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Charlotte Rampling Still Smouldering at 64


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<span style="font-size:19.5pt;"><font face="Verdana">Charlotte Rampling still smouldering at 64</font></span>

<span style="font-size:10.5pt;"><b><font face="Verdana">In France they call her La Légende. The actress talks about mystique, marriage and still being sexy in her sixties</font></b></span>

<span style="font-size:7.5pt;"><b><font face="Tahoma">Giles Hattersley</font></b></span>

<span style="font-size:10.5pt;"><font face="Georgia">Charlotte Rampling is a great believer in maintaining one’s myth, so she couldn’t have planned our introduction better. At the Hôtel de Crillon, Paris, it’s into the golden lift, along a chintzy corridor, through a set of double doors and into an outrageous Louis XIV-esque suite overlooking the Place de la Concorde. There she is, standing at the window in partial silhouette, pencil-thin belt pulling her Lanvin culottes tight to her minuscule waist, eyes resting on some far point of the city. She turns and doesn’t quite smile. She’s working the Rampling myth to perfection: detached, unreachable and, at 64, still carnal. In fact, I think she’s going to be hard work. The voice — “Hello, I’m Charlotte” — is low but not warm, clipped like her English parents’ (her father was an army officer), but circumspect like her adoptive French. The actress has lived in Paris for more than 25 years, but keeps a place in London, too. In France, they call her “La Légende”, and when she can be tempted out of the house, she socialises with the big hitters. The Sarkozys? “I do know them both. Yeah, they’re all right,” she says. Apparently, she’s happy to live up to her lofty sobriquet.

I casually ask how she manages her two homes, and her answer is off-the-chart grand. “I’ve always needed distance, needed space,” she says, as her hooded eyes drift about the room, perhaps looking for the nearest exit. “I don’t want to be too close to things. I can’t be. It’s not the greatest way to be, but that’s the way I am. It suits me very well to have two countries, because I need to know that I am always able to move elsewhere.” Crikey.

She is in the last throes of the Style photoshoot, but has agreed to a few questions, so once it is finished, I escort the habitual bolter to the bar downstairs. She moves with great confidence through the hotel, nose raised and hair tossed back. She would glide if it weren’t for what appears to be a stiff hip. Still, the hotel’s guests clock La Légende instantly, then — in keeping with this myth of hers — look away rather than gawp. It’s fair to say people find you intimidating, I say. “Some people do and that amazes me,” she replies, looking unamazed. Does she ever feel it with other people? Pause. “I don’t really get intimidated.” Go figure.

I think a lot of it is down to the near-alienating level of elegance Rampling manages to pull off — the sort of glamorous Euro reserve that makes most English women look like an unmade bed. Did she pick it up in France, when she went to school here for a while as a child? “France is an elegant country,” she agrees. “England,” she cocks her head thoughtfully, “is not. It may have lots of other things, but it’s not elegant.” Perhaps this is why France suits her. For one thing, like all good French women, she never got fat. For another, she has made a career of her haughty appeal, from the unknowable sexual predators of her earlier films (The Night Porter) to next month’s StreetDance 3D, in which she plays the ageing prima ballerina Helena, knocking X Factor-style British teens into shape for a dance contest. It’s an unlikely role for Rampling, more used to the hard-core art house of her adoptive homeland. But she has always been surprisingly unpretentious about the work she chooses, and at least her older grandchild will be able to watch it, which is more than can be said for most of her racy output.

Born in Essex (of all places) in 1946, Rampling has led what she calls a “faster” life. She moved around a lot as a child, as her father (an Olympic gold medal-winning relay runner) was shunted from base to base. She began modelling at 17, started acting soon after and hasn’t stopped much in the 40-plus years since. On occasion, her private life has titillated more than her screen work. In the 1970s, the public was shocked to discover that she may (or may not) have been living in a ménage à trois with her then husband, Bryan Southcombe, and a male model. She later left Southcombe and married the French musician Jean Michel Jarre in 1978, but 20 years later found out via a tabloid (nice) that he was having an affair with a younger woman, and so the marriage was dissolved. She has been seeing Jean-Noël Tassez, a telecommunications magnate 10 years her junior, for the past decade. There has also been depression over her sister’s suicide and a scandal last year in which she threatened to sue if a biography written by a former friend was published. Yet through it all, she has kept up this same knowing, sexy glare.

