Hollywood Flashback: In 1984, Kiefer ?Sutherland Hit TIFF With His Parents — and So Did the Pope

Sutherland Family - H 2015
Co Rentmeester/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Says Sutherland, who will be at this year's TIFF with 'Forsaken' (screening Sept. 16), the Western he stars in with his father: "You don’t want to go up against the Pope."

The Hollywood Reporter had high hopes for Daniel Petrie’s personal story of adolescence in Nova Scotia, The Bay Boy, when it opened the ninth Toronto Film Festival in 1984. "Although The Bay Boy is a specialized film, it is certainly accessible enough to capture attention beyond the art house circuit," wrote THR in its review. "It is a memorable film in many respects, and perhaps helpful word-of-mouth will transform it into the sleeper it should be."

While Boy, which starred Liv Ullmann and Kiefer Sutherland, didn’t do that well at the box office (its domestic gross was $162,364), the coming-of-age film marked the 17-year-old Sutherland’s major film debut. (He’s listed as a main character in 1983’s Max Dugan Returns but is barely visible in that film.)

"I remember the premiere as like going to the prom or the ball," says Sutherland, 48, who grew up in Toronto after his mother, actress and activist Shirley Douglas, and father, actor Donald Sutherland, divorced in 1970. "I think my mom helped me get dressed and took me there. And I spent most of the evening with my dad. They were really encouraging and told me I’d done well. I’m always getting asked what my parents felt about my becoming an actor, and I know at certain points they weren’t thrilled, but I always say they were supportive, and that night at the festival is one of the memories that shows up in my mind."

The Bay Boy and Sutherland were fortunate that their moment in the Toronto limelight came early in the fest. On the event’s closing day,John Paul II, the first pope to step foot on Canadian soil, was in town to preside over mass attended by 500,000 believers.

Says Sutherland, who will be at this year’s TIFF with Forsaken (screening Sept. 16), the Western he stars in with his father: "You don’t want to go up against the Pope."