Interview with Julian Sands (for the film BOXING HELENA)
"Until I see the film, I don't have the retrospective objectivity to give you the kind of critical assessment of how I'm playing Nick." Julian Sands (THE KILLING FIELDS, WARLOCK, NAKED LUNCH, ROOM WITH A VIEW) is a tall, gaunt, seasoned actor whose angular features, intense manner, and brooding demeanor dominate even the high ceilinged rooms of the damp Garland mansion in Atlanta, Georgia. He plays his first romantic lead role since ROOM WITH A VIEW in Main Line Pictures' beleaguered film, BOXING HELENA.
"I can tell you that I'm playing Nick [Cavanaugh] in a way which allows anybody who's ever been in love to empathize with his feelings, his actions and the results of his actions. I think he's a very normal man. There's nothing weird or psychotic about his behavior. It's a love story; a romantic comedy in many ways. It's a 'feel good' movie. I see him and play him as the protagonist who takes you down his own yellow brick road."
Julian Sands has enjoyed working with veteran directors such as Ken Russell and David Cronenberg. "I have also worked with a number of first time directors," he emphasized. "Jennifer [Lynch] has impressed me enormously with her depth of feeling for her work and the requirements of other people in order to do their work". She's impressed me with her maturity, her compassion, her understanding of her own process. She's been a... revelation."
Sands belied his initially languorous demeanor as he continued. "It's my own peer group which excites me most...those people who are still emerging. I have writers, actors, and directors that provide the real stimulant, hope and excitement for me for the future." Citing his work with Mary Lambert on SIESTA and GRAND ISLE as examples, he expressed mild regret at missing the PET SEMATARY movies. "PET SEMATARY II had a cameo of a taxidermist which I was quite keen to do, but I was doing a Japanese kabuki film in London at the same time."
The kabuki film was, in fact, the super low budget, TALE OF A VAMPIRE, written and directed by Shimako Sato. Sands starred in the film as Alex the vampire. His acting expertise and imposing credits are acknowledged as the basis for which the project obtained financing in Tokyo. "Shimako was an interesting young Japanese theater director," he explained, "who had written a Kabuki vampire story based on Edgar Allan Poe's ANNABEL LEE. We shot it in nocturnal riverside London in January and February. It was very stylized, and a quite interesting piece. What was so wonderful about this was the merge of Oriental and European culture. The style of the film was that it contrasts tremendous stillness, empty Kabuki being with ferocious violence and sexuality. I admired it very much."
Having built his reputation for supporting and lead roles in unusual genre films by choice, Sands added. "My own interests are such that I try to do different things each time because if I'm going to immerse myself in a subject and a place with people for any significant period, it makes my life more interesting if the material is unique. If you've already been seen in a weird, eccentric or idiosyncratic film you might come to mind more readily for other similar material. After I'd done ROOM WITH A VIEW, I was offered young ingenue lovers in various substandard films because I'd been seen in that. This is the first romantic film I've done since then."
While some actors seemingly couldn't distance themselves from BOXING HELENA fast enough, Julian Sands was sent the script by his own request. "I first read about it in the Liz Smith column a couple of years ago. I thought, 'that sounds so interesting,' and then I didn't really think about it again." He was introduced to Sherilyn Fenn while visiting the set for OF MICE AND MEN in 1991. Sands was intrigued to hear from the film's producer that Fenn was doing BOXING HELENA. At that time, the male lead role of Nick Cavanaugh was unfilled. "John Malkovich had been asked if he might be interested. He wasn't. It raised the question again of the role being available. I asked my agent to send me a copy of the script, read it through, and thought it was the most astonishing screenplay I'd read since THE KILLING FIELDS. I asked if it would be possible to meet Jennifer. That was set up and I was completely bowled over by her. The script spoke lyrical volumes to me about her understanding of the human psyche under stress, and in love. I was very keen to be involved with this project."
Trained in England as a classical theater performer, Sands commanding depictions frequently dominate the projects in which he participates. He obtained his first feature film role in THE KILLING FIELDS as a complete film novice. "I trained at a theater school in London and then worked for three years with a company," he related. When the theater company folded, I was asked by Roland Joffe to join his troupe to make THE KILLING FIELDS. He said he wanted actors with no cinema experience at all. I penciled in another theater company for when I got back, but I enjoyed working with film so much. I knew that to become at all confident and competent I had to have more experience in film work." Then followed a self imposed curriculum that ran the gamut of the industry. "I made myself available," he continued. I worked as an extra. I did some one liners, anything just to get more used to the medium. And I haven't been in a theater since then. For me the acting process and fix is the doing of it, whether it's in film or on stage. It's not about seeing a film. That's the result of all the people's work."
