During a recent interview, Sutherland recalled the advice of the blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. "Both Jane Fonda and myself were getting ready to go to Southeast Asia," he said. "We were so serious, so politically intense . Dalton said, 'Don't forget to be happy.' I went, 'Happy. What is this happy?"'
The Canadian-born actor, 57, smiled. "Happy is real important," he said. "Think a little less about money and more about being happy and keep an eye on the political thing."
Sutherland still passionately talks politics, even when contemplating the possibility of working with his actor son Kiefer in the near future.
"We talk on the phone every day," Sutherland said warmly. "We see each other two or three times a week. (Whatever project we choose) really has to work. It has to be perfect. Once you do it, that's it. You can only make a first impression once."
Sutherland suddenly smiled. That phrase, he said "is that advertisement for either toothpaste or underarm pits."
He paused. "No. It's dandruff." He continued on the theme. "Dandruff gives you an interesting idea for our society. When (the government) realized about fallout and nuclear disaster, they asked a scientist, 'What does (fallout) look like?' He said, 'It looks like dandruff on your shoulder.' (The government) refused to use dandruff because it was so alienating. They make a decision to try and talk to people about fallout, but they don't want it to be that bad that it looks like dandruff. They didn't want people in any way disgusted by the nuclear program."
On this hot, humid morning, Sutherland was discussing his latest film, "The Railway Station Man," premiering Sunday on TNT. The romantic drama reunites Sutherland with Oscar-winning Julie Christie, with whom he starred in Nicolas Roeg's acclaimed 1973 erotic thriller "Don't Look Now," which TNT also airs Sunday.
In "Railway Station Man," Sutherland plays a one-armed eccentric recluse who falls in love with Christie's middle-aged widow, who is living in a small Irish coastal town. Their passionate affair--as passionate as basic cable will allow--is played out against the political conflicts in Ireland.
"Back together again," Sutherland said with a smile. For the past two decades, Sutherland said, attempts have been made to reunite he and Christie in another project. "Usually I was doing something and she was doing something."
The two, he said, are good friends. "In this business you don't ever see anybody, really, but when you see other each other we recognize each other," Sutherland said. "We are both 20 years older, but it is very easy (to work together). She is a wonderful actress."
Sutherland said he was upset that TNT cut one of their love scenes from the movie. "There are two scenes of sexual affection. One scene is where he makes love to her on the counter and another where he is kneeling in front of her," Sutherland said. "TNT cut out the scene where he is kneeling in front of her because they do not find it accessible for the American public. Shoot them in the head. Cut off their feet. Stick his hand down the garbage disposal, but you can't make love (in the movies)."
Though Sutherland has no qualms acting again and again with certain performers, he has shied away from working with directors more than once. But Sutherland said he has overcome his apprehensions and has even made two films--"Revolution" and "Lost Angels"--with director Hugh Hudson and is thinking about teaming with him for a third movie.
"Before, I was so emotionally involved and crippled by my relationship with (directors)," Sutherland confessed.
"It is a curious word, crippled," Sutherland said. "But it's true. You open every single thing out to this man or woman who is directing you. You divest yourself of basically any self-control and you give it to them. It becomes some kind of loving relationship, and the act of making the movie takes care of the responsibility of the relationship, takes care of the life of the relationship, takes care of the sexual activity of the relationship. But when it ends, then it is is over. I come out of it like that's the end of my life. That is what I mean by crippled. I am breathless. Now it is not like that. It is a little less severe, and the self-control I keep to myself."
Sutherland said he would love to do another film with Oliver Stone, who directed him in last year's controversial "J.F.K."
The actor said he was disturbed by the way the media and the Hollywood community treated "J.F.K."
"Oliver's film was just about making people aware of the power of the government and making them aware they had absented themselves from the process," Sutherland said. "I am appalled and astonished people should react in such a negative way to a man who is the most positive pursuer of the definition of the moral fabric of this country. Oliver made the film to make a society aware and all they do is close themselves up."
"The Railway Station Man" airs Sunday at 5, 7 and 9 p.m. on TNT and repeats Monday at 1 p.m., Tuesday at 8 p.m., Friday at 5 p.m. and Saturday at noon.
"Don't Look Now" airs Sunday at 11 p.m. on TNT.