Donald Sutherland’s Near-Death Experience

Actor pens a special essay for Smithsonian Journeys "Venice" issue.

SmithsonianJourneysCoverFor the latest issue of quarterly Smithsonian Journeys, focused on Venice, Italy, an essay was penned by a foreigner who loves that magical city more than most. Actor Donald Sutherland.

What makes his devotion to “Venezia” all the more remarkable is that it all started very inauspiciously. Sutherland, arriving there in 1968 at a time when he was shooting Kelly’s Heroes, fully contracted pneumonia. He writes that it led to a frightening out-of-body experience:

Standing behind my right shoulder, I’d watched my comatose body slide peacefully down a blue tunnel. That same blue tunnel the near dead always talk about. Such a tempting journey. So serene. No barking Cerberus to wake me. Everything was going to be all right. And then…

And then, well, you’ll have to pick up a copy of the Winter issue, on newsstands this week, or read online version, to find out. Sutherland’s artful essay goes on to recount a very different kind of memory involving Fellini, for whom he starred in Venice as Casanova, and Rome’s La Scala opera house. This is the first celebrity essay published by Smithsonian Journeys. Bravissimo!