Charlotte Rampling, OBE is an acclaimed English actress. Her career spans four decades and delves into French and Italian cinema.
Rampling was born into an upper class family in Sturmer, Essex, the daughter of Anne Isabelle (née Gurteen), a painter, and Godfrey Rampling, an Olympic gold medalist and army officer.She attended Jeanne d'Arc Académie pour Jeunes Filles in Versailles and St. Hilda's School, a boarding school in Bushey, Hertfordshire, England.
After beginning her career at age seventeen in a commercial role and as a model, Rampling's first screen appearance was uncredited as a water skier in Richard Lester's film The Knack...and How to Get It in 1965, which was followed a year later by the role of Meredith in the film Georgy Girl. After this, her acting career blossomed in both English and French cinema.
Young Rampling was sexy in a lithe, boyish way favoured by the times. Despite an early flurry of success, she told The Independent, "We weren't happy. It was a nightmare, breaking the rules and all that. Everyone seemed to be having fun, but they were taking so many drugs they wouldn't know it anyway."
Rampling has often performed controversial roles. In 1969, in Luchino Visconti's The Damned (La Caduta degli dei), she played a young wife sent to a concentration camp. This role redrew Rampling entirely as mysterious, tragic, even sinister. "The Look" as co-star Dirk Bogarde called it, became her trademark. In 1974's The Night Porter she portrayed a former concentration camp inmate entangled in a sado-masochistic relationship with her former guard, played by Bogarde.
The actress gained recognition from American audiences in 1975's detective story Farewell, My Lovely and later with Woody Allen's Stardust Memories (1980) and particularly in The Verdict, an acclaimed drama directed by Sidney Lumet that starred Paul Newman.
Rampling credits François Ozon with drawing her back to film in the 2000s, a period when she came to terms with the death of her oldest sister Sarah, who, after giving birth prematurely in 1966, committed suicide at 23. "I thought that after such a long time of not letting her be with me," she told The Guardian, "I would like to bring her back into my life." The character she played in Ozon's Swimming Pool (2003), Sarah Morton, was named after Sarah. For most of Rampling's life, she would say only that her sister had died of a brain hemorrhage; when she and her father heard the news, they agreed they would never let Charlotte's mother know the truth. They kept their secret until Rampling's mother died in 2001.
At 59, Rampling acted in Laurent Cantet's Heading South (Vers le Sud), a 2005 film about female sexual tourism. She plays Ellen, a professor of French literature and single Englishwoman, who holidays in 1970s Haiti to get the sexual attention she does not get at home.
On her choice of roles, Rampling says, "I generally don't make films to entertain people. I choose the parts that challenge me to break through my own barriers. A need to devour, punish, humiliate, or surrender seems to be a primal part of human nature, and it's certainly a big part of sex. To discover what normal means, you have to surf a tide of weirdness."
The actress has continued to work in sexually provocative films such as Swimming Pool and the Basic Instinct 2003 sequel starring Sharon Stone. More recently, she portrayed the mother of Keira Knightley's character in the title role in 2008's The Duchess.
A recent French language interview with Rampling appears in Nicolaevitch (2008).
In 1972, Rampling married the actor and publicist Bryan Southcombe. They were widely reported to be living in a ménage à trois with a male model, Randall Laurence, and had one child, Barnaby Southcombe (now a successful television director) before divorcing in 1976. In 1974, Rampling was quoted by the syndicated columnist Earl Wilson as saying: "There are so many misunderstandings in life. I once caused a scandal by saying I lived with two men I didn't mean it in a sexual sense We were just like any people sharing an apartment." In 1978, Rampling married the French composer Jean Michel Jarre and had a son, magician David Jarre. She also raised stepdaughter Émilie Jarre, now a fashion designer. The marriage was publicly dissolved in 1997 when she found out via tabloid newspaper stories about Jarre's affairs with other women and had a nervous breakdown. She has been engaged to Jean-Noël Tassez, a French communications tycoon, since 1998.