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Tuesday, Sep 19, 2017
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A conversation with Kiefer Sutherland

It’s hard to believe that together, Kiefer Sutherland and his father, Donald Sutherland, have collectively appeared in more than 270 feature films, short films and television shows.

While they were both cast in the 1996 adaptation of John Grisham’s “A Time to Kill,” they never actually shared the screen — until now.

In “Forsaken,” a new western from director Jon Cassar andwriter Brad Mirman, the Sutherlands play an estranged father and son — Kiefer a reformed gunfighter and Donald the local reverend — as the threat of progress and the greed of land barons consumes their dusty town.

The film, which also stars Demi Moore, Brian Cox and Michael Wincott, is being released by Momentum Pictures. It premieres today in Tampa at the AMC Veterans 24, 9302 Anderson Road.

The Tampa Tribune’s movie review column, BVB: Blood Violence and Babes, recently had an opportunity to speak with Kiefer Sutherland by phone in what proved to be a wonderfully loose, free-flowing conversation about acting, parents, career-longevity and, yes, “The Lost Boys.”

BVB: I jumped at this opportunity to talk to you because, not only for the new film, “Forsaken,”but also your extensive career. You’ve starred in so many iconic movies that myself and my readers just love.

KS: Oh, thank you. Well, my pleasure.

BVB: I wanted to start off talking a little bit about “Forsaken.” This is the first time — this pairs you with your dad, Donald — it’s the first time you’ve played father andson on screen, correct?

KS: That is correct. Yeah, it’s the first time we’ve ever worked together.

BVB: Oh it is! I wasn’t sure. I was going to ask that.

KS: Yeah, no, we were in the same film called “A Time to Kill”…

BVB: Right.

KS: But we never — I don’t even think we were there on the same days. I played a character completely removed and in a different part of the storyline. So, no, this is the one time we’ve been able to do it and it’s something I’ve wanted to do for 35 years.

BVB: I was wondering if you guys had talked about that leading up to this, if it had been something, just the timing never worked out ...

KS: It’s a combination of things. It’s a combination of the timing and it’s also a combination of the material. Finally, I started to realize maybe the best thing was trying to develop a film that would be right for the two of us. I feel very strongly that I wanted to make a film that explored the dynamics of a father and a son and that relationship and I personally don’t have a single friend who hasn’t had a couple of moments with their own dad at some point and I think that’s a really complicated issue. And that’s why we wanted to use the western, which I think has at least the perception of being a simpler world, and using that as a backdrop.

BVB: I was taken by the fact that you starred in a number of westerns and also cowboy-themed films over your career. ...

KS: Right.

BVB: I was wondering, what appeals to you about that genre? Is it the simpler time?

KS: It’s the perception of that. I mean, if I go back and I look at the westerns that I love, whether classics like “Shane,” “(The Outlaw) Josey Wales,” “Jeremiah Johnson,” and right up to films like — I was a huge fan of “Open Range” with Kevin Costner and Bobby Duvall, and obviously “Unforgiven” was an instant classic. I like the fact that there was a perceived good and a bad world, good people and bad people in this world, and the good people would fight that fight. And between the horses and the action and the gunfights and all of that, certainly from the time I was a kid, those were films that I loved to watch.

BVB: I’m so happy to see the genre starting to make a resurgence. I’m going to ask a question off topic, I’m just curious if you’ve seen it, there was a film that came out last year with Kurt Russell called “Bone Tomahawk.”

KS: No, I haven’t, but I’ve got it — I’ve actually GOT it here at my house and I’ve just been on the road for so long and I don’t carry a computer with me, so I have to wait until I get home to start going through the list of things I want to see, but I’m really looking forward to that.

BVB: It’sphenomenal. It’s a wonderful mash-up of western and horror that I think you’ll really enjoy.

KS: Oh, very cool.

BVB: I also noticed that — now your director on “Forsaken” is Jon Cassar, who you worked with on “24.”

KS: That’scorrect, yeah.

BVB: Did you bring him into the project, or ...

KS: Um, yes ... he is who I suggested. Everyone was very excited to work with him. I think he is an extraordinary filmmaker. And he’s someone that I feel really comfortable with. I think over the eight years that we did “24” together, you get into a shorthand communication and ...

BVB: Sure ...

KS: And we had limited budget and we had probably not as many days as we would have liked to had to make the movie, so that kind of ability to work with a director inshorthand is a real plus.

BVB: I’m sure, I’m sure. You know, I was going back through your filmography in preparation for this and another director that you had worked with a number of times was Joel Schumacher.

KS: Yeah, Joel Schumacher. Most people I’ve worked with twice. Rob Reiner, I think I’ve done two or three films with. Joel Schumacher, I think I’ve done six. There’s a lot to say about being comfortable with your boss.

BVB: I think that brings out your best work.

KS: Well, I do too. I think the more comfortable you can make an environment, you know, when you’re trying to be creative, or tell a story, the better, so ... I agree.

BVB: When I was looking, and speaking of Joel Schumacher, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least ask you a little bit about “The Lost Boys,” given the column. ...

KS: Oh sure. ...

BVB: Are you surprised at how enduring the character of David has been for horror fans?

