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Canada has produced plenty of megastars, but only one who’s descended from both political and acting royalty. Sutherland and his growl of a voice have been bona fide stars through five decades—particularly impressive considering the actor’s signature roles have been, er, somewhat complicated (including, most recently, Capt. Queeg in The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial). One thing’s for sure: Sutherland’s legacy will never grow old, and it’ll never die.

Go hard or go home

In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Sutherland was one of the hottest stars in Hollywood, starring in films like The Lost Boys, Young Guns and A Few Good Men, and engaged to the hottest actress: his Flatliners co-star Julia Roberts. After she ran off with his best friend, Sutherland — who’d raised horses and owned a cattle ranch — joined the rodeo, travelling around with legit cowboys. Eventually, he became a champion roper (look it up — it’s wild). As his friend Lou Diamond Phillips once said: “Kiefer doesn’t just stick his toe in. He goes all the way in.”

Follow your gut

When Sutherland got the script for 24, he loved it—but he didn’t think anyone else would. He dove in anyway, and the groundbreaking show debuted just a couple of months after 9/11. Sutherland’s portrayal of counterterrorism agent Jack Bauer resonated with scared and angry Americans, making “Previously on 24…” the most anticipated words on TV. The show ran for nine seasons and propelled Sutherland back into the spotlight for a whole new generation of fans.

Know your part

Sutherland made his name as a villain, starting in 1986 with Ace in Stand By Me and peaking in the 1996 thriller An Eye For an Eye, a portrayal so ugly that people refused to remain in his presence. Even 24′s Bauer crosses the line into bad-guy territory, having zero qualms about torture in the service of the greater good. But no story shines without an antagonist, and Sutherland came to accept that he was damn good at being one, saying: “My rationalization as an actor is, if those characters aren’t kind of awful, then the good part of this story can’t be told.”

Family matters

Though Sutherland left Toronto for Hollywood at 18, he’s fiercely proud of his Canadian roots — including his actor parents, Shirley Douglas and Donald Sutherland, and especially his grandfather, Tommy Douglas, who created Canada’s universal health care system. And woe betide anyone who messes with that legacy — just ask Ontario Premier Doug Ford. After Ford implied Douglas would’ve supported the Conservatives’ cost-cutting, Sutherland posted a scathing open letter to Ford, with this kicker: “After all, I knew Tommy Douglas, and you, sir, are no Tommy Douglas.” As he later told CBC Radio: “I couldn’t think of anybody more diametrically different, politically and ideologically, than my grandfather. So I didn’t want some young person … to just accept that at face value.”

Shoot your shot

Sutherland, now 57, had always dreamed of collaborating with Clint Eastwood. When he heard the legend was making his final film, the yet-to-be-released legal thriller Juror No. 2, he introduced himself by letter and begged for even the smallest of parts. Eastwood cast him as the protagonist’s AA sponsor (rich considering Sutherland has publicly stated he has no plans to give up the drink, despite his battles with booze). “I’ve had a really, incredibly fortunate career,” he said about working with Eastwood. “But that’s a moment that’ll last with me forever.”

What business leaders can learn from Hollywood bad guy (and Canadian political royalty) Kiefer Sutherland
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