Road Trip with Donald Sutherland and Helen Mirren

Michael Schulman

February 12-19, 2018

Article taken from the New Yorker.

In “The Leisure Seeker,” they play a couple on a Winnebago odyssey. In New York, they did a morning-show blitz.

Donald Sutherland, Officer of the Order of Canada, and Helen Mirren, Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, were in town to talk about their movie “The Leisure Seeker” (it opens next month), in which they play a married couple who drive an R.V. from Massachusetts to the Florida Keys. In New York, they were subjected to a different sort of road trip: the morning-show blitz. It began at 7 a.m., when they were picked up at the St. Regis in separate cars. Sutherland’s smelled of gas fumes, and, by the time he got to the “Today” show, he felt nauseated.

“You should have demanded to drive yourself, like you did in the movie,” Mirren told him, in the dressing rooms in the bowels of Rockefeller Center. Sutherland, eighty-two, wore a purple scarf over a suit. Mirren, seventy-two, was in her first outfit of the day: a plaid kilt and a black sweater bejewelled with safety pins. “All right,” she said, “I’m going to go next door and finish tarting myself up.”

The actors were brought onto a set furnished with Adirondack chairs and a fake campfire and answered questions from Hoda Kotb. (“How did you get that Southern accent down?”) When it was over, Sutherland went on to “Live with Kelly and Ryan.” Mirren changed into her second outfit—pink turtleneck, leather boots—and filmed a segment with Kotb to be aired later.

They reconvened at “The View,” eighteen blocks north. Sutherland had a pounding headache and looked pale. He asked an aide to find him a grilled-cheese sandwich. He said he hadn’t slept well. “When I was in Yugoslavia in 1968, I contracted spinal meningitis and died,” he said, taking a bite. “For whatever it was, five or ten seconds. You watch your body go down this blue tunnel. It’s iridescent, like an oyster shell. It’s very seductive, dying. But I pulled myself back.” Since then, he hasn’t slept more than four hours a night.

Mirren was in her dressing room, in outfit No. 3: a sheer skirt with “Feminist” spelled out in sequins. She spun around in her makeup chair to greet her co-star: “Hi, darling!”

“I’m not very well,” Sutherland said. “I don’t know what the bloody hell’s happened.”

“Just go with the flow,” she said.

“Well, the flow might be coming from my stomach through my mouth.” He downed a ginger ale and went to the set, as the “View” hosts wrapped up a segment on party-invitation etiquette. Instead of vomiting on television, Sutherland teared up when Whoopi Goldberg mentioned presenting him with his lifetime-achievement Oscar, in November. A co-host, Sunny Hostin, interjected, “Dame Mirren, your skirt is everything.”

Their next appointment was at Sirius XM. “The thing about these morning shows is you arrive and you’re half dead,” Mirren said in the car. “You walk in and they’re like greyhounds, going a thousand miles a minute.” She had managed to sleep seven hours.

“See, I can’t do that,” Sutherland said.

Script developed by Never Enough Design