One of the most restless nights of sleeping Kiefer Sutherland says he ever had was before he had to act for the first time with his father. The actor, 47, and his dad, Donald Sutherland, play estranged father and son in “Forsaken,” and the combination of heavy scenes and his pop’s legacy got to him.
“The second we started working it all went away,” Kiefer tells us. “There’d be moments in a scene when I was looking in my real father’s eyes and there was no need to suspend my belief. It was real on some level, and quite cathartic. It’s something I’ll carry with me till I die.”
In the film Kiefer plays a gunslinger who’s put down his arms after the Civil War. He returns home to find his mother dead and his father, a local pastor, still furious with his life decisions. Making things worse are local ne’er-do-wells (led by Brian Cox) who have been stealing land by force, all but ensuring that Kiefer’s John Henry Clayton will turn Jack Bauer — eventually and reluctantly.
“Forsaken” reunites Kiefer with someone else: director Jon Cassar, who helmed 59 episodes of “24.” John Henry could be read as the anti-Jack Bauer: a dangerous man who doesn’t want to unleash his darkest impulses, who doesn’t want turn to action. But subverting his screen persona wasn’t what drew him to the project.
“My initial interest was to do a film with my father,” Kiefer explains. “He’s done so much extraordinary work and he’s someone I’ve had great respect for as an actor. It just took me 38 years to get into a place to do this.”
“Forsaken” isn’t the first movie to feature both Sutherlands. They were in “A Time to Kill,” though not at the same time, and Kiefer did a bit part in 1983’s “Max Dugan Returns,” though again they never exchanged dialogue, and he was only in it because he happened to be visiting Donald at the time. That film proved to be Kiefer’s screen debut, and after being nominated for a Genie, the Canadian equivalent of the Oscar, for 1984’s “The Bay Boy,” he headed to Hollywood to follow in the footsteps of both his father and his mother, also an actor and who split with Donald when Kiefer was four.