Kiefer Sutherland is mourning the loss of his mother, actress Shirley Douglas. The 53-year-old actor announced the news of her passing at the age of 86 via Twitter on Sunday.
“Early this morning my mother, Shirley Douglas, passed away due to complications surrounding pneumonia (not related to COVID19),” wrote Sutherland. “My mother was an extraordinary woman who led an extraordinary life. Sadly she had been battling for her health for quite some time and we, as a family, knew this day was coming.”
— Kiefer Sutherland (@RealKiefer) April 5, 2020
The 24 alum went on to say that his heart breaks for the families who have lost loved ones unexpectedly due to the coronavirus, and urged his fans to “please stay safe.”
Even though Douglas is known to many Americans as Sutherland’s mother, she was an accomplished Canadian actress who starred in films, television, and on stage. She was also a political activist and the daughter of Canada medicare founder, Tommy Douglas.
Some of her most notable roles during her career included Mrs. Starch in Stanley Kubrick’s 1963 film Lolita, Laura in David Cronenburg’s 1988 film Dead Ringers, as well as the role of May Bailey in the 1990s Canadian TV series Wind At My Back.
Born on April 2, 1934, in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, Douglas attended the Banff School of Fine Arts and also studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. She married actor Donald Sutherland in 1965 and gave birth to twins Kiefer and Rachel. The couple divorced in 1971. She also shared a son named Thomas with her first husband, Timothy Sicks.
Shirley Douglas was a tremendous talent, a tireless advocate, and a fearless activist who never stopped fighting for what she believed in. Her passing is a true loss for our country, and I’m sending my condolences to @RealKiefer and their entire family during this difficult time.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) April 6, 2020
In addition to her acting work, Douglas was a passionate political activist who supported numerous causes, including the civil rights movement, the Black Panthers, and universal health care. She also protested the Vietnam War and co-founded the first chapter in Canada of the Performing Artists for Nuclear Disarmament.
In 2009, she told the Canadian Press that being an actress and political activist kept her away from her children for extended periods of time, but ultimately it made her a better mother.
“Our jobs, we move around a great deal … and that is the reality that my children grew up with — is being left, and not happily,” said Douglas. “You either have to decide you’re going to be guilty about it and not do it, or that you are going to do it and that you will be, in the end — and I hate to use it as an excuse — but that you’ll be a better mother than being home bitter that you aren’t allowed out.”
Shirley Douglas was never afraid to stand up for what she believed in, and she said during that 2009 interview that you have to go out and live your life. If you see something that offends you, then you have to follow that and take it up.