Kiefer Sutherland is running late. Production has overrun on today’s filming of the new series of 24, the geopolitical thriller that has made him a major star for a second time around. He apologises profusely when he finally makes it to the Mayfair private members’ club booked for our meeting. But it’s not necessary.
I understand: Sutherland might not be quite as time-poor as his race-against-the-clock alter ego Jack Bauer, but with eight seasons of the show under his belt and a ninth underway — this one set for the first time in London — he’s a busy man.
Shooting 24 looks like hard work. “Physically, 24 is a hard show to do,” he says, looking lean from the four months of gym work he’s done ahead of the new series. “I look back and see we did 192 episodes over eight seasons. I don’t know how we did it. It makes you want to go take a nap.”
The show provided a second wind for Sutherland’s career.
Now 47, he first broke through in 1986 with Stand by Me and had a run of hits as a late entrant to the Eighties Brat Pack: The Lost Boys (1987), Young Guns (1988) and Flatliners (1990). After tabloid notoriety in the early Nineties — he was engaged to be married to Julia Roberts until she ran off with his friend, Jason Patric — Sutherland’s big-screen career ran out of steam later that decade.
24, in 2001, turned that around. Since then, Jack Bauer — neocon poster boy — has seen off weapons of mass destruction, cyber attacks and members of the Russian parliament, not always in the most ethical manner. If the actor who plays him doesn’t agree with Bauer’s methods, he can appreciate his character’s intentions. “I can say I don’t believe in torture and I believe in due process and innocent until proven guilty,” Sutherland says, before presenting a steeliness worthy of his fictional character. “Having said that, if somebody had kidnapped my daughter in real life and I had someone in my hands who knew her whereabouts, then I would tear them apart until I got her back.”
Sutherland has one daughter from the first of his two marriages, both of which ended in divorce. He’s now a grandfather to two boys. He says turning 45 was pivotal: “That was the first age I ever hit where I started doing the maths — ‘in five years I will be 50. Oh my God, in 10 years I’ll be 55. In 20 years I will be 65. At 65 you get half-price tickets to fucking movies, holy shit.’” But he resolved to think positively about ageing. “It made me acknowledge how much I’ve enjoyed my life. I’ve got a really wonderful family, and some fantastic friends.”