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1,440 Minutes with Kiefer Sutherland

Kiefer Sutherland talks about 24 on TV and Film.

1,440 Minutes with Kiefer Sutherland

In movies, Kiefer Sutherland was a solid actor who would appear frequently and be recognized, but never a megastar. All that changed when he made the leap to television. 24 is hotter than most movies these days, and he’s the main man. Jack Bauer is back for another season of real time tension, though the only thing we can discern about this year’s plot is that he has a really long beard from his months in Chinese captivity. Sutherland only gave us a few more vague tidbits, but he was gracious to stand around a network party chatting with press when he could have been drinking the night away at the open bar.

CraveOnline: What can you tell us about this season?

Kiefer Sutherland: Certainly from Jack’s point of view, he’s at the end of his line. Something’s going to have to really rejuvenate him from the position that he’s in. So in that area, there’s going to be a character shift within the context of the show with his character. There has to be. Otherwise he’s just going to be dead. And he’s been put through it. So it’s going to be interesting at least to try to come from a very dark, really deep, dark place and actually try and come up as opposed to starting in an up position and going down. That’ll be different.

CraveOnline: How many more days can Jack handle?

Kiefer Sutherland: That’s up to an audience. Me, I love doing it and I’m glad that they let me do it as long as they have.

CraveOnline: Will the show have a different tone or theme this year?

Kiefer Sutherland: The show is political. It’s not that the show has not been political but I think last season it became political because people observing it drew a political angle from it. I remember Joel Surnow, the writer, saying it’s really quite amazing to have the right kind of adopt the show the way they have and then have the left, Barbra Streisand and so many people on the left adopt the show for themselves as well. And that it’s managed to run this kind of mutual political ground while having very strong political aspirations within the context of the show. This year, there’s a couple statements that are very political. They are on purpose from the writers and I think they chose to address a really interesting situation in our society.

CraveOnline: Will President Logan be back?

Kiefer Sutherland: Yeah, he will be on in some capacity.

CraveOnline: Can you tell us anything about the story?

Kiefer Sutherland: That was about it.

CraveOnline: How much time has past since last season?

Kiefer Sutherland: I think it’s about a year and a half.

CraveOnline: Will Jean Smart be back as Mrs. Logan?

Kiefer Sutherland: She and Greg both, absolutely, and I think that that was a really dangerous part and the fact is that she really did take it on as Mrs. Lincoln and that was one of those great moments where you saw an actor instead of trying to defend herself from it, absolutely attack what could have been a death blow to that character. Just truly one of the most amazing performances I’ve seen and someone I’ve had the pleasure of working with. I think they both are going to be, in which capacity and how much I don’t know. I don’t know that yet.

CraveOnline: Do we need people like Jack Bauer?

Kiefer Sutherland: I think we already have a lot of people like Jack Bauer. Obviously, this is a television show and it’s told in a very fantastical way, but I think from every law enforcement agency across this country to the people that are in Special Forces, I think we have a lot of men and women that are doing the work that is combined into this one character. I think we have men and women all around the world doing incredibly hard work. We hear about the things that happen and I think luckily do not hear about so many things have not happened as a result of those people’s work.

CraveOnline: How do you feel about film vs. TV these days?

Kiefer Sutherland: I feel like television’s been getting better for a long time. I think my biggest thing about that is you have to figure out why people started to cross over. The $20 million movie disappeared. All the Ordinary Peoples and all of those kinds of films became very, very rare. The major studios realized that it was much better for them to spend $100 million on a movie, make it an extravagant thing if they were going to have to spend the kind of P&A on it to get it out there, and why risk it on a $20 million film that was story oriented. They just didn’t have faith in that. All of those dramas went to television and literally, you could see its progression from ER, NYPD Blue, those great shows leading into what HBO started to do, started off with some great comedies like The Larry Sanders Show, then moving into The Sopranos, Sex and the City, one of my favorite shows I’ve said forever is The Wire. But you have fantastic writers realizing, and actors, and ultimately directors, if you wanted to be involved in drama, there was this huge opportunity waiting for you in television that had absolutely been shut down in the theatrical release or film world.

CraveOnline: Does the political climate affect people’s interest in the show?

Kiefer Sutherland: Absolutely. I think escapism is a very broad word. I think all entertainment on some level is and I think it can also be informative and I think it can be a variety of things. But absolutely. It was uncanny the timing of us coming out with our show and the terrible events of 9/11. It certainly awakened an ear in this country regarding terrorism that I don’t think was as pervasive before. So yeah. Absolutely. I think the world has changed incredibly since that terrible day and our show certainly deals with aspects of that. Again, in the context of a television show, not reality.

CraveOnline: Would it still work without the hour by hour gimmick?

