“This character has something Jack Bauer never had, which is a sense of humor, and I was so thrilled by that,” enthused Kiefer Sutherland as we discussed his latest project, The Fugitive. “On 24, I think Jack smiled once during the entire show, and that was on the plane when he was handcuffed to Nina Myers. That’s not a lot of smiling in 216 hours.”
“This guy, he’s fun. He’s not right all the time, but he’s certainly fun. He’s humorous, sarcastic, and crusty, and that was all in Nick Santora’s writing. This character was a joy to play.”
In The Fugitive, Sutherland plays Detective Clay Bryce, who leads the hunt for Boyd Holbrook’s Mike Ferro, on the run after being wrongly suspected of a bombing on the LA subway who needs to prove his innocence.
It’s inspired by the original TV show from the 1960s and the Oscar-winning 1993 movie that starred Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones.
“Historically, I was aware of the TV show even before the Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones movie came out,” the actor explained. “At that time, it further amplified why a film was always going to be better than a television series with the story because it was so focused, a two-hour channeling of a story, and on a production level, they’re not even comparable. In the early 90s, it reinforced all my perceptions of television. That’s ironic, given that those same perceptions were shattered for me in 2001 by taking on a show like 24. And now here we are doing The Fugitive again, episodically but in a whole new way.”
He added, “I learned so much over the course of making 24. Why I think television has changed is because they stopped writing an episodic version of an idea. Instead, they started focusing on serialized shows that that would have a sensibility and an entire story. 24 was a continuous, very long 216-hour movie.”
The Sutherland-led incarnation of The Fugitive premieres on Quibi on Monday, August 3, 2020. New episodes in the 14 part first season will be released on the streaming platform weekdays through Tuesday, August 18, 2020.
“I knew it was going to be broken down into 14 or 15 ten minute episodes. We hadn’t shot anything, so we didn’t know what the exact timing would be. My approach was to tell the whole story from beginning to end, so I approached it like I was making a film,” Sutherland mused. “However, I was fully aware that Stephen Hopkins, the director, had created these entrances and exits that we had to be aware of and get the tone right at the beginning and the end of an episode. There was a lot to think about. In all fairness, the larger responsibility was really on Nick and Stephen, who had to make it all palatable visually.”
If The Fugitive proves popular, would the actor be open to a second season?
“That would be up to them,” he said. “My experience making this season was one of the nicest experiences I’ve ever had. Production ran smoothly, working with Stephen was like working with an old friend as he did the first season of 24, and Boyd is an extraordinary actor. A second season is always going to be dictated by Quibi and the audience turnout for this first season.”
“If they want it, I would certainly be open to it. Having said that, I’ve always left the door slightly ajar for 24 if someone comes up with a great idea.”
It’s clear that 24 remains a project that Sutherland remains fond of, and the SAG, Emmy, and Golden Globe award-winning show is one that he would gladly return to.
“I’ve been banging my head against a brick wall for a movie for so long that I’ve got a concussion,” he laughed. “Honestly, the form more 24 would take doesn’t matter to me as much as the quality of the story. If someone comes up with a great story that can be told in two hours, then we’re going to make a movie, but if someone comes up with a great story that could be 24 hours, we’ll do the show.”
“As an actor, 24 remains one of the most dynamic experiences I’ve ever had. Where a character was allowed to have such highs and lows in such a fast period of time is a gift. There are very few setups that will allow you to do that, and I find that incredibly fun, challenging, and exciting. There’s been nine seasons, and I think it rests in a credible place. The difficulty is you don’t ever want to do anything that is going to damage that.”
Another favorite project of Sutherland’s is the Oscar-nominated movie Flatliners. It was one of several films that he starred in that were directed by Joel Schumacher, who recently passed away from cancer. The pair remained good friends, and the actor felt the director’s death deeply.
“It was just so sad. The last time I saw Joel was in New York, maybe not even a year ago. I think that was before he was diagnosed. I never knew that he was sick,” he recalled. “We made five films together with the first one being The Lost Boys. I remember when I signed on for Flatliners. I thought that we were going to be making a movie that was completely based in reality, certainly visually, and then we would do this extraordinary experiment. Joel had a very different idea.”
“At one point, I’m running down the hallway, and I pass the Statue of Liberty’s head, but it’s small, like 10 feet tall, and I round the corner, and I pass a big metal box with rubber gloves sticking out of it. I’m like, ‘What the f*** is that?’ Then I run around the other corner, to where we’re going to do the big experiment, and there’s a stage that looks like Billy Idol is about to do a concert. But instead of Billy Idol, there’s a gurney. Basically, I had the closest thing I’ve ever had to a nervous breakdown. I was like, ‘Joel; I can’t do this. This is ridiculous.’ I was running out of the building, trying to catch my breath, I’m having a panic attack and thinking, ‘Oh my God, what have I done?’ Joel walks out, he puts his hand on my back and asks if I’m alright. I’m said, ‘I’m so sorry to let you down. I can’t do this.’ He’s patting me on the back, and I’ll never forget what he said to me. He said, ‘Kiefer. If you don’t think every morning I wake up and know that I have your future in my hand, you’re out of your mind. You’re going to have to trust me.’ And I did.”
Sutherland concluded, “I’m so glad that I made that choice because when I went to the screening of Flatliners, he was absolutely right. It was so good. It was more than I could ever have hoped for. That was really mine and Joel’s relationship. I will forever be grateful for the opportunities that he presented to me, and I will be grateful for the friend that he was to me. I will miss him until the day I die.”
The Fugitive premieres on Quibi on Monday, August 3, 2020.