By EW Staff
Updated March 17, 1995 at 05:00 AM EST

”I’m playing a general because I’m 60 years old.” Donald Sutherland knows his territory. Once upon a time he fought Nazis in The Dirty Dozen, jousted with the brass as Capt. Hawkeye Pierce in M*A*S*H, and tried to keep his head during Invasion of the Body Snatchers. But now the 6’4” Canadian has taken command. Last seen as an ice-cold mogul in Disclosure, he plays the wily yet politic Colonel Fetisov in the current HBO movie Citizen X and the unblinking General McClintock in Outbreak. Says Sutherland: ”It’s really a function of age.” And a little arm-twisting on the part of Outbreak star Dustin Hoffman, who rang Sutherland up in Budapest, where he was completing Citizen X-in October 1994. Sutherland had recently taken on alien parasites for The Puppet Masters, and he wasn’t eager to battle Outbreak’s killer virus. ”I said no. I was tired,” he recalls. ”But Dustin’s a powerful force and I ended up doing it and having a wonderful time. Though there wasn’t any script.” Actually, the viral script was mutating. When producer Arnold Kopelson failed to obtain screen rights to Richard Preston’s October 1992 New Yorker article, ”Crisis in the Hot Zone” (the basis of Preston’s best-seller, The Hot Zone), he hired screenwriters Laurence Dworet, an M.D., and Robert Roy Pool to fashion a fictional medical thriller; then, says Dworet, following the success of The Fugitive, Warner insisted on more action, and so the writers brought in the big gun, McClintock, who’s prepared to bomb an entire town if it will contain the virus. While director Wolfgang Petersen wrestled with whether he should give the general free rein, test audiences demanded that the ruthless McClintock be properly chastened. So last month the actor was summoned for two more days of filming. Even so, Sutherland-who insists the roles he plays defy such neat classifications as villain or good guy-takes issue with the idea that his character was designed to elicit hisses. He speaks of McClintock with some fondness: ”He’s a funny, witty, very objective military man. A lot of people find his decisions hard to take, but he’s tough.” Adds the actor, an inveterate baseball fan: ”My personal feeling is that he could have solved the baseball strike.”


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