Kiefer Sutherland has a kidney stone.
We’re scheduled to meet for lunch at L.A.’s venerable showbiz hang, Chaya Brasserie, but as I cruise toward Chaya, I get The Call. “He doubled over just before an appearance before the Hollywood Foreign Press Association,” an assistant tells me. He’s now in a medical facility, and, of course, everything is in limbo, probably canceled, and that includes me.
I wait out the kidney stone at a Beverly Hills hair replacement facility, popping in for a scalp massage and follicle exfoliation treatment, praying that Sutherland’s stone passes before my return flight does. Then, just when I’m about to call it a day, my cellphone rings: The stone is gone and Sutherland has rallied. “He wants to do it,” says the assistant.
“To stop a weapon that has no cure, you need a man who knows no limits,” proclaims the ad copy for 24, the nail-biting hit Fox TV series, which plays out in real time, each of the 24 episodes tracking an impossibly frantic hour in the lives of government agents. Sutherland portrays the main character Jack Bauer, the steely-nerved Fed who “knows no limits.” The show snatched an impressive 10 Emmy nominations last season, and Sutherland’s own knows-no-limits acting won him a Golden Globe.
The son of actor Donald Sutherland, Kiefer has been on the fast track to fame since he first appeared as a knife-wielding punk in the film Stand By Me. In the years following, he was famously engaged to Julia Roberts and spent time competing on the rodeo circuit in Montana, where he once owned a ranch. One of his latest film roles was as a WWII POW in To End All Wars, so he’s not the type of guy to be laid low by a microscopic piece of calcium in the lower extremities.
When Sutherland finally shows at Chaya, he fires up a Camel.
“I’ve broken every bone in my body,” he says of his time in the rodeo. “But I’ve never experienced pain like this,” referring to the morning’s bronc-busting ride with the kidney stone.
Then he moves on to a story about a train, set in his hometown of Toronto, where he returned after a college stint in Ottawa.
“Actors like Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn had really broken down a lot of doors for younger actors, and I wanted to take advantage of that,” he says. “I remember getting on a train to Toronto one night, and when I got there, I had maybe $46, or something frightening like that. The train station in Toronto is massive; it’s like Grand Central Station. That morning, it was glorious and it was empty. I remember walking out of the station, seeing the pigeons take off, and thinking, This is the first day of the rest of my life. I remember feeling like Rocky. You know, when he’s at the top of the stairs.”
Toronto still makes a man feel like that. So herewith is Kiefer Sutherland’s 24-hour take on where you’ll find him, hour by hour, in Toronto, the city he still calls home.
Midnight: Check In and Unwind
“I have a house in Toronto, but I’ll still go stay a night or two at the Windsor Arms for nostalgic reasons. It’s right in the center of town, and I’ve stayed there forever. It’s a really old, kind of funky hotel that has a minimalist feel. I remember how minimalist and sexy Mickey Rourke’s apartment was in 9 1¼2 Weeks, and this hotel is very similar to that.”
1 a.m.: The World’s Best Soup
“The Windsor Arms has a restaurant called the Courtyard Café that does literally the best mushroom soup you’ll ever, ever, ever have. It would be like taking a regular mushroom soup and then sending it through a puree. It’s just got such a phenomenal taste, and it’s not too heavy.”
2 a.m. to 8 a.m.: Deep, Fortifying Snooze
8 a.m.: Breakfast of Champions
“Breakfast is not a huge meal of mine. Although there is a fantastic diner called Flo’s in Yorkville. It looks like the diner in the movie Diner.”
9 a.m.: Ski, Baby
“There’s one area where I trained as a kid. It’s like a 400-foot hill called Uplands, which is just outside the city limits. A nice ski area is Blue Mountain, which is about two hours away. It’s got a nice elevation.”
10 a.m.: Dressing for Winter
“There’s fantastic clothes shopping in Toronto. Throughout the Yorkville area there are fantastic boutiques, and Holt Renfrew is a fantastic store right there on Bloor Street. It’s like Saks or Barneys. Just a really nice, big department store. The Roots store is there, too. They started off as a shoe company and made a very eco-friendly all-purpose shoe. They became famous for that, and then winter jackets and hats, and now it’s a full clothing line, like the Gap.”
11 a.m.: Starting at the Top
“The CN Tower is the largest freestanding structure in the world. Any time we have someone coming to visit, it’s a mandatory stop. There’s a restaurant at the top and a lookout deck. What’s surprising is that the lookout deck is see-through. So as you step out, you’re looking straight down. It usually has a much more profound effect than most people think as they’re just riding up the elevator.”
Noon: Fries with Gravy
“There are two fast-food chains that you can’t find outside of Canada. One of them is Mr. Sub, which I think makes the best sub sandwiches I’ve ever had. The other is Harvey’s, which is a hamburger stand. They do a thing there that you don’t really do here in the States: French fries and gravy. They put the fries in the container, fill it halfway up with gravy, and it turns into the most delectable mush you’ve ever had. So generally, that’s my morning meal. Which is probably why I had a kidney stone.”
