Q: What kind of roles are you looking for at this stage of your career?
Donald Sutherland: Whatever strikes my heart, you know? I mean, this script -- it came, I read it. I couldn’t read it actually. I pushed it away. I sat back and I said to my wife, “I think I just read something that can change everything.” I had no idea about "The Hunger Games," anything about the books, the fascination, nothing, nothing. I only discovered that in the dermatologist's office. At my age you get barnacles taken off your head and stuff. I mean, they’re not really barnacles, but my wretched dermatologist calls them that. And she said, “What are you doing?” And I said, “I just finished shooting 'Hunger Games.'” I got maybe the “m” of Hunger Games out and the office was suddenly filled with people jumping up and down in hysteria. And these are adults! So I figured it out.
This script came and it seemed to me that it was a game changer. That it had the possibility, if it were properly done, to catalyze, motivate, mobilize a generation of young people who were, in my opinion, by and large dormant in the political process. You have Occupy Wall Street and all that, but it has a limited base or it seems to have a limited base. And I hoped and I felt that this could maybe spread out across the country. I don’t care what they do, just so long as they stand up and do something so that they identify the political situation that we’re in. I was thrilled at that possibility. And then when Gary [Ross] asked me to do it, to play the President, it was at that time a very peripheral part. We were in North Carolina and talking about that nature of the oligarchies and the privileged and how to administer them. And he said, “I’m going to write,” – god, he’s brilliant. He’s an amazing man, he really is. You loathe to use the word genius, but he’s quite extraordinary from my point of view. And he went away and he came back with a couple of scenes with such economy of language. Of such specificity.
He said, “I think what we have to talk about is hope and fear.” And those scenes aren’t in the book. He wrote them and Suzanne Collins loved them. But it so perfectly described what someone -- an administrator, a bureaucrat, not even a leader -- that Coriolanus Snow is and that he has to do. How do you keep that underclass in control? You offer them a little bit of hope. He thinks that Wes Bentley’s character would probably take over his position. He is 76 years old, He was two years old when the Hunger Games started. And he’s looking for a successor. And he tests Wes’ character. “You’ve allowed this girl. This underdog. Do you like underdogs? You’ve allowed her to take some kind of position of power.” ...When you fail, you die. You’re not really of any use. You have your chances. It’s kind of the same in this business these days, you know? You have that one chance and you either succeed or fail.Read the rest of the interview here!