Julian Sands: Classic Actor, Sexual Revolutionary

Photo uploaded by Megan Hussey

One of the most classically handsome actors ever to grace the silver screen, Julian Sands also ranks as an esteemed thespian known for his roles in classics that range from A Room with a View to The Sun Also Rises to The Killing Fields. And, when one thinks about it, he could have been well-satisfied to spend the duration of his career as a handsome, talented star of various period pieces. Yet Sands was a revolutionary–one willing to bear his body and soul in equal measure.

Female movie goers owe a debt to Sands, both for his many lush, captivating and stimulating portrayals of various romantic heroes and villains, and for his keen and most ingratiating and endearing willingness to take his clothes off at a moment’s notice.

Indeed, many were shocked when, planted among the placid frames of the renowned costume drama A Room with a View, there arose a most novel sequence of blatant and unapologetic male nudity–one that caused quite a scandal across the cultural scene at the time of the film’s release. For although the scene, which involves a trio of men who race naked from a swimming hole when discovered by a woman, is more comical than sexual, the fact was that ’80s audiences didn’t seem quite ready to see peen on screen. And, sadly, not much has changed. Sands also elevated the heat level of this celebrated historical piece via passionate kisses that rocked the world of the prim and proper Lucy Honeychurch, portrayed by Helena Bonham Carter.

Sands himself addressed this issue in a 1989 interview conducted at UCLA. 

“For a long time (in a) love scene, the woman is naked, and the man has got his pajamas on,” he explained, “and in contemporary commercial film, the man is more clothed and hidden, so there is an exploitative imbalance. And it’s a great shame that the male form is tainted with this embarrassment and shame…though I’ve been told…that scene makes it much easier for people to take their clothes off on film.” 

Sands turned in an erotically charged performance in Gothic, in which he portrayed the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley: The closest thing to a hero in a group of debauched creatives who spend a horrifying, hallucinatory night together in what seems a haunted mansion. Sands’ Shelley expresses intense romantic passion as well as boundless admiration for partner Mary Shelley (played by Natasha Richardson–surely she and Sands form one of the most beautiful screen couples here), who of course was the mastermind behind the timeless story of Frankenstein. And, yep, he shows off his derriere–more than once.

Another interesting note regarding Gothic; the film’s director, Ken Russell, was also known for his unabashed portrayal of male nudity onscreen; and in his film Valentino, an outrageous biopic of screen legend Rudolph Valentino, ballet icon Rudolph Nureyev appears fully nude.

Julian Sands also introduced a much needed element of male sensuality to the horror genre, a cinematic oeuvre filled with notoriously underdressed and conventionally glamorous women and men who are frankly grotesque–sorry, Freddy and Jason, you ain’t hawt. Again Sands breaks the mold in The Warlock series, delivering a demon of a villain whose cold beauty is at once seductive and horrifying.

And then, there’s the Phantom.

The most controversial reimagining of the legend known as Phantom of the Opera, Dario Argento’s interpretation is the only adaption that allows the mythically disfigured Phantom to be ethereally beautiful in form, and that allows the usually virginal singer heroine known as Christine (Asia Argento) to have some primo sexay time with the newly hunky Phantom.

Phantom of the Opera is widely detested among ‘Phantom Phans,’ who saw the film as an exploitative outrage. And while they are certainly entitled to their opinions, as an erotic content creator myself, I once was targeted with a similar wave of hatred for my novella Behold the Beauty, a reverse Beauty and the Beast tale that depicted the hero as the beauty and the heroine as the metaphorical beast. Well actually, the wave took the form of a single blogger/Beauty and the Beast fan fiction writer who condemned me to Hell for my story. They walk amongst us, Folks.

Julian Sands also played pivotal roles in other productions that explored the farthest, deepest reaches of women’s sexuality, from Fiesta with Ellen Barkin to Turn of the Screw with Patsy Kensit. But for all of the captivating men he portrayed onscreen, who is Julian Sands? Well he has a stellar reputation in film and theatre, is a loving husband to a bright journalist and a devoted father. He also is credited with showing the upmost respect for his female co-stars, and has said that his work always benefits from female energies.

We send all of our warm and loving energies to Julian Sands and his family.


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