This article was taken from The Guide in The Guardian,
Sat 19th August 2000. Julian Sands discusses his latest
film, Timecode, and the legacy of being EM Forster's
most famous leading man.
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 id 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
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.