“I stopped doing 24 because I loved the show”
Kiefer Sutherland on why he said goodbye to Jack Bauer, plus finally getting to make a movie with his dad.
By Jason Adams
Kiefer Sutherland may not be on screen as Jack Bauer anymore, but the Hollywood star is back with a new movie called Forsaken. Kiefer stars alongside his father, Donald Sutherland, in the western, which also stars Demi Moore. About working with his dad he says, “I’ve wanted to make a movie with my father for 30 years.
“Some fathers get to teach their son how to fish, and some fathers build model aeroplanes with their son, and you know, I got to make a movie with mine. So I couldn’t ask for more.”
Meanwhile, Kiefer bowed out of TV series 24 when season nine Live Another Day ended last year.
About leaving the hit show, Kiefer says, “I think if I could have done 24 for 20 years I would have. But the truth is at some point you have to stop thinking about what you want to do and remember the legacy of the show and protect it. That’s why I stopped.”
Here, Kiefer talks about what being part of 24 meant to him, plus his thoughts on the show going forward. He also talks about what it was like growing up with two parents who were actors and whether he gives any advice to his daughter Sarah, who is also an actress.
Firstly, when is 24 coming back? Everyone wants to know.
I’m not doing 24 anymore, but I think the writers have been working on another scenario with maybe another cast. I can’t answer exactly when it’s coming back but I will not be a part of it, and I’ve said that from the very beginning. I think the idea for that show is much bigger than any actor or any part, and so I wish them the best of luck. For me, there are only so many days you can honestly believe one guy can have that many bad days, and so for me, nine was enough and I’m finished.
You must be very proud of this achievement?
Because 24 kind of opened TV to where it is now, we’re in such a golden age?
It was part of it, but yeah.
Everybody was crazy about 24.
I’m incredibly proud, and I think if I could have done 24 for 20 years I would have. But the truth is at some point you have to stop thinking about what you want to do and remember the legacy of the show and protect it. That’s why I stopped. It wasn’t because I wanted to but again, how long can you believe in one character experiencing the kind of same circumstance over and over again? I consider myself incredibly lucky to have been able to do nine years, you know. I didn’t stop because I was bored of it, or I didn’t love it. I stopped because I loved it, and I respected it. Again, I believe the story is much bigger than certainly me or my character, and it can continue. It had to, I think, realistically end because if we kept doing it, it just would not have been special.
Can you put into words what 24 gave to you?
It was the greatest acting lesson I’ve ever had. When I started working, there was a methodology or a thought that if you did less work you would become more important as an actor, and I followed that for 20 years. And the truth is, if I’m an Olympic athlete, and I’m training for the Olympics, I train every day and when the Olympics are coming up I train even harder.
24 was that for me. I got to work as an actor every day, very intensely, very strongly, for ten months of the year, five days a week, 12 to 14 hours a day. It was one of the greatest acting lessons and exercises I’ve ever had and as that, professionally it was one of the great, well, it was the greatest opportunity I’ve ever had.
A professional turning point?
I think I saw a little bit of Jack Bauer in your character John Henry in Forsaken.
Well, they look a lot alike. (Laughs)
But in the action at the end of the movie I thought, “This is a little bit like 24.” Is it because of you, or is it because of the movie?
Well, I’m certainly the same actor, so I would have to believe yes.
What attracted you to Forsaken? Was it the father-son element? Was it the western?
It was all of those things. I’ve wanted to make a movie with my father for 30 years. So that was a huge driving factor. The western genre, I think, is American, or Americana, storytelling at its best, and so all of those elements. The other actors, Demi Moore and Michael Wincott, Brian Cox, I wanted to work with all of those people and I thought the script was fantastic. So for all of those reasons I wanted to make the movie.
You looked at ease on the horse. Are you a nature boy or is it just well played?
No, well, I wish I could tell you it was well played but no, I love horses and I love riding, and I love that period. So it was a very natural fit for me. It’s something I feel very comfortable with.
You also did rodeos, right?
So this passion of yours is merging a little bit into the job?
Yeah, a little bit, yeah.
What about the father/son relationship in this? It must have been intense between the two of you?
It was not as intense as you would think, because I thought it was going to be as well. He’s a very professional actor, my father, and I consider myself to be the same. So the times between action and cut were quite predictable. It was the other times that were more exciting for me. It was the longest time I’d ever been able to spend with my father. I grew up with my mother and so all of a sudden we got to spend nine weeks together, five days a week, 16 hours a day, making something together. Some fathers get to teach their son how to fish, and some fathers build model aeroplanes with their son, and you know, I got to make a movie with mine. So I couldn’t ask for more.
Is it true that you only learned that your father was an actor when you were 18?
No, I always knew my father was an actor, but unlike my mother. I would finish school and go to the theatre, and she was doing a play. I would see the play and by the time the play was over I knew all the dialogue, you know, and I was raised like that. Back in the 70s and 80s you couldn’t go to see an adult movie as a young person, and if you couldn’t see it in the movie theatre, you didn’t see it at all. So I didn’t see a lot of my father’s films until I was about 18 or 19. I remember feeling very guilty about that. I think in three days I watched Don’t Look Now, Fellini’s Casanova, Bertolucci’s 1900, Kelly’s Heroes, Start the Revolution Without Me, which are two great comedies and then Ordinary People and a couple of other movies. I felt embarrassed that I didn’t realise what a prolific, important actor he was when I was 18, and I remember feeling very guilty about that.
I was just talking to Jeremy Irons…
Oh, what a beautiful actor, yeah.
He was talking about his two sons being in the business and how much he wants to protect them, but not interfere too much. From a son’s perspective, how well did your father guide you to stay out of his shadow?
My father stayed away. We never talked about acting, ever, and my mother too. And to their credit, my life was mine, and it was sink or swim for me. I think they were both very right. The truth is my daughter, who is a beautiful actor, doesn’t ever talk to me about the work, either, at all, and I don’t talk to her about it. It’s a very personal, private thing, and I think it requires that respect and I was so lucky to have two parents that gave me that.
Finally, what do you think of the Zurich Film Festival?
It’s been fantastic. The people have been very kind. I think the interviews that I’ve been able to do have been smart and people have asked me questions that are interesting that I want to answer, and I can’t wait for tomorrow. I have a day off, and I’m going to see Zurich, which I saw from the plane, [it] is one of the most beautiful cities that I’ve ever seen. The little canal right outside the hotel here, the water is so clean you can see the bottom. That’s not something you get very often in the United States, if ever, and so I can’t wait to explore tomorrow.
What are you going to do on your day off?
I’m going to do exactly what I just told you, which is explore.
Everything about and around Zurich?
Yes, well, not everything, it’s a day – I’ll do my best.
You can watch all 9 seasons of 24 now with Sky Box Sets. To find out more, search “Sky Box Sets”