The actor & the dramatist Julian Sands celebrates Harold Pinter
Harold Pinter and Julian Sands had met before, casually, but this luncheon party was the first time they had found themselves in serious conversation. Sands, an actor best known for movies like A Room
and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and high-end horror fare like Warlock, has also done extensive work on stage and television. Pinter, the author of plays such as and
was one of the most celebrated dramatists of the 20th century.
As that luncheon drew to a close, Pinter asked the actor for a favor. He was scheduled to perform an evening of readings from his poetry, but he just wasn’t up to it. Sands remembers Pinter leaning over to him and saying, “Look, I’ve been preparing a program of my personal writings, but my voice is not good.” This was in 2005, and Pinter was suffering from esophageal cancer. “I don’t want to cancel it,” he told Sands. “I want you to do it for me. It’ll require us to work together.”
“Well,” Sands recalled over the phone from his Los Angeles home, “I was very flattered, very honored to be asked, although working with Harold is a formidable task, and it had its own intimidations. So I I worked with him for this one-off gig. He was very precise. And that tutelage was a unique thing. He never worked with anyone else on the poetry. So it really is from him to me, and from me to you. The writing of these mostly short but very complex and powerful poems required, as with his dramatic writings, an understanding of pause and silence, which is as relevant as the words he has chosen. [In the program] I demonstrate just how and why he gave such regard to the space between words, where he often found the greatest resonance and expression of meaning.”
A few years after their meeting, Pinter died. And Sands, who had remained close to the playwright, decided to reprise that evening of readings as a tribute to his friend. “But I added to it quotations from other people, and my own appreciation. And the response to this memorial tribute was remarkable, from people who were very familiar with Harold and his work, but who knew none of this personal writing, this poetry in which he really revealed his interior self, his thoughts, his feelings, his intelligence, his romance, his humor, and his humanity.”
The actor John Malkovich, a friend of Sands’ since the two worked together on the film