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Inside film

From rebellious sirens to formidable nuns: The enduring appeal of Charlotte Rampling

The 75-year-old is in two of the most hotly discussed films of the year, Paul Verhoeven’s ‘Benedetta’ and Denis Villeneuve’s ‘Dune’. She is one of the few stars from the Sixties who is still doing such strong work, writes Geoffrey Macnab, but what is the secret of her staying power?

Friday 03 September 2021 06:30 BST
Charlotte Rampling has been praised for her ‘wildness and fragility’
Charlotte Rampling has been praised for her ‘wildness and fragility’ (Getty)

It’s over half a century now since Charlotte Rampling burst into British movies in the mid-1960s, immediately establishing herself alongside the likes of Twiggy, Jean Shrimpton and Michael Caine as one of that turbulent decade’s defining personalities. This was the era of The Beatles and Swinging London. Rampling had been spotted by the Boulting brothers who saw a picture of the young actor in a magazine and immediately recruited her for their risque satire, Rotten to the Core (1965).

“It was one of those lucky chances. I was launched into the film business,” she later recalled of how, after a couple of bit parts in Richard Lester movies (including a cameo as “girl at disco” in Beatles picture A Hard Day’s Night), she achieved instant stardom.

Her first leading role was revealing. The Boultings cast her as the scheming Sara, Burnley-born but Paris-educated and a consummate crook. She has been on screen for only a few seconds when she is shown stripped to her underwear and snogging her latest boyfriend. “I want to live!” she yells at her father when he asks why she won’t come home to Lancashire. Instead, she helps the boyfriend The Duke (Anton Rodgers) with his latest criminal enterprises.

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