Shirley Douglas, Actress and Kiefer Sutherland's Mother, Dead at 86

Canadian actress and activist Shirley Douglas, the second wife of Donald Sutherland and Kiefer Sutherland's mother, died on Sunday at age 86. Douglas was best known for her roles in Lolita and Dead Ringers, and starred in the 1998 children's movie Barney's Great Adventure. Kiefer announced his mother's death on Twitter, and said it was unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Early this morning my mother, Shirley Douglas, passed away due to complications surrounding pneumonia (not related to COVID-19)," Kiefer wrote on Twitter. "My mother was an extraordinary woman who led an extraordinary life. Sadly, she had been batting for her health for quite some time and we, as a family, knew this day was coming. To any families who have lost loved ones unexpectedly due to the coronavirus, my heart breaks for you. Please stay safe."

Douglas was born on April 2, 1934 in Weyburn, Saskatchewan and was the daughter of Tommy Douglas, the politician famous for introducing Medicare to Canada. In a 2013 interview with the Toronto Star, Douglas described the difficult conditions she saw as a child.

"The depression, the dust storms, tumbleweeds going down the street, the cars shaking in the wind, holding wet cloths over our mouths when we had to run from the car into the house, all the paint worn off the grain elevators, everything was grey," she recalled at the time. "You couldn't see the sun for days."

After showing promise as an actress on the stage during her teen years, she took a gamble and moved to London to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. Afterwards, she went back to Canada and was briefly married to her first husband, Timothy Emil Sicks.

The marriage fell apart, so she moved back to London, where she appeared in Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of Lolita and met Sutherland. The couple married and moved to Los Angeles. There, she got a taste of political activism by getting involved with the Black Panthers. She was even arrested in 1969 for "conspiracy to possess unregistered explosives" and spent five days in jail.

Douglas' marriage to Sutherland ended in 1970, but she remained politically active after moving back to Canada. She was even denied work until 1977 because of her politics.

Douglas continued acting on television through 2008, making her final appearance in an episode of Degrassi: The Next Generation. In 2006, she starred as Madeleine Albright in the ABC miniseries The Path to 9/11.


In 2012, Douglas received a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. Aside from Kiefer, she was also mother to Thomas Emil Sicks and Kiefer's twin sister Rachel.

Photo credit: George Pimentel/Getty Images