LOS ANGELES, June 21 — With his towering height and a brooding expression that veered from menacing to hilarious and heartbroken, Donald Sutherland was Hollywood’s chameleon, equally at home in war, love, horror — or playing for laughs.

In a dense filmography spanning six decades, Sutherland stood out for his unusual — even odd — looks and an incredible range of roles, working alongside several of the greatest directors of his time.

The Canadian-born actor — who has died at age 88, his son Kiefer said Thursday — had many standout roles, from an army surgeon in wartime comedy M*A*S*H (1970) to a tyrannical leader in The Hunger Games more than 30 years later.

Other memorable characters include a private detective entangled with a call girl in suspense thriller Klute (1971), the mythical seductor in Casanova (1976) and a pot-smoking professor in National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978).

“Canada’s greatest export,” Britain’s Daily Telegraph once called him.

“One of the most versatile film and television actors of the century,” Variety said.

Sutherland’s inner circle consisted of equally familiar screen faces, from his former partner Jane Fonda to his son Kiefer, himself an actor best known for the drama series 24.

Ugly? No. ‘Unattractive’

Born on July 17, 1935 in New Brunswick, northeastern Canada, Donald Edward McNichol Sutherland was a sickly child, suffering from hepatitis, polio and rheumatic fever.

“One leg’s a little shorter, but I survived,” he told Esquire magazine in 2011.

As an adult, he shot up to 6 foot 3 inches (1.93 meters), but was long aware that not everyone would consider him handsome.

“Unattractive is a gentler way of putting it,” he responded when asked by CBS whether he considered himself ugly.

After working as a part-time DJ for local radio as a teenager, he graduated from the University of Toronto in drama and engineering.

Opting to pursue the theater against the wishes of his parents, he moved to London when he was 22 and later to Scotland.

He appeared in his first feature in 1964, the Italian gothic horror The Castle of the Living Dead. Small television roles followed, including on cult British series such as The Avengers and The Saint.

His breakthrough came in 1967, after he moved to Hollywood, with Robert Aldrich’s The Dirty Dozen in which he starred alongside Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson as part of a World War II unit of violent misfits fighting the Nazis.

Four years later came the hugely successful M*A*S*H, a wildly irreverent comedy about a group of army doctors in the Korean War, directed by Robert Altman.

Jane Fonda partnership

Sutherland started dating Jane Fonda in the 1970s and they appeared together in Alan J. Pakula’s Klute, for which Fonda won an Oscar and Golden Globe.

In 1972, the couple starred in an anti-Vietnam war documentary, F.T.A.

Sutherland then made around a film a year for a while, including a series of modern gems such as Nicolas Roeg’s harrowing child abduction drama Don’t Look Now (1973) and Oliver Stone’s biopic JFK (1991).

He worked with a host of top-drawer directors, including Bernardo Bertolucci, Federico Fellini and Clint Eastwood.

‘Hunger Games’ dictator

In his later decades, Sutherland was best known as the tyrannical Coriolanus Snow, ruling over the post-apocalyptic state Panem in The Hunger Games franchise beginning in 2012.

He once said he hoped the films would give youngsters hope for “a decent future.”

Sutherland, an Emmy and Golden Globe winner, received an honorary Oscar in 2017, although he was never nominated for a competitive Academy Award.

He was given a star on Hollywood’s storied Walk of Fame in 2011, saying at the ceremony that the honour meant more to him than a fancy gravestone.

“Getting old,” he said in Esquire in 2011, “is like having a new profession, except it’s not a profession of your own choosing.”

And death will be “a lonely little journey,” he said.

Sutherland left five children from three wives, all of whom have worked in the film or television industry in some way. — AFP