Sutherland gets serious as team player for his film

November 17, 1993|By Frank Rizzo | Frank Rizzo,The Hartford Courant

Kiefer Sutherland looks exhausted as he sinks into a plush chair in his New York hotel suite and puffs on his next cigarette.

The actor was up all night shooting a new film and had only a few hours' sleep before he began a weekend of promotion for the Walt Disney movie "The Three Musketeers," which opened nationally Friday.

Still, Mr. Sutherland was being Responsible. And Accessible. And Nice.

For all his reputation as a bit wild, a bit moody and a bit unfriendly to the news media, Mr. Sutherland is now showing that he is a supportive player in Hollywood, willing and eager to help make his films successful. Suited and sincere, he is all for one and one for all.

But there is still something, if not dark then at least chiaroscuro, about the actor, who turns 27 next month.

"Musketeers" director Stephen Herek calls Mr. Sutherland "an old soul" and a person "who carries the weight of the world on his shoulders."

"Oh, I don't know about that," says Mr. Sutherland in a velvet voice that echoes the intimate tones of his father, actor Donald Sutherland.

"I worry a lot. I worry about whether things are going well. Stephen is a really nice man, and I worried a lot if he was happy with the film and happy with what he was getting. But no, I don't carry the weight of the whole world. Just my little world."

And how is he surviving all the trauma that he's been through, notably the very public cancellation of his wedding several years ago to Julia Roberts, who is now blissfully wed to Lyle Lovett?

"The trauma?" he says, barely arching an eyebrow. "It wasn't that traumatic."

It certainly didn't slow his career, which has been amazingly prolific since he began films 10 years ago. In the past few years he has acted in big films and small, including "A Few Good Men," "The Vanishing," "Article 99," "The Three Musketeers" and the film he is now making with Woody Harrelson, "The Cowboy Way."

In "The Three Musketeers," Mr. Sutherland plays Athos, the introspective swordsman.

"I identify with Athos," says Mr. Sutherland, "not because he's relevant to my life right now but because he is an attractive character, the same way I thought Keith Richards sitting on the stage with a bottle of Jack Daniel's was attractive when I was 12. Athos' pain is incredibly powerful to me. Here was a man who had lost everything in his life, yet in his mind that made him almost invincible because there was nothing for him to lose anymore."

Mr. Sutherland says he read the novel by Alexandre Dumas when he was younger, and he acknowledges that the film -- the umpteenth "Musketeers" movie -- strays from the book.

"When you try to condense it into an hour and 40 minutes, you have to make choices," he says. "It's a really dark book, and I think that would be an interesting film to make."

But Mr. Sutherland quickly points out that he is happy with the film he made.

"Don't get me wrong," he says. "It's vastly entertaining, and I think it's going to be a fun ride for audiences. And it was fun to do."

And he likes that his 6-year-old daughter would enjoy seeing dad as a swashbuckler. "It's as simple as that," he says.

"She will probably identify with Chris [O'Donnell, who plays D'Artagnan] because he's the young one who is trying to be let in to the group."

But isn't this a "guy film?"

"If there has ever been a group of people who have consistently over time really encapsulated the concept of devotion and single-mindedness [of the musketeers], it's women," he says.

Men, he adds, sometimes get caught up with the swordplay and forget about the morality of the musketeers.

Mr. Sutherland says he doesn't understand some people's image of him as the dirty-blond, bad lost boy, despite an occasional binge or scrape with the law.

His roles, he insists, have been far ranging, yet "I still run into people who say, 'You always play bad guys,' and it's simply not true."

This image, he hopes, will change over time.

And is there a film with his father in the future?

Mr. Sutherland says he and his father are still looking for the right project.

"It's one of those things you get in your head that you're only going to do once and we've taken a long time looking for just the right project. I'm very close to my father. Always have been."

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