Pride and Prejudice 2005, Elixabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy face off in a ballroom. Kiera Knightly and Matthew Macfayden
(Focus Features)

Donald Sutherland’s Best Role Is Still as Our Favorite Dad

The recent passing of Donald Sutherland has been hard. Fans of the late actor have been celebrating the roles that made him beloved. While he was our terrifying President Snow in the Hunger Games franchise and starred in movies like M*A*S*H, there’s one role I love more.

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Donald Sutherland starred in one of the most perfect adaptations. When I say “perfect,” I absolutely mean it. I am, of course, talking about the 2005 version of Pride & Prejudice. Sutherland played the complicated role of Mr. Bennet, the father of five daughters who are all strong-willed and not afraid to voice their opinions in the Regency era—which is a fascinating thing to unpack in our modern society.

Mr. Bennet could have been a dad who hated having all daughters or mocked his family, but Sutherland’s performance brought a warm energy to the Bennet household. We understood why these women were so free and vocal about their beliefs. Their father, if he could have, wouldn’t have asked them to marry anyone they didn’t want to. He would have let the women in his family have his money and his home, but society would not let him. Instead, he tried to follow what society wanted while also taking care of his daughters and their happiness.

While the film became known for Mr. Darcy’s (Matthew Macfadyen) hand flex and Lizzie Bennet (Keira Knightley) confronting him in the rain, one of the most beautiful scenes in the film is when Mr. Bennet asks Lizzie about this engagement that she is suddenly so excited about. Jane (Rosamund Pike) figures her life out with Mr. Bingley (Simon Woods), and while it seems like kismet that Lizzie would then wed Bingley’s best friend, Mr. Bennet doesn’t want his daughter to marry just to do so.

Mr. Bennet is the best

That scene in particular is a beautiful example of what a good father Mr. Bennet is, and seeing Sutherland play him as a man who is ecstatic for both Jane and Lizzie’s happiness has always stayed with me.

To celebrate the legacy that Sutherland left behind, Focus Features posted a scene from Pride & Prejudice to their social media accounts, and the joy in his face when he realized Lizzie’s feelings really just makes you want to cry because he loves his girls so dearly. The caption (which is a Jane Austen quote) reads: “Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure.”

I could probably wax poetic about a lot of Donald Sutherland performances. There are almost too many to even start, but what I always think back to is how much I loved his take on Mr. Bennet. A character who can be mean or aloof just wasn’t part of Sutherland’s take. Instead, he was just a man surrounded by women he loved and cared for, and their happiness was often tied to his own, and playing that good dad was beautiful.

Sutherland will be missed, but we will always have his brilliant work to turn to.

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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.