1 p.m.: Heartbreak Palace
"A fantastic place to see is Casa Loma, which is a castle in the middle of the city with a very sad story. It was built by Sir Henry Pellatt, who was the richest man in Toronto. He lost all his money and ended up living with his chauffeur. But the castle stayed, and the city took it over and it’s now operated by the Kiwanis Club. The architecture is extraordinary and is as opulent as it gets for a private residence.”
2 p.m.: Out for a Stroll
“Toronto is one of the nicest cities for just walking around. But if you don’t want to walk, the subway’s not complicated. It runs east-west, north-south, that’s it. If I were up at the Windsor Arms, I would take the subway down to Eaton Centre, and take a walk down Queen Street. There are two other areas I really love in Toronto. One is called The Annex, which is equivalent to New York’s Greenwich Village. Musicians, painters, and writers all hang out there, and there are tons of restaurants and bars. The other area is The Danforth. It’s predominantly a Greek neighborhood and has some of the most amazing Greek restaurants and bars and dance halls. Two of my favorite Greek restaurants there are Christina’s and Myth.”
3 p.m.: Chef Kiefer
“Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market will make you excited about cooking. The produce is so extraordinary. And it changes every day. I remember the first couple of times I went there to do the groceries, it made me want to learn how to cook.”
4 p.m.: Power Run or Walk
“L.A. is a city built around driving, but Toronto is built around taking the subway and public transportation and walking, very much like New York. I run. Unfortunately, a lot of it is done in a gym on a treadmill, but if I’m in Toronto, I’ll absolutely try to run. Unlike L.A., it’s possible to get away from the streets and actually not feel like you’re running into traffic the entire time. High Park is the big park in Toronto. It’s a very English park, with wild geese, ponds. A kind of less traditional park is Taylor Creek Park, which features a series of jogging trails. It’s in an area called Don Valley, which is a very nice area of the city.”
5 p.m.: Hanging Out
“There’s a fantastic restaurant in Yorkville called Prego. It’s indoor/outdoor, and so in the summer months, or even the fall, it’s stunningly beautiful during the day. It gets quite busy, so if you’re a people watcher, it’s a great place to go and just hang out. And it has fabulous food. Sotto Sotto is another fantastic Italian restaurant.”
6 p.m.: Go Team!
“The Toronto Blue Jays are a huge attraction, and the city has a good basketball team now, too. And the Canadian Football League is very exciting. But I don’t think anything comes close to hockey at the Air Canada Centre. That’s where the Leafs play, and the basketball team, the Raptors, as well. It’s very safe to go to a hockey game in Toronto. I mean, it’s not like going to an English football match in Chelsea. But the fan enthusiasm is incredibly exciting.”
7 p.m.: Dinner With Mom
“We’ll go to Bistro 990. It’s her favorite restaurant. I went to Bistro 990 with the director of 24 — he’s also from Toronto — and we took one of the writers. It reminded the writer of one of those fantastic under-ground German restaurants. Real arches, kind of low ceilings, very intimate. And they have a fantastic bar downstairs.”
8 p.m.: Setting the Stage
“I did stage work mainly in Toronto, and the [now defunct] Bayview Playhouse was the last kind of long run I had before I started working in film. There are so many fantastic theaters in Toronto. The fact that there are as many theaters as there are in Canada and that they survive is a fantastic achievement. The last place I worked was the Royal Alexander. When I was young, the Alex was a place I had dreamed about.”
9 p.m.: Going Underground
“Toronto’s winters aren’t as severe as those of Montreal or Winnipeg, but you do get a biting wind off the lake. But there’s the Eaton Centre, with its underground shopping, where you can get a lot of stuff done without having to surface. The Yorkville area, all the way from the Hudson Bay Center to Holt Renfrew, is underground as well.”
10 p.m.: Meet Your Buddies at the Bar
“The Four Seasons Hotel is still where most of the people coming for the Toronto Film Festival will stay. I made a joke once that there are so many films being made in Toronto at any given moment, that the Four Seasons bar was probably Hollywood’s hottest spot. I run into more people in that bar on any given night than I do out here in L.A.”
11 p.m.: Rock-and-Roll
“There’s fantastic live music on Queen Street West, which I find increasingly difficult to find in any city. But Queen Street West has always had live bands. Everything from reggae to rock to jazz. There’s a fantastic restaurant there, too, that I’ve gone to for almost 20 years called Peter Pan. It looks like one of those old New York Italian restaurants. There are also phenomenal rock-and-roll bars. My brother and I couldn’t wait to come of age to go to a bar called El Mocambo. The Rolling Stones played there one night on a whim. My brother saw The Police play there on their first tour of North America. There’s an area called Ontario Place, where you can go and see concerts. They have a beautiful open amphitheater. I think I kissed my first girl at Ontario Place.”
