Last year, veteran actress Charlotte Rampling was Oscar-nominated for “45 Years,” a haunting drama about a woman who discovers a disturbing secret about her husband just as she’s planning their 45th Anniversary party.

At seventy, her acting is more impressive than ever, and her stunning beauty endures. Hers is a face that has truly lived; we glimpse sadness and pain, wisdom and acceptance in that still glorious visage. She has earned those qualities through a rich and complex life marked by tragedy.

Rampling first registered on-screen in the quirky sixties comedy, “Georgy Girl” (1966), playing Lynn Redgrave’s snooty girlfriend. It had been a quick, fairly effortless hop from model to actress, and there she was, impossibly gorgeous and free, in the midst of a creative renaissance in swinging sixties London. 

She could never fully enjoy it. Just as her career was taking off, news arrived that her only sibling, an older sister named Sarah, had died in Argentina. The two girls had been extremely close growing up. For several years, Charlotte’s father, a former Olympic gold medalist and career Army officer, told her and her mother that the cause was a brain hemorrhage.

Eventually, Charlotte discovered that Sarah had committed suicide after giving birth prematurely to a son. Though her mother, a painter, never learned the real cause of death, the loss of her eldest daughter broke her health. She suffered a stroke and remained an invalid, unable to speak, for the rest of her life.

Thus its likely no coincidence that over the coming years, Rampling would specialize in portraying dark, edgy, often unsympathetic characters on-screen. After “Georgy Girl,” there were few comedies. She had no interest in playing Mary Poppins; her goal was to stretch boundaries in most any role she took. 

As she put it: I generally dont 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 its certainly a big part of sex. To discover what normal means, you have to surf a tide of weirdness.

The actor Dirk Bogarde became a mentor of sorts, first appearing with her in Luchino Visconti’s “The Damned” (1969). He would later star in Rampling’s most controversial film, 1974’s “The Night Porter” (1974), where she plays a Holocaust survivor who resumes a sadomasochistic relationship with the former Nazi (Bogarde) who imprisoned her.

Charlotte had two sons with two different fathers in the seventies. Over the following two decades, her professional life slowed down as she raised them. Later, she fought an extended bout of depression as she finally came to terms with the death of her beloved sister.

Once she was well on the path to recovery, French director Francois Ozon gave her film career a vibrant second act by casting her in “Under the Sand” (2000), playing a woman who starts to crack up when her husband mysteriously disappears. She has remained busy ever since.

Below are 20 photos that capture the magnetism and mystery of Charlotte Rampling, past and present.

Just starting out.

Getting comfortable.

In the tub, blowing bubbles.

Wild mane! Who did her hair?

Gorgeous in glasses.

At one with nature, and doing what comes naturally.

Fox with freckles.

Watchful and wary.

Swinging sixties. Dig the hairdo!

Holding her own with Bob Mitchum in Farewell, My Lovely (1975).

A lady not to be trifled with.

Grazing in the grass.

All made up.

Lets play.

Woman in the window.

Smart, proud and beautiful.

Vamping it up.


Tuck me in.

Comfortable in her own skin.

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