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British Actor Julian Sands Confirmed Dead, Months After Vanishing in California Mountains

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LOS ANGELES—British-born actor Julian Sands, best known for his role in the Oscar-celebrated film “A Room with a View,” was confirmed dead on Tuesday, five months after he went missing while out for a hike in snow-covered mountains of Southern California. He was 65.

Mostly skeletal human remains discovered by hikers on June 25, in the vicinity where Sands had vanished, were positively identified by the San Bernardino County coroner as belonging to the actor, the county sheriff’s department said.

The manner of his death remained under investigation, awaiting further test results, the department said in a statement.

Sands, an avid outdoorsman and mountaineer, was reported missing on Jan. 13, after he had gone hiking alone earlier in the day in the Baldy Bowl area of the San Gabriel Mountains, about 50 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

The large, slopping area below the crest of Mount Baldy is a popular destination for skiers, climbers, and backpackers. But authorities warned then that heavy snow from weeks of winter storms had made the area treacherous for outdoor recreation. Overnight temperatures were dipping into the mid-20s Fahrenheit that week.

A search party organized at the time was pulled out 24 hours later due to avalanche risks and poor trail conditions. Several subsequent searches came up empty-handed, including a major sweep conducted days before Sands’ remains were ultimately found in the Mount Baldy wilderness area, according to the sheriff’s department.

Cellphone signals detected on Sunday, Jan. 15, had showed Sands headed toward the ridge of Mount Baldy, apparently the last indication he was still on the move, the sheriff’s department reported then.

A statement from Sands’ family posted by the sheriff’s department on June 21, after the agency’s latest search but before his remains were found, thanked search teams for their efforts and sounded a note of resignation about his fate.

“We continue to hold Julian in our hearts with bright memories of him as a wonderful father, husband, explorer, love of the natural world and the arts, and as an original and collaborative performer,” the statement said.

Sands, in a 2020 interview with the Guardian newspaper, described himself as happiest when he was “close to a mountain summit on a glorious cold morning.” He also recalled a brush with death during a climb in the Andes in the early 1990s when he became caught in a storm above 20,000 feet (6,000 meters) with three others.

“We were all in a very bad way,” he recounted. “Some guys close to us perished. We were lucky.”

Career

Born in England as the third of five boys and educated at Lord Wandsworth College in Hampshire, Sands began his career with supporting roles in such films as “Oxford Blues,” appearing as the romantic rival of Rob Lowe’s lead character, and “The Killing Fields,” playing a young war correspondent in Cambodia.

Sands moved to California in the 1980s after the success of “A Room with a View,” an Edwardian-period romance in which he was cast as the leading man opposite Helena Bonham Carter.

Based on E.M. Forster’s 1908 novel of the same title and set in England and Italy, the 1985 film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including best picture. It won Oscars for best adapted screenplay, art direction, and costume design.

Sands also starred in the 1989 supernatural thriller “Warlock” and its sequel “Warlock: The Armageddon.” He played a spider expert in the 1990 comedy-creeper “Arachnophobia,” a twisted, obsessed surgeon in 1993’s “Boxing Helena,” and the title role in the 1998 film version of “The Phantom of the Opera.”

Other movies included “Leaving Las Vegas,” “Naked Lunch” and the English-language remake of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” He also appeared in more than two dozen television shows, among them “Smallville” as Superman’s biological dad Jor-El.

In recent years, Sands found success appearing in one-man stage shows reciting the poetry of Harold Pinter, John Keats, and Percy Shelley, the latter of which he played in the 1986 psychological thriller “Gothic.”

Although never Oscar-nominated himself, Sands dated Jodie Foster and was her escort to the Academy Awards in 1989 the night she won her first best-actress statuette for “The Accused.” The two co-starred in the little-seen 1987 indie film “Siesta.”

But the outdoors, and mountain climbing in particular, remained a lifelong obsession.

As quoted in a 2020 interview with Thrive Global, a company founded by Arianna Huffington, Sands said climbing was not about ego or a “great heroic sprint for the summit” but rather “about supplication and sacrifice and humility.”

“It’s not so much a celebration of oneself but the eradication of one’s self consciousness. And so on these walks you lose yourself, you become a vessel of energy in harmony hopefully with your environment.”

He is survived by his second wife, Evgenia Citkowitz, a journalist, with whom he had two daughters. He also had a son by his first wife, journalist Sarah Harvey.



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