Looking at her in the bar — with her unlifted face, a gaggle of grandchildren to her name and well into her seventh decade — it is utterly remarkable how she still gives off the sex factor. The photographers Helmut Newton and Juergen Teller have both seized on it in the past, and she continues to be a fashion muse (most recently for Marc Jacobs). I know the fun starts at 60 these days, but Rampling is something else. Her va-va-voom is enough to give the Saga set a collective heart attack — and she’s cool with that. “That’s what I project,” she says. “I’ve always given that off. I feel fine about it. If I’m still here working at my ripe old age, clearly it’s a powerful thing.” It makes it hard to imagine you as a normal person, I say. Do you do housework? “Yes,” she breathes. “I probably do housework quite well. But it’s a question of not trying to investigate things too much. Everything is about transparency now. It all has to be out-there, upfront celebrity. Everybody has to know everything about everybody. This is not right. If you don’t have mystery in life, you cannot dream.”

She gives a throaty laugh. “Now people who perhaps have dreamt about me, or fantasised about me, if I’m lucky — and I think a few have,” she says, smiling, “they just want to know the aura that comes off me. They don’t want to know about the details. Of course, I do everything. I function like a human being, but you don’t want to know all about that. You want the illusion.” So this sexiness of yours is an illusion? “I think so. I’m not in any way a master of sex at all, but there’s something in me — I know because I can see it when I come on screen — there’s some animal thing that emanates. When you go to parties and you see how people turn on their sexuality, that’s all I do for a role. You turn on the predator, and you go with it.”

In fact, she’s mostly glad for it as it means the gigs keep coming her way. She has a clutch of films due for release in the coming months. “When you’re my age and allowed to still be healthy and quite good-looking, there’s an enormous amount of gratitude,” she says. How has she pulled it off? “Well, there’s something in evolving as nature wished you to,” she says. “I’ve got to the stage in my life where I’m allowed to be the age I am and proud of it, and not have to have my face all twisted to make it look younger. I don’t want to cheat nature. It’ll come back on you if you have something done to your face. You’ll look in the mirror and think, ‘I don’t recognise myself.’ It’s a monster story.”

Plus, it helps not to want to be an ingénue any longer. “There are things in youth that are deeply disturbing to live through, and when you’re older, you don’t have to. You’re less competitive, you get wiser. It’s good.” It helps if you look good, too. Do you have a regime? “Good genetics,” she says simply. “I see women’s bodies and they want to change them, and you think you can understand why. Poor things. But I’ve been lucky. I swim and I walk, but I don’t have to do much.” Are you more careful with what you eat? “Yeah, I really am careful. It is the only way if you’re slim naturally to keep slim, especially as you get older and spread a bit. Just take care. But you have to have the lucky genes.”

In fact, the odd “downer day” aside, she is living the baby-boomer dream — in work (she is about to shoot in Australia), asked everywhere (but happy on the sofa at home), with the love of a wealthy younger man. Will she marry him? “No, I don’t think so. I’ve been with Jean-Noël for 12 years.” So it works as it is? “Yeah. I’ve been married twice, and I don’t want to marry again. Marriage is about kids. I’d rather be a lover to the man I’m with than a wife.” Lucky him, I say. “The only thing I’m having trouble with is the name — what do you call yourself?” she ponders. “Partner? Companion? It’s a romance-killer. In French it’s lovely, because he can say, ‘Ma femme’ — it’s both the wife and the woman. But when you say, ‘My man’, it’s a bit iffy, isn’t it? A bit Dallas. But if that’s our main problem, then it’s all going well,” she says, pulling on her coat and heading off into the Parisian twilight. It’s hard to argue with her.

StreetDance 3D is in cinemas nationwide from May 21</font></span>

<span style="font-size:10.5pt;"><b><font face="Tahoma">http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/fashion/article7103556.ece</font></b></span></p>

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