Drawing a comparison between theatre and film, Sands was thoughtful. His hushed tones resonated with a depth virtually unknown to film actors, and conveyed his fervor for his profession. "The acting I do as my contribution to that film is the same gratification as being in a play. But of course it is different. I'd quite like to commit some more time to the theater. But I don't make plans so I can't tell you if that will happen or not. I didn't become an actor so that I could know what I'd be doing in six months time. The levity you can have in life by not getting too bogged down in future commitments has a tremendous joy and freedom that I imagine medevil troubadors or classical troupes experienced going across the Thracian Plains."
Next up is a sequel to the cult favorite, WARLOCK. "Yes, we're going to do another WARLOCK. My public wanted another WARLOCK, so they're gonna get one. I always tried to model the whole thing on BEWITCHED. To try to cross over from just being another gore film to something that had a bit of style and humor."
For the future, Sands related
his view on taking the director's chair himself. "I can envision some
circumstances in which I might direct but it's not something I'm
seeking out. If you're an actor in a leading role in a film, you get a
fair fix of directing. It's a collaboration with the director, rather
than just a receiving from the director. I enjoy what I do. I'm pretty
happy with what I've done so far. There are some things which I might
like to have done but I feel very blessed to have had the opportunities
to work with the people on the things I've done."
Fifteen years after being the world’s most famous English gent, Julian Sands has finally found job satisfaction - as Mike Figgis’s masseur.
Still best known for his lead in Merchant-Ivory’s A Room With A View, 15 years ago, Julian Sands has kept a relatively low profile - in Hollywood and Europe since, but has worked with everyone from David Cronenberg to the Taviani brothers. In recent years, he’s appeared in five Mike Figgis films, including his latest, Timecode, in which he plays the clown-like Quentin, an interfering masseur to the Hollywood hotheads.
How did you and Mike get together?
It came about when I was at drama school. I was a big fan of the People Show, in which Mike was a performer, and when I heard he was making films I was very interested to meet him. When we did The Browning Version I think we developed a good shorthand for working together. Then I played the strange creature in Leaving Las Vegas, and the male nurse to Rob Downey’s bottom in One Night Stand, then Loss Of Sexual Innocence which was in some way the most important thing I’ve worked on. Mike likes to have an ensemble of familiar people around him, like forming a band.
How did your character come about?
Mike first wanted me to play one of the executives - a token Oxbridge Brit in the Hollywood studio - and I ventured that I became an actor to avoid being that, so could I try something else? I had this idea for a masseur, who’s a bit based on my younger brother, Quentin, who came through LA a few years ago where he had a pretty naughty time being a masseur. Also Mike was one of the cameramen, and I think the reason he allowed me to be a masseur is between filming I would give him a shoulder rub.
So you were the off-set masseur as well?
I was the group groper. I was everyone’s bitch.
Shooting it must have been pretty different.
The only way we could make sense of who was going to be where and when was by using sheet music, with each bar representing five minutes. We rehearsed it through a couple of times but really we learned by doing it, and after each run-through we would chill for an hour or two and then watch it back (on four monitors) and refine it some more. Also everybody was very exposed to each other. Nobody could dissapear to their trailer once it was up and running, you were all there on the same stage. It was only 10 days of rehearsal and 10 days of shooting, which was very tiring.
So how many versions were shot?
Fifteen. So some days we were shooting one in the morning and one in the afternoon. It was always so different depending on the time of day, the light, the traffic, what mood people were in; sometimes they were feeling snappy and could improvise a funny spiel and other times they were mute.
You’ve come a long way since A Room With A View.
That became an international reference point with which I could very easily be pigeonholed. I was in my mid-20s when I did that and now I’m 41. A lot of the work I’ve done since then has been more substantial perhaps but much less viewed, which is a choice I feel quite lucky to have had. I can’t think of anything since that has been that widely viewed.
The thing about that was every person who went on to trash it was an enthusiast for the project originally. It was the hottest kind of project around and it was written about all the times, which, of course, is a great warning sign. But the way it was received was almost career-ending for everybody, which was an interesting sort of experiance to endure. And by the way, I quite like the result.