KS: I think you have to be. I shot that film when I was 19 years old. And I’m still very good friends with Jason Patric, who played Michael in that film, and I think both ofus are. We’ve got kids now. I’ve got grandkids. Even they like — one of them showed up with one of the dolls from “Lost Boys.”

BVB: (Laughing)

KS: It’s a really well-told story and I think Joel has the perfect amount of visual style to tell a story like that. I think you almost always have to be kind of — kind of grateful that an audience would hold onto a piece of work that you were a part of for that kind of time.

BVB: Right.

KS: It’s the one thing, I have to say, even diehard “24” fans will come up and say, “Man, I really loved ’24,’ but ‘Lost Boys’ is what I grew up on.” And that always makes me smile.

BVB: It’s so funny to me because there are films you’ve done that I think people sometimes,not willingly, but because you’ve done so — your body of work is so great, they forget about, but like a little movie like “Freeway.” That was a phenomenal, small genre film that just was so well done.

KS: Well, and it launched the career of an actress who I think is extraordinary by the name of Reese Witherspoon.

BVB: Exactly.

KS: That was a dark little picture, and I remember my oldest daughter was at University of San Francisco and they were playing it in some small revival house and she and a bunch of friends went and saw the movie and she kind of quietly called me up and said, you know, “For 10 minutes I’m going to kind of think you’re cool because of that film,” so. ...

BVB: (Laughing)

KS: I was always grateful for that movie too.

BVB: It’s the little things.

KS: Yes! It’s never the thing you expect, that’s for sure.

BVB: Right! I want to come back to your dad. I know we’re on limited time, but I was wondering because, like you, your father has been in so many iconic films and continues to be a very visible actor at a time in his life when. ...

KS: Right…

BVB: A lot of actors aren’t being offered those prominent roles. How has his career impacted you? Is it something you have tried to model your own after?

KS: It’s not the career, but he’s not only been one of the most prolific actors in the English language, I think he’s also been one of the most important. And I mean that because when I look at films like Bertolucci’s “1900,” Fellini’s “Casanova,” “M*A*S*H,” “Ordinary People,” “Klute,” “Eye of the Needle,” I mean the list just goes on and on. Films that were really, really important in their time. Films that endure to this day. The one thing I always pulled out of it, even from a young age when I first saw all those films when I was about 18 or 19, was how varied the characters were. So that defined for me. You know, a musician can watch a band and go, “That’s the kind of band I want to be one day.” It was very similar for me. That was the kind of actor I wanted to be. I wanted to be like my father or Gene Hackman, the kind of guy who could go from one character to another character. In my father’s case, sometimes you wouldn’t even recognize him. I thought that was really cool. The choices he was making as an actor did have a huge impact on me from a very early time. There might be different things I’m interested in with regards to telling a story than he is. ...

BVB: Sure…

KS: But the desire to be able to go from one character and visibly, or in context to your stature, or vocal power, you can change a character and people go, “Oh my God,I didn’t even realize that was Kiefer Sutherland for the first two scenes. ...”

BVB: Right, right!

KS: That to me is a sign of success, that you’re really still trying to do something.

BVB: It’s a fearlessness that I think sets apart the best actors, and the best of any profession, that ability to just go out without a net and just surprise people.

KS: Yeah. No, I agree with you, I think it’s a combination of fearlessness and, as you get older, hopefully confidence.

BVB: Have youthought about going into the next phase of your career? Are you looking at more– like you did with “Forsaken,” kind of developing and bringing together projects? Have you had a desire to get more behind the camera?

KS: No, um, I directed a few films back in the ’90s. ...

BVB: Right…

KS: And I really enjoyed that immensely, but it really also reminded me that I really loved acting. And acting is something that for me, and certainly within the context of “24,” because of the pace that we worked, I could be much more expressive that way. It was dynamic. Literally, though in the morning you could be very nervous about what you were going to do, but boy, the exultation, if you felt like you hit by the end of the day, and I seem to be a more immediate gratification-oriented person. And acting really supplied that for me. I’m going to go start a new show in March called “Designated Survivor,” and that’s going to be for ABC and will come out in the fall. It’s something that I think is incredibly well written. We’re putting together an amazing cast. Very excited about doing that. And hopefully will be doing that for a little while.

BVB: I don’t know if you often are credited with this, but in my mind, you were one of the first of the A-list-type actors who stepped out of film and onto the small screen with “24” that really kind of heralded this movement for people from film that people recognized to suddenly be coming into their living rooms on a weekly basis. I thought it was a phenomenal decision on your part, and the vehicle was awesome, but you really kind of started that trend.

KS: Well, first of all, that is really kind of you to say, and as much as I would like to take credit for it, the truth is I really like to work and I did like the piece. Again, very much like “Lost Boys,” did not ever expect it to — and I don’t think you can ever expect something to have that kind of impact. I was just really always grateful for the opportunity.

BVB: Well, you have brought just immense pleasure to myself and to so many people who love your work. ...

KS: Aw, man,thank you so much.

BVB: Thank you. I really appreciate all that you contribute to the art form and it’s just an honor to speak to you. I’m thrilled.

KS: So am I, man. Well, if I ever get out to Tampa, I will buy you a beer.

BVB: I appreciate it. I would love that. That would be great.

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