Donald Sutherland Gave Jaeden Martell Very Specific Advice On The Set Of Mr. Harrigan's Phone

Hawkeye (not the one with the arrows) in the film version of "M*A*S*H," President Snow in "The Hunger Games," Buffy's watcher Merrick in the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" movie — with an acting career that spans more thapn 60 years, Donald Sutherland has worked on just about every kind of project there is. That includes a trip to the Stephen King universe, back when he starred in the 2004 miniseries adaptation of "Salem's Lot."

Sutherland has since returned to the King-verse for "Mr. Harrigan's Phone," a new film based on the author's novella of the same name (which he published as part of his 2020 collection "If It Bleeds"). The movie centers on Craig (Jaeden Martell), a troubled boy from a small town who strikes up a surprising bond with the eponymous character (Sutherland), a local wealthy recluse. After the elderly Mr. Harrigan passes away, Craig contacts the iPhone his friend was buried with in the hopes of gaining some closure ... only to just about keel over when he gets a response instead.

Sentimental yet horrifying in that typical King style, "Mr. Harrigan's Phone" doubles as Martell's own return to the King-verse. The actor previously played the young version of Losers' Club member Bill Denbrough in the "It" movies and has kept busy ever since, popping up in "Knives Out" and starring in the crime drama series "Defending Jacob." It seems he and Sutherland may have even formed an off-screen bond paralleling that between Craig and Mr. Harrison, as Martell discussed in a recent interview.

'Don't stop acting'

Far from unsettling or disturbing, Martell assured Variety his "It" costar Bill Skarsgård was "very sweet" in the lead-up to production. Of course, that changed once the former suited up as Pennywise the Dancing Clown, at which point Martell found him appropriately terrifying. Even so, it was nothing next to the fear he felt acting with a seasoned veteran like Sutherland, whom he referred to as "the real deal."

Much to Martell's relief (though maybe not surprising, given Sutherland is known for being nothing if not a professional), Sutherland was not only supportive of Martell, he even gave him some handy and fairly specific advice:

"He called me into his trailer, and he was like, 'Don't stop acting,' which was amazing to hear. Also, he told me to go to college and to study literature, because that's exactly what he did. And then he gave me a list of plays to rehearse."

Indeed, that sounds like sound advice for any budding actor, not least of all coming from someone who clearly knows their craft inside and out. Literature is also pivotal to the story in "Mr. Harrigan's Phone," as Craig and Mr. Harrigan form a connection over their shared love of books prior to the latter's passing. The film's writer/director John Lee Hancock ("The Blind Side," "Saving Mr. Banks") explained:

"[Their relationship] goes from books, to what do the books mean and how does that relate to life, and then it turns into life advice — and then into life threats. There was a natural progression from these books, and every book is there for a very specific reason, thematically, so they all kind of feed the story."

"Mr. Harrigan's Phone" premieres on Netflix on October 5, 2022.