Remember When: Donald Sutherland Starred in Kate Bush’s 1985 “Cloudbusting” Music Video for Free

Always inspired by theater and classical literature, in 1978, Kate Bush revisited the story of Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw in Emily Brontë’s 1847 classic Wuthering Heights for her No. 1 UK hit of the same name. Nearly a decade later, Bush explored the relationship between Sigmund Freud’s disciple, the Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, and his young son Peter in her music video for “Cloudbusting.”

The second single from Bush’s No. 1 album Hounds of Love in 1985, “Cloudbusting” peaked at No. 20 on the UK Singles Chart. In the video, the late Canadian actor Donald Sutherland stars as the elder Reich, while a boyish Bush, topped in a wig, plays young Peter.

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No Working Visa

At the time, Sutherland—who was already a movie star in the U.S. starring as “Hawkeye” Pierce in Robert Altman’s 1970 film MASH and in the 1980 family drama Ordinary People alongside Mary Tyler Moore and Timothy Hutton—could not obtain a work visa under short notice and starred in the music video for free.  

Barry Richardson, a hairdresser on the set of Nic Roeg’s 1973 horror/mystery Don’t Look Now, which also starred Sutherland, asked the actor if he would star in Bush’s video. “I told him ‘No,’ and we went on to other conversations,” recalled Sutherland in 2015 on how he ended up in the video. “A couple of days later there was a knock on my door—I lived in the Savoy Hotel (in London). I opened it. There was no one there. I heard a voice saying ‘Hello,’ and I looked down. Standing down there was a very small Kate Bush. Barry had told her where I lived.”

Bush visited Sutherland to explain, in person, the concept of the “Cloudbusting” video. “She sat down [and] said some stuff. All I heard was ‘Wilhelm Reich.’ I’d taken an underground copy of his ‘The Mass Psychology of Fascism’ (1933) with me when I went to film [Bernardo] Bertolucci’s ‘Novecento’ in Parma, [Italy]. Reich’s work informed the psychological foundations of Attila Mellanchini, the character Bernardo had cast me to play. Everything about Reich echoed through me. He was there then and now he was here.”

Sutherland continued, “Sitting across from me in person [was] the very eloquent Kate Bush. Synchronicity. Perfect. She talked some more. I said ‘OK ‘and we made ‘Cloudbusting.’”

‘A Book of Dreams’

Conceived by Bush and director Terry Gilliam, directed by Julian Doyle, and filmed at Dragon Hill in Oxfordshire, England, the video centers on Reich and his son on the top of the hill getting ready to set off an enormous cloudbusting contraption. The cloudbuster was built to shoot at the clouds and make it rain. In the video, Reich leaves his son with the machine and returns to his lab, where he reminisces of times spent with his son on scientific experiments just as government officials barge in to arrest him and ransack his laboratory. The son sees his father driven off, then runs back up the hill and ignites the cloudbuster. While being driven away, the father smiles as rain pours down.

The cinematic vignette was not a fictional account but a real-life occurrence, which Peter shared in his 1973 book, A Book of Dreams. “​Sometime in 1985, a package arrived with a video cassette and an autographed album,” said Reich. “My wife and children, who were 5 and 2 at the time, listened, watched, and were entranced. Quite magically, this British musician [Bush] had tapped precisely into ​a unique and magical fulfillment of father-son devotion, emotion, and understanding. They had captured it all.”

In the video, Bush gave a nod to Reich’s A Book of Dreams by pulling it out of Sutherland’s coat pocket as “father and son” both smile.

[RELATED: 3 Songs You Didn’t Know Kiefer Sutherland Wrote]

Elaborating on the real story behind the video, Peter Reich said that the newspaper article the federal agents pulled from the file cabinet about a “rainmaker” was also true. “During a drought​ in 1953, blueberry growers hired Dr. Reich to make it rain in blueberry country along the Maine coast,” recalled Peter Reich. “I was along for that rain-making operation in the summer of 1953 and helped crank the levers. No rain was forecast. A most vivid memory: being aroused in the early morning hours just before dawn and led to an open door to observe a steady rain.​”

The incident with federal agents entering the Reich’s property occurred several years later. “That day in August 1956 when I ran up that hill,” recalled Reich, “that was the summer the government burned several tons of Wilhelm Reich’s books and equipment.”

Reich called Bush and Gilliam’s capture of his experience in the video “overwhelming,” and added “Watching it for the first time, and ever since … the video’s emotional power is overwhelming and enduring, even after 30 years, or 60 years, for me. I did meet Kate once or twice.  She gave me a very British umbrella, how very appropriate, one rainmaker to another.​”

During the video shoot, Sutherland also vividly remembered one funny moment he shared with Bush while on set.

“I remember being in the car and the hill and them taking me, taking Reich, away and looking back through the back window of the car and seeing her, seeing Reich’s son Peter, standing there,” said Sutherland. “And I remember the first morning on set seeing her coming out of her trailer smoking a joint and I cautioned her, saying she shouldn’t smoke that, it’d affect her work. And she looked at me for a second and said she hadn’t been straight for nine years, and I loved her.”

Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc/Getty Images

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