More than five months after going missing while hiking alone on a trail on Mount Baldy in the San Gabriel Mountains in Southern California, Julian Sands, a versatile British actor whose film roles included the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, Louis XIV, a warlock, Superman’s father, and a Latvian pimp, was pronounced dead on Tuesday. He was 65.
Authorities discovered human remains on Sunday close to the mountain where Mr. Sands’ searchers had been stationed. According to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, hikers who discovered human remains in the Mount Baldy area called them. Search and rescue operations have been hampered by hazardous weather, including many violent storms.
On Tuesday, the coroner’s office determined that the remains belonged to Mr. Sands. It further said that the reason of his death was still being looked into.
Mr. Sands was easily recognised by his shock of blond hair and his sometimes chilly demeanour. He could effortlessly transition from period pieces like James Ivory’s “A Room With a View” (1985), in which he portrayed an idealistic romantic at the turn of the 20th century, to occult films like “Warlock” (1989), in which the title character runs away from a 17th-century witch hunter and ends up in 20th-century Los Angeles.
A former New York Times film reviewer named Janet Maslin remarked of him, “He was always good, always gallant and dignified,” in a phone conversation. “I don’t recall him making a mistake,” she said.
Mr. Sands played Shelley in Ken Russell’s horror movie “Gothic” (1987), which is based on a true event: on a stormy night in 1816, Shelley, his future wife Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, who would later pen “Frankenstein,” Claire Clairmont, Lord Byron, and Byron’s physician John William Polidori got together in a Swiss villa to write ghost stories.
The Shelley played by Mr. Sands was plagued by fears and demons and had drug-induced hallucinations. Byron played by Gabriel Byrne was almost demonic.
According to Mr. Sands, “I think these portraits are rooted in reality,” he told The Times in 1987. “If somebody has a different opinion, it’s likely due to the subsequent Victorian whitewash of them. These Romantic poets weren’t only gorgeous. They were anarchic, subversive hedonists who adhered to a specific kind of amorality.
Within two years, Mr. Sands had collaborated with filmmakers Mr. Ivory and Mr. Russell, who had very different filmmaking philosophies.
According to Mr. Sands, who spoke to The Times, “Ken Russell is a graffiti artist, and James Ivory is like an Indian miniaturist.” “Ken Russell is a big-game hunter filming in the middle of a rhino charge, whereas James Ivory is like an ornithologist watching his subjects from afar.”
In addition, Mr. Sands collaborated with British director Mike Figgis on a number of films, including “Leaving Las Vegas” (1996), in which he played a pimp, and “The Loss of Sexual Innocence” (1999), which combined the tale of Adam and Eve with the experience of a filmmaker (Mr. Sands) who is slipping in and out of his sexual memories.
Kevin Thomas noted in his review of “The Loss of Sexual Innocence” in The Los Angeles Times, “Since this is a film of images rather than words, it requires a great deal of presence and expressiveness on the part of the actors.” “Happy to say Figgis has made a good choice, with Sands carrying by far the most difficult role of a man of isolating self-absorption effortlessly.”
Julian Richard Morley Sands was raised in the neighbouring town of Gargrave after being born on January 4, 1958, in Otley, England, to Richard and Brenda Sands. His mother’s involvement in amateur theatre served as inspiration when he first started performing as a kid. When he was six years old, he recalled telling The Yorkshire Post that his first line in a play was, “My master, the great Aladdin.”
In 1979, he interrupted his studies at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London to create a youth theatre that gave performances in clubs and at educational institutions. Early in the 1980s, he made his acting debut in tiny parts in films like “Oxford Blues,” “The Killing Fields,” and the miniseries “The Sun Also Rises,” which was based on an Ernest Hemingway book.
Mr. Sands’s other roles included a photographer in “The Killing Fields” (1985), an entomologist in “Arachnophobia” (1990), Louis XIV in “Vatel” (2000), Jor-El, Superman’s father, in two episodes of the television series “Smallville” (in 2009 and 2010), and a sadistic farmer in the Czech film “The Painted Bird” (2019), an adaptation of Jerzy Kosinski’s 1965 novel about a homeless and abused boy during World War II.
In 2020, Mr. Sands told the website Moviemaker, “I was driven to ‘The Painted Bird’ because of its brutal, severe but ultimately redemptive exploration of human perseverance. Eastern Europe’s desolate hinterland is both beautiful and touching as well as unsettling and repulsive.
Mr. Sands occasionally performed on stage and was nominated for a Drama Desk Award in 2013 for his one-man show, “A Celebration of Harold Pinter.” Mr. Sands performed the show, which was directed by John Malkovich, at the Irish Repertory Theatre in Manhattan in 2012 (and again in 2016), and he also took it to Houston, Sarasota, Florida, East Lansing, Michigan, and other cities over the course of several years.
The emphasis was on Pinter’s poetry rather than his plays. The dramatist, who had known Mr. Sands since 1987, substituted for him during a reading of his poetry in England in 2005; the two remained close until Pinter’s death three years later.
Because I’m in a pool of firelight and the crowd is gathered around the fire, Mr. Sands described the performance as a “Homeric evening of theatre” to The Washington Post in 2015.
His wife Evgenia Citkowitz, his daughters Natalya and Imogen, and his son Henry are Mr. Sands’ surviving family members. His union with Sarah Harvey was annulled.
In particular, Mr. Sands cherished trekking on Mount Baldy in the Los Angeles region.
He was reported as stating, “I must have been up Mount Baldy about 200 times, so I think this is a real favourite,” in “My City, My Los Angeles: Famous People Share Their Favourite Places” (2013), written by Jeryl Brunner. “I also like it in the winter. Winter weather adds a little spice to everything.