Donald Sutherland is an actor with a hugely varied repertoire, from the YA thrills of The Hunger Games to the pure horror of Don’t Look Now via the prestige drama of JFK. But you probably don’t associate him with musicals. Anybody who’s seen the 2017 curio Basmati Blues will be able to tell you why.
Basmati Blues is an odd spot in Donald Sutherland‘s filmography, and indeed the filmography of its star Brie Larson. It would be fair to say it won’t trouble many lists of the best musicals ever made, including ours. However, you’re here to find out why Sutherland was singing about one of the best Star Wars villains, and we’re here to tell you.
The film features Sutherland as an evil capitalist who runs a company trying to sell genetically-modified rice to Indian farmers, while planning to scam them in the process. Look, it’s a weird movie, but it gets even weirder when Sutherland delivers the lyric “Obi-Wan Kenobi gave up to Darth Vader” in a bizarre musical number.
In the song ‘Greater Good’, Sutherland’s character tries to seduce an agricultural representative who’s skeptical about the rice – like we said, a weird film – by persuading him that his company is actually acting in the interests of everybody. That includes reminding him that even Obi-Wan Kenobi eventually allowed himself to be killed in service of a greater cause (listen from around 1.50 for the all-important line).
Look, this might be one of the strangest movies in Sutherland’s career, and it really has to be seen to be believed. But despite all of the movie’s considerable flaws, Sutherland genuinely appears to be having the time of his life as the scenery-chewing bad guy.
It’s no cinematic classic and it won’t rank among the best movies of anybody involved, but Sutherland clearly loved it – he even paid for his own costumes – and you get to see Brie Larson as a super-earnest singing scientist too. At one point, she jolts herself awake and just yells “chromosome”. For real.
The evil CEO Gurgon might not go down as one of the best movie villains of Sutherland’s career, but fortunately we’ve got a reason to talk about a character that will. Sutherland dominated the Hunger Games cast with his take on the evil President Snow, whose origin is the focus of new prequel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.
Tom Blyth takes over from Sutherland as the younger version of the character, though we do get the original star’s trademark gruffness in the form of a sinister voice cameo. We had a great time with the film, as you can see from our Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes review.
For more on one of our favorite new movies of the fall period, check out the Hunger Games easter eggs in the prequel and find out about the biggest book changes in the Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes movie. And if you can’t get enough of Sutherland, learn why he turned down millions to make Animal House.