Jodie Foster's 1st Love Since Hinckley Nightmare
John South and Michael Glynn (National Enquirer April 18th, 1989)
Jodie Foster has fallen in love for the first time since John Hinckley Jr.'s obsession with her drove him to shoot President Reagan eight years ago --- and her new man is helping her finally get over the trauma of being the object of Hinckley's twisted passion.
Millions of TV viewers saw Jodie exuberantly kiss her new guy, English actor Julian Sands, at this year's Academy Award ceremonies just before she rushed onstage to accept the best actress Oscar for her performance in "The Accused."
"Jodie feels like the luckiest girl in the world right now," said a close friend of the 26-year-old actress.
"Not only did she beat out heavy-weight competition for the Oscar, but she also has Julian . . .
and she couldn't be happier!"
Sands, 30, starred in the hit movie "Room With A View."
He's in the midst of a divorce from his wife Sarah and it'll be final in a month, Sarah told The ENQUIRER.
"Julian told me he's in love with Jodie," said Sarah, a London newspaper columnist.
"He met Jodie when they both appeared in 'Siesta', a movie they made together in America about two years ago.
"They became friends then, stayed in touch-- and Julian told me recently that their friendship
had turned to love. I'm happy for both of them."
Jodie's life was changed forever in March of 1981 when Hinckley, in a twisted effort to prove his love for her, pumped a bullet into Reagan on a Washington street.
Ever since, the headline-making tragedy has "continued to haunt Jodie like a bad nightmarethat just won't go away," confided her close friend.
"Not a day has gone by when she's not reminded of it in some way."
Jodie has dated young author David Stenn and architect Marco Pasanella. But she hadn't developed a serious relationship with a man until Sands moved from England to Hollywood late last year.
Sands began dating Jodie . . . and their friendship turned to live, says a close pal.
"Julian is the first man who's been able to lay the ghost of John Hinckley Jr. to rest. Julian is quiet and very studious, yet he's caring and provides the strength that Jodie needs."
Jodie told another pal: "Julian's love has helped Put the demons away. Thank God for that!"
Vatel Premiere (Cannes Film Festival 2000)
Joffé doesn't just rely on the amazing food to allow the audience to enter his world, the costumes and make up in Vatel are just as ornate, a fact which pleased Julian Sands. "I enjoyed wearing the wig very much. I fact some days I had two wigs," Sands joked about the hair he wore to play King Louis XIV. "The high heels... I mean it was a wonderful couple of inches. I think the designer of the costumes and the production designer was extraordinary and an incredible adition to this piece of work and so exotic. Within that of course, there was tremendous emancipation. It's interesting and liberating to explore a whole mode of being which isn't actually part of my domestic life... but it may become so eventually!"
(Movieline, May 1999)
Sands's career has careened wildly from serious drama (The Killing
Fields) to European period affairs (A Room With A View, Impromptu) to
comedic thrillers (Arachnophobia) to strange, artsy misfires (Boxing
Helena) to over-the-top gothic (Gothic) to straight-out horror
(Warlock). And even that zigzag fails to include a whole subgenre of
the Sands ooeuvre: movies directed by Mike Figgis. Figgis cast Sands
first as the incoming headmaster in The Browning Version, then as Yuri,
the abusive Latvanian pimp in Leaving Las Vegas, then as a nurse in One
Night Stand, and now, finally, as his own alter ego in The Loss of
Sexual Innocence, a personal, ambituous odyssey about a filmmaker's
midlife crisis. "If Mike calls up and says there's a gig, then I'm up for it," says Sands. No Kidding.
What makes Figgis a good director to work for? "He's very good at finding an emotional truth," Sands says. By way of example, he describes a scene from The Loss of Sexual Innocence in which the phone rings and his character is attempting to make love to his disaffected wife. "At the time, my instinct was not to answer this telephone but to try to save the marriage by saving the fuck, and he was able to remind me of the fact that everything this character had done for the last two years was probably about this phone call, which was going to be giving him the OK to make his little film, and at that point that's the biggest fuck that's available."
As for his off-camera life - Sands roams the globe mountaineering and hangs out with similarly individualist thesps like John Malkovitch ("We're close, yeah, absolutely, I talked to him yesterday"). He lives with his screenwriter wife in a Hollywood Hills house built by famed choreographer Busby Berkeley.
Speaking of Hollywood history, which of his own films would Sands select if he could take just one of them with him to the next world, and which would he choose to expunge from his legacy? "This sounds rather treacherous, but I think I'd take The Loss of Sexual Innocence," he responds. "And I'd probably burn the sequel to Warlock. But I'd like to keep the residuals."
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