Actress Rampling revels in the darker side
Reuters Mar 21 2001 1:06PM
PARIS (Reuters) - Charlotte Rampling has never courted celebrity during her 36 years of disturbing screen roles, but the sylph-like actress has had little problem attracting it. Not attracted by the ordinary and drawn by darker themes, the British expatriate has waited for filmmakers offering pithy art-house fare to come her way since she was plucked from a typing pool nearly four decades ago. "I like to be desired. I like people to think of me first rather than me think of them," she said. The latest was French director Francois Ozon, who tracked her down to star in his recent release "Sous le Sable" ("Under the Sand"). Ozon wrote the story based on how the actress played her part in the first 20 minutes of shooting.
Rampling's edgy portrayal of a woman who pathologically denies her husband's seaside disappearance is one of a handful of fresh roles that have brought the feline screen seductress back into the fold after five years of sporadic appearances. "There's a definite feeling now that I want to work again, that I'm here again after keeping a low profile for a little while," said Rampling, 55. Her re-emergence coincides with a lifetime achievement award at last month's Cesars, the French equivalent of the Oscars.
Rampling first gained notoriety in two quintessential 1960s films, "Georgy Girl" and "The Knack And How To Get It," but she is forever associated with a perverse 1973 piece called "The Night Porter" co-starring British leading man Dirk Bogarde. "He did that film on the condition that I did it. Nobody wanted me because I was just an unknown," Rampling recalled in an interview with Reuters in Paris. The dark-hued Italian production tells of a concentration camp survivor who runs across her former Nazi lover in a Viennese hotel and rekindles their sadomasochistic relationship. Controversial and scandalous when first shown, the picture remains a cult favorite.
'DARKER SIDE OF THE SOUL'
"Each generation never seems to forget that film. It had to do with very hidden fantasies and the darker side of the soul -- things that people quite often dream about and don't dare tell anybody," Rampling said. Filming "The Night Porter" was a "fantastic yet agonizing" experience that, along with other movies, led to Rampling's image as an elegant, hood-eyed femme fatale. She says her reality is different. "Actually I'm very shy," she said half-mockingly. "While I'm working I'm very open, that's what I do. But you don't know what it takes out of me to do it, do you?"
Like others of her generation, Rampling has a fastidious view of Hollywood, her tastes veering toward "more daring" independent and European productions. Her only stab at living in Los Angeles was in 1970, when she collared a few small parts including a cameo as the Angel of Death in underground favorite "Vanishing Point," which she said she "vanished out of" despite being kept in the credits. Later she went on to play the dragon lady wooing Robert Mitchum in "Farewell, My Lovely," Woody Allen's twisted girlfriend in "Stardust Memories," the creepy tarot card reader in "Angel Heart" with Mickey Rourke, and the hard-bitten legal aide alongside Paul Newman in "The Verdict." But the L.A. studio system does her no favors. "The way they work in America is really efficient and well run, but they just don't go deep enough for me into their subjects," she said. "They like to appeal to larger audiences, so they don't get down into the character's inside, where I want to go." While more than a few actors take lesser roles to bankroll high-flying lifestyles, Rampling admits help from the men in her life has afforded her the chance to choose lower-paying parts that maintain her "integrity." Her discriminating choice of roles has produced a relatively modest output.
ROLE 'HAS GOT TO FASCINATE ME'
"It (a role) has got to fascinate me, to smell right. I'm going to be with this person for quite a while ... she's sort of a sister, or shadow self," she said. She watches the finished product only once, superstitiously fearing that "if I look at it, it'll take something away." Rampling is well preserved in a seemingly undeserving way. Her exercise is limited to yoga, and although she watches her diet she smokes pricey Cuban whiffs and drinks Bordeaux. Her pastimes of frequenting cafes, taking strolls and shooting photograps fall neatly into the daily fabric of Paris, the city she adopted in the 1970s after living in London, Rome, New York and Milan. Her apartment is in the handsome, bourgeois sixth arrondissement, where her cat Blackie pokes around. "Paris is a city that likes me and I like it. I feel creative here, inspired," Rampling said.
This summer she will be involved in a French film featuring an ensemble cast called "Voyez Comme On Danse" ("See How We Dance") directed by Michel Blanc. A project with British director Mike Hodges has been delayed for 10 months until November as it winds through the writing stage. "I'll discover what I want to do as people offer me things," said Rampling. "I'm not about to find projects myself. That's not the way I like to work." Reuters/Variety