the screen, Julian Sands is known for a wide spectrum of
roles that make the most of his seemingly contradictory
mixture of glowering, antihero intensity and ethereal
leading man looks. On the telephone, he presents an
equally formidable hybrid: Sands has got delightfully
prickly down to an art. The British-born actor, who
began his film career in "The Killing Fields" in 1984
and broke through the next year as George Emerson in "A
Room With A View," has worked steadily in film and
television for the last 25 years, starring in cult
classics like "Warlock" and working with directors like
David Cronenberg, Mike Figgis and Dario Argento, and
gaining a television following with roles on shows like
"24." Currently, Sands is starring as expat actor Reg
Hunt in IFC's upcoming miniseries "Bollywood Hero." I
spoke with him about his career, what sparks his
interest in a role, and what audiences want from a golf
What was it about the character of Reg Hunt that
appealed to you?
Reg Hunt is a character actor on the run, always looking
over his shoulder, like many actors do. All actors are
on the run from some demon or other. Actors have a magic
gene within them -- I think they're the finest
descendants of rogues and vagabonds -- and it's all too
easily forgotten what the acting legacy is. Acting has
been gentrified. It's become part of the bourgeoisie.
But there was a time when it would be a great scandal if
you announced you were going to be an actor.
I subscribe to that school of thespian -- to be a
wandering minstrel or traveling player, a thing of rags
and patches, of ballads, songs and snatches. You know?
That's my idea of being actor, and that's Reg Hunt's
idea of being actor. He has an eye for the ladies, not a
bad thing to have, [that] keeps life interesting.
Within the story, he's working in Mumbai and is
described as the go-to Brit actor for what I call
"mutton chops" roles -- anything from the Victorian
period. And Chris Kattan turns up for a role in this
movie they're shooting, and I'm to play his father, so
go figure that. Chris Kattan, I have to say, was so
compelling and funny and creature-like. I'd never seen
his work. I'd never heard of him, to be honest.
No, and when they said Chris Kattan, I assumed he was an
Indian because I had read in the script that the
producer had gone to L.A. to find a Caucasian. Then of
course, when I meet him, it was very clear. He was not a
Hindu shaman. He was born in L.A. And he's a brilliant
Was it all shot in Mumbai?
All of my sequences were shot in Mumbai --most of the
series was. As soon as I got off the plane there, I felt
entirely at home. So comfortable and happy and alive,
you know? The thing about Mumbai is you go five yards
and all of human existence is revealed. It's an
incredible cavalcade of life, and I love that. There
wasn't a market I didn't go to, a temple I didn't visit,
a street I didn't explore -- the darker and the murkier,
the more interesting. I can understand, though, how
people might get freaked out by the intensity of it all.
Did you get a better sense of the Bollywood industry?
It's number one now, and Hollywood is number three. Do
you have any thoughts on what they might be doing
differently or why their film culture is still so vital
while ours has given way, at least comparatively, to
television and other media?
Clearly, Bollywood still has a huge audience that likes
to go to theaters, whereas in America so many people
would rather see things at home. And I think there is an
immense charm and humanity about the Bollywood
structure, probably in the way there was about Hollywood
film in the '30s and '40s. Somehow they were less
distracted about hardware, and more about production
values and people, you know?
The film culture in India seems much more focused on
the audience and spectatorship -- they have retained
that innocence and wonder and fun about the communal
Yeah, and it's much more reflective of the audience too,
in that there's a sort of mutual embracing. Whereas I
don't think there's that mutual embracing in Northwest
European films or American films.
Has the television work that you've done brought you
a broader or different audience, and how does your
following from television compare, size- or
ferocity-wise, with your cult film following?
I would say that if you do a walk-on cameo in some TV
thing, it's going to be seen by a billion times more
people than if you do the interesting, arty films I like
to do. And that's both meaningless and gratifying, I
suppose. Most of the films I work on, I just assume no
one will see beyond the director and their family.
The most worthwhile film I just did in Oregon is called
"Golf in the Kingdom," which was a sort of cult book
written in the early '70s, a philosophical, spiritual
treatise on the nature of golf. I could give two shits
about the game of golf, but I read this script and it
was so interesting and moving and transcendental, and I
thought, "I definitely want to be in this." But people
who like golf want to see "Tin Cup," they don't want to
see a bunch of people sitting around a table, like "My
Dinner With Andre," talking about the flight of the
ball. But I digress.
[laughter] What was it like doing a comedy again?
I just love doing broader work -- I always get asked to
do fairly heavy-duty, intense dramas and interesting,
psychologically intense characters. But you know [sigh],
it's nice to make people laugh sometimes.
"Bollywood Hero" airs August 6, 7 & 8 at 10 p.m.