Tall, lanky, and unusual looking to say the least, Sutherland took full advantage of the antiglamour backlash that swept Hollywood in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Which is not to say that his success was merely a matter of being in the right place at the right time; Sutherland is an extremely gifted, albeit occasionally eccentric performer. After studying at the Lon don Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in the late 1950s, he knocked around Europe playing small roles (usually creepy types) in horror films and thrillers; he got a career boost as one of the second- tier Army misfits in the U.S./U.K. coproduction The Dirty Dozen (1967). It was in a radically different war movie that he stunned American audiences: Robert Altman's groundbreaking MASH (1970), in which he originated the role of iconoclastic surgeon Hawkeye Pierce. Immediately catapulted to stardom, the actor mixed mainstream successes with risky, sometimes politically volatile ventures; he costarred with Jane Fonda not only in the popular thriller Klute (1971), but also in the incendiary anti-Vietnam war film F.T.A (1972, which he also coproduced, cowrote, and codirected). Another daring move found Sutherland and Julie Christie enacting one of the most graphic love scenes depicted in a nonpornographic film in Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now (1973). Unlike many other stars, Sutherland wasn't afraid to play unattractive, even downright repulsive characters; his depictions of crazed brutishness in 1975's The Day of the Locust and 1977's 1900 are unforgettable if sometimes excessive.
The 1970s was really Sutherland's decade; while he got the occasional juicy role in the 1980s (as the father in 1980's Ordinary People and a Nazi spy in 1981's Eye of the Needle in recent years he's lent star power to smaller productions in supporting roles or been reduced to playing the heavy in films of varying pedigree-as in Lock Up (1989) and Backdraft (1991). Sutherland's breathless turn in JFK (1991), playing an ex-soldierturned-informant, was a pivotal scene in that controversial movie.