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‘You have to come to terms with the unknown’: Sarah Sands on ex-husband Julian Sands’ mountain disappearance

Sarah Sands, journalist and ex-wife of Julian Sands, has said she “had to come to terms with the unknown” when the late actor went missing in the mountains in California.

The A Room With a View star and Sarah were married from 1984 to 1987 and had one child together, a son named Henry who is now 37.

The 65-year-old actor, who had a four-decade career in film and television, was declared missing in January after he failed to return from a solo climbing expedition in California’s San Gabriel mountains.

His body was discovered by hikers months later, in June.

In a new Times interview, former Evening Standard editor Sarah, 62, spoke out about how she and Henry fielded questions about Julian during the months when his body was unrecovered in the mountains, including when Henry left his uncle’s funeral early to avoid questions about the search for his father.

“The only thing you could say to Henry that day was, ‘Have you any news?’” she told the newspaper. “That’s all he would have heard, so he slipped away from that funeral afterwards.

“That’s the thing when people go missing: there’s no outlet for what is natural, the grief and the commemoration.

“That sense of ‘freezing into extinction’. You have to come to terms with the unknown and the mystery… the solace of the natural world.

“For my son, his way of dealing with it was to imagine his father as part of the mountain in some way. That’s where he had a right to be.”

Julian Sands (Getty Images for BAFTA LA)
Julian Sands (Getty Images for BAFTA LA)

To many, Julian is best known for his role in the 1985 British romantic drama, A Room with a View. A particularly famous scene from the film saw his character, George, run across a Tuscan poppy field to kiss Helena Bonham Carter’s Lucy.

Elsewhere in the interview, published on Thursday (31 August), Sarah spoke about the similarities between her late ex-husband and the character he played in the film: a sentimental romantic who relished life’s most intense, emotional moments.

“That character was like Julian in a lot of ways,” she noted. “He was passionate and earnest and sweet, and very moving.

“I was there during the filming. I was very pregnant, wandering off into Florence, which is such a beautiful, romantic place. It seemed to be a hiatus of happiness. Everyone involved was enormously happy.”

“I think that’s what Julian would have reacted against,” she continued. “He was very bad at contentment. He was very bad at sunrises. Sunsets used to really annoy him, he would storm off.”

Sarah Sands (PA)
Sarah Sands (PA)

Julian was also known for his roles in the films Warlock, Naked Lunch and The Killing Fields. On the latter film, released in 1983, he met John Malkovich and the pair became close friends. Malkovich is godfather to Sands’ son Henry.

Earlier this month, Sarah, whose book The Hedgehog Diaries: A Story of Faith, Hope and Bristle releases on 14 September, described Julian as someone who “always had to take the hard path”.

“Even at the end he sought the challenge,” she explained. “That was why he pushed himself beyond the limits of human endurance on the mountain.”