Midnight: Snack and Last Call
“People gather in Chinatown at the end of the night for some chow mein and tea. Chinese actor Chow Yun-Fat was actually quoted as saying that Toronto has the best Chinese food he’s ever tasted outside of China. Chinatown in Toronto is huge, and has an incredible variety where you can actually experience the difference between Szechwan and Hunan and Cantonese. If you’re still awake after all that, check out Club Lucky for late-night drinks, and Montana, a great lounge on John Street.”
5 QUESTIONS WITH KIEFER
What’s your favorite memory of Toronto?
“One of the first big jobs I got in Toronto was a film called The Bay Boy, which won,
I believe, 6 out of a possible 11 Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television awards. I was living in a basement apartment at Howland and Bloor. The building is still there; I check on it all the time. I didn’t even have a one-bedroom. It was a one-room apartment, and it had an exposed toilet with a curtain around it. And I just remember how excited I was when I got that job. I had to actually run outside to jump up and down.”
Why is the film industry so vibrant in Toronto?
“It’s because A) you have an incredibly large talent pool of people who know how to make films, B) you have a government willing to assist you, and C) you can’t beat the dollar exchange. I was in Whistler skiing, sitting with a bunch of Americans, and this guy said, ‘I can’t believe it. I came here with a hundred bucks. I got a lift ticket, four beers, and I still have over a hundred bucks.’”
What’s your favorite event in Toronto?
“The one thing I’ve always loved about Toronto, more than any place I’ve ever been, is this thing at the end of every June called Caravan. Every community, from Greek to East Indian, sets aside restaurants. You buy a book of tickets and you can go to whatever area you want. It’s basically like traveling the world, but all in Toronto. Let’s say you’re going to go for a German night. You’ll have dinner in this one area and it will also include tickets to go see a German show. The waiters or waitresses will wear authentic German costumes and then they’ll play German music and dance. It’s the same with every group. Toronto is one of the few places where its incredible cultural diversity works together constructively as opposed to people being pitted against each other. I was always very proud to be from Toronto because of that.”
What music reminds you of Toronto?
“I’m a huge fan of Canadian rock-and-roll. When I was growing up, Rush came out with a record called Hemispheres, and I must have listened to that record for two years straight. Even when I was asleep I had it on. So, yeah, whenever I hear a Rush tune, the first thing I think of is Toronto.”
What do you never leave home without when you travel?
“I’ve always traveled with a picture of my daughter from 1989, her kindergarten school picture, that has ‘I love you, Daddy’ written on it. She’s always made fun of me because I never changed that picture out. It’s like my resistance to her getting older. It was the first thing she’d ever written to me and it means the world to me.”
Here’s what’s typically on Sutherland’s Toronto to-do list.
Christina’s on The Danforth Greek, moderate
Peter Pan Bistro
Prego Della Piazza
Sotto Sotto Trattoria Italian, very expensive
St. Lawrence Market Complex
Blue Mountain Ski Resort
Metro Toronto International Caravan
Taylor Creek Park
Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto Maple Leafs
Uplands Golf & Ski Club
Club Lucky Kit Kat Too
Avenue at the Four Seasons
Here are some of the places on our Toronto to-do list.
Delta Chelsea Hotel
moderate, (416) 595-1975.
Canada’s largest hotel offers almost as many amenities as it does rooms, including a business center, health club, and the city’s only indoor waterslide.
The Strathcona Hotel moderate, (416) 363-3321.
The rooms may be small, but the Strath is perfect if you want to save money for other things, like shopping and sampling the city’s myriad restaurants. And you can’t beat the downtown locale or the fact it’s been family owned and operated since 1946.
Bonjour Brioche Bakery Cafe
inexpensive, (416) 406-1250.
This tiny patisserie on Queens Street East is a weekend brunch favorite, so be prepared to wait in line for a table. But once you get a bite of those baguettes, that granola, and the baked French toast, you’ll be glad you waited. Warning: This may well be the only place left in North America that doesn’t take debit or credit cards.
moderate, (416) 656-8622.
It’s not the fact that stars like Richard Gere and Kelsey Grammer eat here when they’re in town that attracts us. It’s the homey atmosphere, complimentary bruschetta, homemade-daily pastas, and tableside visits from jovial chef/owner Benito Piantoni.
The Bata Shoe Museum
Inside this architectural gem you’ll find more than 12,000 shoes, from ancient funerary sandals to a pair of Madonna’s glittery platforms.
Hockey Hall of Fame
(416) 360-7765. Even if you aren’t necessarily a fan of the sport, we think you’ll be a fan of this hallowed museum, which just dumped $4 million into revitalizing its exhibits. Our favorite display? The selection of garish goalie masks.