Perhaps the most definitive descriptor for Kiefer Sutherland's career is not any particular niche he's carved for himself, but rather his versatility. From the perfected subtleties he has portrayed in supporting roles, to his command of the screen as a star, Sutherland has covered abundant ground. His roles have ranged from deeply psychological, such as the medical student in Flatliners, to upbeat and authoritative, like the sheriff in Picking Up the Pieces. In addition to his talent on the big screen, Sutherland has earned directorial credits, as well as a Golden Globe Award in 2001 for Best Actor in a TV Drama.
Kiefer Sutherland and his twin sister, Rachel, were born to acting parents Donald Sutherland and Shirley Douglas in the U.K. on December 21, 1966. In 1971, his parents divorced, and Sutherland moved from their home in L.A. to Toronto with his mother. Just six years later, he was appearing in theatrical performances, including a production of Throne of Strow. His first film appearance occurred in 1983, in Max Dugan Returns, with a scene featuring Sutherland alongside his father Donald Sutherland.
The 1980s brought the beginning of what would become Kiefer Sutherland's lengthy list of film credits. Most notable were his roles in The Bay Boy -- a 1930s coming-of-age story set in Nova Scotia -- for which he won a Genie Award in 1984, and the Rob Reiner drama Stand by Me (1986) in which he played a scene-stealing bully. He appeared in The Lost Boys in 1987, also starring Jason Patric. In 1988, at age 20, Sutherland married Camelia Kath, who was 14 years his senior, and the couple had a daughter named Sarah Jude that same year. The marriage lasted for two years.
Flatliners, 1990's groundbreaking psychodrama, starred Sutherland with Kevin Bacon, William Baldwin, and Julia Roberts. The story involved four medical students experimenting with death, attempting to actually die to experience the after-life, and then be revived by their peers. The unique story line and strong performances earned the stars a lot of attention for the film. Sutherland and Roberts engaged in an offscreen romance, which endured for some time after shooting had wrapped.
In 1992, Sutherland starred in the blockbuster A Few Good Men, also starring Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore, and Kevin Bacon. Within a year, he made his directorial debut with the made-for-television drama Last Light, in which he also starred as a prison inmate. He was married a second time, to Kelly Winn, in 1996, but the relationship had ended by 2000.
In the late '90s, his career picked up pace, with multiple acting and directing credits occurring within single years. The year 1997 featured Sutherland as Joey in a modern film noir called The Last Days of Frankie the Fly, and as director of the psycho-thriller Truth or Consequences, N.M. In A Soldier's Sweetheart, adapted from a story by Vietnam-vet writer Tim O'Brien, he played the narrator of the flashbacks, in 1998. That same year, he starred in the science fiction-mystery film Dark City with Jennifer Connelly and Rufus Sewell. His second self-directed TV movie, Woman Wanted, was one of four projects released crediting his name in 1999. He also appeared in a German film called After Alice, the psychotic drama Ground Control with Kristy Swanson and Kelly McGillis, and the thriller The Break Up starring Bridget Fonda.
Shifting gears from the deep, psychosomatic, and eerie tones of his late-'90s films, Sutherland played the sheriff in 2000's Picking Up the Pieces. Featuring David Schwimmer, Cheech Marin, and Sharon Stone, the film was a satirical comedy infused with screwball humor, with a notable appearance by Woody Allen. Again revisiting a more dramatic genre, Sutherland starred in Fox's revolutionary action series 24 as antiterrorism agent Jack Bauer. With each 1-hour episode told in real time, the 24 episode season represented a single day in the show's chronology. Immediately garnering rave reviews and a rabid core fanbase, the series became a hit and in 2001, Sutherland's role on the program earned him recognition as Best Actor in a TV Drama at the Golden Globe Awards. The innovative series would continue to collect awards and nominations as it was renewed for successive seasons which each followed the single-day format, but took place months or sometimes years later in the timeline.
As he continued to star on 24, Sutherland parlayed the show's success into some higher-profile film roles. In 2003, he played the menacing villain in the thriller Phone Booth, and the following year, he played another bad-guy opposite Ethan Hawke and Angelina Jolie in Taking Lives. 24 continued to be the actor's main gig, however, and by the time he began season six in 2006, the of character Jack Bauer had become a cultural icon as the ultimate anti-hero: and a man capable of doing or enduring anything in the name of justice, protection, or even vengeance.
In addition to his work on 24, Sutherland took on a variety of voice roles (Monsters vs Aliens, Twelve, Marmaduke), and co-starred with Kristin Dunst in Lars von Trier's Melancholia (2011).