Kiefer Sutherland: I don’t think people like the show because it’s serialized. I think people like the show because the characters are working and the writers do a fantastic job creating a world that they’ve found entertaining. Again, I can’t tell you how lucky that is. I’ve been doing this for 20 years. I’ve never had an experience like this in my life. I certainly know I could have worked for another 20 and never had it. Law and Order is a fantastic show and it was absolutely serialized in a perfect package episode to episode to episode. This is not and I think they work in different milieus for their own different reasons. Again, I think it comes down to creating a situation that is interesting for an audience and ultimately creating characters that you care about that are in that situation.

CraveOnline: You were very open in a Rolling Stone interview a while back. Have you heard any feedback from that?

Kiefer Sutherland: I’ve heard some. I think for the most part, I was being really honest about stuff. My only disappointment with the article is we talked for two days and that was maybe representative of an hour of our conversation. But they’ve only got so many pages and we weren’t writing a book, so there you are. I’ve never not answered a question and I’ve never not been honest about it. I’ve certainly seen what happens if you’re not and that scares the life out of me so there you are.

CraveOnline: Any plans to work with your dad?

Kiefer Sutherland: Not right now, no.

CraveOnline: How are your musical pursuits going?

Kiefer Sutherland: You mean for Rocco de Luca and the Burden? Yeah, Rocco de Luca and the Burden is a band off a very small label that Jude Cole and I started called Ironworks. We started that about two years ago. The band started to break very strongly in England when we focused and they are now coming back to the states to kind of just start our work there.

CraveOnline: What’s your must see TV?

Kiefer Sutherland: It’s very hard with the schedule but the shows that I have always been a huge fan of The West Wing and I’m very sad to see that not continuing on. I’m a huge fan of The Sopranos like everybody else. I just started to watch Deadwood which I’m finally starting to get. And then one of my favorite shows that I’m just amazed that it doesn’t get more attention is a show called The Wire. I just think it’s beautifully written I think it’s so superbly acted and filmed. There’s a reality to that show that I find extraordinary. So there’s a few.

CraveOnline: Do you do any charity work?

Kiefer Sutherland: Most of the charities are things we do kind of coordinated with Fox. We try and supply a lot of material, we tend to do a lot of auctions and on set things but it’s really a variety. I think the one that I’ve been most personally focused with is Make a Wish Foundation and we had a young man, Peter, who would come back for a year and a half before he finally passed and was a very personal experience not only for me but for the rest of the show and I think the people there have done such great work, but it’s again, our schedule is, and I don’t want to complain about it because we love the job but it’s so time consuming that it’s very hard to be consistent with anything else. And I mean that literally, anything from a social life to being able to take advantage of your celebrity and do some good work with charity.

CraveOnline: What’s going on with the 24 film?

Kiefer Sutherland: It’s something that we really, really want to make. The real key difference would be that the 24 hour film would be a 2 hour representation of a 24 hour day. It would be the first thing that we didn’t do in real time. Mainly, you have to understand, we’re making two episodes every three weeks. We would have three months to make a two hour [movie]. Just to have that kind of time to really allow our cinematographer and our director and the writers to focus on such a finite thing. And actually be able to do a film that really has a conclusion, I think would be really exciting not only for us to make but I think for an audience as well. But the thing that I’m most excited about that is that we’re going to make it within the context of still running the show. Everybody compares it to X-Files the movie, except with X-files the movie, the show was done or at least he was done with it at that point. I actually believe that the film and the show can actually coexist and for quite some time. I think once that starts to happen, the dynamic between television and film will really change in a major way.

CraveOnline: What confidence do you have that it’ll work without the real time format?

Kiefer Sutherland: Because I think after five years and specifically when we go to shoot it after six years, the characters have been even more defined. I think that the sensibility of the show is really entrenched. The audience that it would be going after really understands those characters and has a certain expectation and we will do everything we can to meet that.

CraveOnline: Will the movie fit within the timeframe with the TV show?

Kiefer Sutherland: It will be outside of the TV show.

CraveOnline: Before or after one of the seasons?

Kiefer Sutherland: That is the writers’ option. They’re working on it now and in all fairness, I’ve heard rough ideas kind of in every direction.

CraveOnline: Are you working on anything else?

Kiefer Sutherland: There’s a couple things that I’ve heard from other writers. We started this production company that’s with Fox and there’s a couple things we’re very excited about in that area. But we’re in the process of just kind of getting that on its feet. This summer was the first summer that I didn’t take a film. I really wanted to take some time, anchor myself and I really wanted to focus. I think every year we’ve always noticed the first four episodes get more difficult to really make those work and I wanted to work with John Cassar and the writers as much as they were available so that we would really have as much a head start as we could when we started filming.

CraveOnline: Is there another type of project you’d like to do?

Kiefer Sutherland: It really is what strikes my fancy at the time. I’ve been really fortunate over the course of my career to be able to have a lot of different opportunities. Why I would choose a film like Dark City was really my mood that week and why I would then go choose to do The Glass Menagerie for six months was another mood. It’s generally whatever I start to think I got a shot at doing well.