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Did Kiefer Sutherland blow his Emmy chances when he blew his top?

May 7, 2009 | 11:13 am

What a lousy time for Kiefer Sutherland to be accused of head-butting a fashion designer! He's giving a powerful, impactful performance on "24," which is making a triumphant creative return to TV after sitting out last year's Emmy race thanks to the writers' strike.

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In 2006, "24" won best drama series and Kiefer Sutherland won best actor, so they're already proven favorites with Emmy voters. Putting his current personal woes in context to what's happening on the show is ironic. On "24," Jack Bauer is psychologically vulnerable as he battles an infection that may kill him. He is conflicted about seeking redemption for his past. In last week's episode he delivered an emotionally complex performance as he dealt with his own prognosis and the betrayal of his one-time best friend. This acting showcase would make an excellent submission to Emmy jurors.

But Kiefer may have blown his Emmy chances when he reportedly blew his top, so to speak. Perhaps there's a parallel to Russell Crowe at the Oscars? Both Sutherland and Crowe are actors once widely regarded as cool, tough dudes. But that swagger of hip defiance must be managed delicately. If pent-up rage goes too far, it can turn off fans and Hollywood, especially when seemingly innocent bystanders are concerned.

Let's recall that Russell Crowe hasn't been nominated for an Oscar since he attacked that Manhattan hotel clerk and BAFTA TV producer. Up until the early 2000s, Crowe was nominated three times for Oscars ("The Insider," "Gladiator," "A Beautiful Mind") and won once ("Gladiator," 2000), but he hasn't been nominated since. In 2003, "Master and Commander" got so many nominations — 10, including best picture — it looked like everybody reaped a bid except the movie's own master and commander. The motion-picture academy snubbed Crowe.

Now will the TV academy not even bother to nominate Sutherland, whose problems with the law keep coming? He's been nommed consistently since 2002 (six bids), but his bad-boy woes are suddenly piling up. He faces assault charges while on five-year probation for his second DUI conviction. Last year he spent a month and a half in jail.

Photo: Chris Carlson / AP

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