An Evening With Kiefer Sutherland…at BAFTA not Stringfellow’s

After Friday morning’s splash across the UK’s tabloid press for getting a bit merry with the bouncers at a London club, Kiefer Sutherland put on a good show at BAFTA to talk about the end of his 10 year career as Jack Bauer, counter-terrorism agent in the hit Fox TV show, 24.

Unusually, questions were not taken from the floor at the end of the event, I suspect an overzealous PR intervention relating to the previous day’s press. This is the same man that jumped into a Christmas tree in a hotel lobby back in 2006. Is defoliating pine-trees and having a few too many jars really going to stain this man’s career? I think not.

Suited and booted, he took to the stage to enthusiastic applause, then settled-down in a statesman-like manner as film journalist Andrew Collins posed the questions.

Sutherland immediately slipped into anecdotal eloquence, relating a story of trying to find St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, while shooting a documentary about managing a band on tour in Europe. After leaving the Tube station, Sutherland and the crew had apparently found the old hospital where he was born a British citizen, to father Donald Sutherland and mother, Shirley Douglas, who were working in the city at that time.

The documentary crew were filming the hospital, with Sutherland in shot proclaiming his joy at finding his place of birth when, he explained, “a giant wrecking ball swung into frame and literally took out the front of the building! I was probably one of the last people to see the old St Mary’s Hospital in one piece.” Life imitating 24-hour drama perhaps?

It was a tale that indicated his Anglophilia, which came up again when describing how the UK fans of 24 actually helped get the show commissioned beyond the first series:

“The first series had taken off back home, but it didn’t really leave the gate until we had the response from you guys over here. It was that, that got the next 11 episodes signed-off”

He was equally magnanimous of the crew and other actors and actresses he had worked with on the series over the past 10 years, and also said that the show had a become a way for many to find a way into work from previously obscure beginnings. If you look through the huge cast list on the Internet Movie Database, you will see one Zachary Quinto made an appearance in 2003/2004. He’s doing rather well, isn’t he?

Of many clips shown, one was from Season 1 of 24, where Bauer has to execute a colleague (played by future Nurse Jackie regular, Paul Schulze) to comply with the demands of terrorists. After the clip played, he immediately praised the performance of his co-star:

“This guy was amazing. Just seeing that clip there you see what he did with that performance. He’s a great guy as well, between takes he was laughing and joking around. That’s a brilliant performance.”

He added, “I don’t usually watch my takes, unless there’s something wrong or something to pay special attention to, I hate seeing myself on screen. I always think, ‘I could have done that differently, or that better.'”

On the well-documented scenes of torture, he said, “Obviously I don’t recommend that people do this in real life. I don’t support what went on in Guantanamo, or Abu-Graib. It was good because we had people such as the Clintons saying they liked it, as well as the more right-wing people. I thought we had struck a good balance of people watching the show. It’s just that then the right-wing people got talk radio shows and the whole balance went out the window.”

When asked what his Dad thought of his work, Sutherland said, “He’s really been very supportive and has sent some very sweet messages to me. At first I thought he was being really sarcastic! Mum would say, ‘Oh I tried watching it but I had to turn it off after 10 minutes, it was too stressful!’ Dad though, was a big fan. We would be having dinner in a restaurant and I would say, ‘I gotta go, we’re shooting a scene downtown later and…’, he would be waving his arms, saying, “No! No! Don’t tell me what happens!”‘

On the last day of filming the final episode of the last series, it was a scene of high emotion:

“Nobody really wanted to stop. Usually we shoot like crazy, get the coverage we need [shooting the same scene from different angles to provide the editor with enough material], then we move on. We kept finding all these excuses for extra camera angles, doing a shot over here, then over there. It got to the point where we had a POV [point of view] shot from my shoelaces.”

“Afterwards, everyone was clapping in a circle around the set, and I went to say something and I felt my voice crack, so I had to look down at my shoes to get out what I was saying. When I looked up I saw the gaffer, David St Onge, big guy, ex-Navy, and as he was clapping I could see his eyes were glistening with tears. That was it, my eyes went, my bottom lip started to tremble. I was gone. We all went to the Radisson for drinks afterward, but it was a short night. No-one was in a mood to party.”

“I had an unusual upbringing, I was sent away to school at the age of eleven and in a job like this, when you work 18 hour days, 6 days a week with these guys, they become your family. I saw more of them than my own family.”

In all it was a great evening spent in the company of an intelligent and conversational guest. As interviewer, Collins, put it, he didn’t even have to tie him to the chair, or shoot him in the kneecap to get the answers he wanted.

If there has to be a sacrifice of a few Christmas trees, then so be it, the world is a better place for an honest actor like Sutherland.

Fans are assured that there is a two-hour, 24 feature film on the cards, to be shot in London and Europe. Let’s hope Jack’s not angry about that hospital being knocked down.

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3 thoughts on “An Evening With Kiefer Sutherland…at BAFTA not Stringfellow’s

  1. Excellent recap of the BAFTA interview. However BAFTA requested that questions be submitted by e-mail, due to constraints of time, last week well in advance of Kiefer’s visit to the UK.Kiefer seemed relaxed and was eloquent and charming and he obviously has great affection for 24. Most enjoyable evening.

  2. Thanks for setting the record straight, Alison (hope I got your name right). I still think screening questions wasn’t really necessary, they haven’t done it for other stars I’ve seen at BAFTA, and it robbed the evening of a little spontenaity. I’m sure Kiefer could take it :)Penders

  3. I should also acknowledge the time constraits of a VIP schedule, as you mention. I guess I want to have my cake and eat it!

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