24-Hour Style With Kiefer Sutherland

Having returned to his most famous role, Kiefer Sutherland demonstrates how to pull off 24-hour style

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Kiefer Sutherland is running late.

Production has overrun on today’s filming of the new series of 24, the geopolitical thriller that has made him a major star for a second time around. He apologises profusely when he finally makes it to the Mayfair private members’ club booked for our meeting. But it’s not necessary.

I understand: Sutherland might not be quite as time-poor as his race-against-the-clock alter ego Jack Bauer, but with eight seasons of the show under his belt and a ninth underway — this one set for the first time in London — he’s a busy man.

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Shooting 24 looks like hard work. “Physically, 24 is a hard show to do,” he says, looking lean from the four months of gym work he’s done ahead of the new series. “I look back and see we did 192 episodes over eight seasons. I don’t know how we did it. It makes you want to go take a nap.”
The show provided a second wind for Sutherland’s career.

Now 47, he first broke through in 1986 with Stand by Me and had a run of hits as a late entrant to the Eighties Brat Pack: The Lost Boys (1987), Young Guns (1988) and Flatliners (1990). After tabloid notoriety in the early Nineties — he was engaged to be married to Julia Roberts until she ran off with his friend, Jason Patric — Sutherland’s big-screen career ran out of steam later that decade.

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24, in 2001, turned that around. Since then, Jack Bauer — neocon poster boy — has seen off weapons of mass destruction, cyber attacks and members of the Russian parliament, not always in the most ethical manner. If the actor who plays him doesn’t agree with Bauer’s methods, he can appreciate his character’s intentions. “I can say I don’t believe in torture and I believe in due process and innocent until proven guilty,” Sutherland says, before presenting a steeliness worthy of his fictional character. “Having said that, if somebody had kidnapped my daughter in real life and I had someone in my hands who knew her whereabouts, then I would tear them apart until I got her back.”

Sutherland has one daughter from the first of his two marriages, both of which ended in divorce. He’s now a grandfather to two boys. He says turning 45 was pivotal: “That was the first age I ever hit where I started doing the maths — ‘in five years I will be 50. Oh my God, in 10 years I’ll be 55. In 20 years I will be 65. At 65 you get half-price tickets to fucking movies, holy shit.’” But he resolved to think positively about ageing. “It made me acknowledge how much I’ve enjoyed my life. I’ve got a really wonderful family, and some fantastic friends.”

Sutherland’s commitment to family is such that when his daughter moved out of his LA home for college in New York, he moved, too. He downplays this (“New York’s not so bad”) but perhaps his unsettled upbringing made him eager to do things differently.

Sutherland was born in England in 1966 to Canadian actors Donald Sutherland and Shirley Douglas. Kiefer and his twin Rachel were shuttled from London to LA and Toronto as their parents’ marriage dissolved. They divorced in 1970 and Kiefer didn’t see a lot of his dad, who went on to become a star in some of the most distinctive movies of the Seventies: M*A*S*H (1970), Klute (1971) and Don’t Look Now (1973).

It wasn’t until he was 18 that Sutherland saw his father’s work, on VHS at a friend’s house, and made contact. “That was a big moment for us. Afterwards we started spending a lot more time together,” Sutherland says now. “Film gave us something to talk about that allowed us to talk about everything else.”

Sutherland resembles his dad more than ever, the Brat Pack baby face having given away to Sutherland senior’s sharper features, including that magnificent, devilish chin. Their relationship reached a professional apex last year when they made a western together, due out later this year and provisionally titled Forsaken.

They’d been in the same film before but never shared screen time. Forsaken’s tale of a father and son trying to make good a relationship had obvious reverberations.

“There’s something about saying this dialogue and telling this story and looking into that face,” says Sutherland of one key scene with his father, “and the experience I have had, like any son does, of wanting my father to be proud, wanting him to love me. My memory of my life with him took over. It may be one of my most honest moments as an actor.”

Filming had an impact on Donald, too, he says.

“Every once in a while I will have a cigarette. My father is a staunch non-smoker and he finished a couple of days before I did on set. The last thing he said on his way out, and my father is not one for goodbyes, was over the walkie-talkie. He said: ‘I just want to tell all of you, including my son, that this has been one of the great joys of  my career and my life. Smoke ’em if you got ’em.’ And everyone on set laughed, and lit up.”

24: Live Another Day is on at 9pm, Wednesdays on Sky 1 and OnDemand.

Photography: Jon Gorrigan. Fashion: Olie Arnold. Fashion Assistants: Stephanie Crain, Jonathan Dann. Grooming: Katya Thomas at Carol Hayes Management for Crème da la Me.

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