkley in "The Dirty Dozen" (1967) and the comical tank driver Sgt. Oddball in the 1970s World War II heist comedy "Kelly's Heroes."  He ended the streak as the wise-cracking surgeon in Robert Altman's 1970 Korean War comedy-drama "M*A*S*H" (Alan Alda portrayed Hawkeye Pierce in the seminal 1970s TV series).

During his starring role as the enigmatic private detective in the neo-noir hit "Klute" (which earned Fonda a best actress Oscar), Sutherland, still married to his second wife Shirley Douglas (mother of twins Rachel and Kiefer), began his relationship with Fonda. The two hit the road in the 1971 anti-Vietnam War road show for GI's, the "F.T.A." ("Free the Army"). But the relationship had crashed and burned by the end of the year.

"It broke my heart. I was eviscerated," Sutherland told The Guardian in 2008. "It was a wonderful relationship right up to the point we lived together."

The next year, Sutherland met and married actress Francine Racette. He remained married for the rest of his life, and the couple had three sons together: Roeg, Rossif, and Angus Sutherland.

Sutherland played villain President Snow in 'Hunger Games'

The actor had a particular skill for playing villains, a spy in 1981's "Eye of the Needle" a sadistic warden in 1989's "Lock Up" a scheming software CEO in 1994's "Disclosure" opposite Michael Douglas and Demi Moore and the cruel Attila in Bernardo Bertolucci's Italian epic "1900."

After turning 80, Sutherland took on the role of his most famous villain, President Snow, in "The Hunger Games" – the arch-nemesis to Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss Everdeen for four box office record-breaking films from 2012-2015.

"My agent sends me these things because I'm 80 and I still like to know what's going on," he told Britain's "The Telegraph." "I hadn't even heard of the books, but it became patently apparent to me that this was something. It was the first thing I'd read in years that could become a creative political stimulus for young people."

Sutherland found a new generation of fans eager to take pictures with him, describing one fan who approached him in an airport. “As we’re waiting for her mother to take the picture, the girl turned and whispered in my ear, ‘Look mean.’ " Sutherland recalled with glee to USA TODAY in 2018.

Finally, accepting his Oscar, Sutherland looked over his showbiz family, including Kiefer’s "Veep" actress daughter, Sarah Sutherland, and dedicated the award to his wife Francine: "From whom everything has come, and to whom everything is owed."

He closed the speech quoting comedian Jack Benny when presented with an honor.

"(Benny) said, as I say to you now, 'I don't deserve this, But I have arthritis, and I don't deserve that either,'" said Sutherland.

Contributing: Naledi Ushe

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Donald Sutherland dies: 'MASH,' 'Hunger Games' actor dead at 88