Julian Sands (4 January 1958 -)
With his striking good looks and rich earthy vocal tones, Julian Sands is an actor whose early roles, including his breakout role in A Room With a View (1985), seemed destined to have him forever playing in costume dramas, but as his career has progressed he’s found a home in horror movies and thrillers alike, albeit with mixed results. For every Arachnophobia (1990) though there has been a Heidi 4 Paws (2009), and it’s always seemed that Sands’ career has never really been able to fulfill its potential. But he’s still an interesting actor to watch, and can often use his sardonic approach to less than worthy material to make things more interesting. Here are five examples of movies where he’s been a part of something worthwhile, and where his performance has been one of the main reasons why.
Romasanta (2004) – Character: Manuel Romasanta
This low-budget horror is based on the true story of Sands’ title character, a travelling vendor in 1850’s Spain who was also a serial killer. It’s an atmospheric chiller, and Sands is eerily effective as the man who used his victims’ body fat for soap. The part calls on his skill as a seductive charmer, and it’s this thread of gothic romanticism that allows Sands to portray Romasanta as both lover and villain.
Leaving Las Vegas (1995) – Character: Yuri Butso
While everyone remembers Nicolas Cage’s Oscar-winning central performance (and rightly so), not everyone remembers Sands’ supporting role as the Latvian pimp whose selfless severing of his relationship with prostitute Sera (played by Elisabeth Shue), is the catalyst for her meeting Cage’s character, Ben. Sands is memorably vulnerable in the role and gives one of his most affecting portrayals, providing a counterpoint to Cage’s self-loathing alcoholic.
The Scoundrel’s Wife (2002) – Character: Dr Lenz
Sands takes a mainly supporting role in this drama set in Louisiana during World War II where a woman (played by Tatum O’Neal) trying to raise her two children alone is accused of being a saboteur. Sands’ gives a dignified, restrained performance as the German medic who tends to the wounded survivors of U-boats sunk in the nearby Gulf (and much to some of the locals’ consternation), and who also develops a relationship with O’Neal’s character. Based on real events, the movie isn’t entirely successful, but it is lifted whenever Sands is on screen.
Cat City (2008) – Character: Nick Compton
A modern day film noir gives Sands the chance to play a husband who may or may not be playing around. Acting alongside Rebecca Pidgeon (the wife) and Brian Dennehy (the detective looking into things), Sands is an unscrupulous land developer who’ll stop at nothing to get what he wants, while being unaware that his wife is having him investigated. Scandal and murder ensue when one of his more shady deals goes wrong.
Wherever You Are… (1988) – Character: Julian
This sombre movie from Krzysztof Zanussi sees Sands play a Uruguayan diplomat who takes his wife (played by Renée Soutendijk) on a trip to Poland in the lead up to World War II. While she has premonitions about the impending German invasion, Julian buries himself in his work and behaves cruelly towards her. Sands gets to play very nasty indeed and under Zanussi’s direction gives a memorable performance as a man with literally no redeeming values at all.