Charlotte Rampling has had some of the most extraordinary and challenging roles in showbiz. From acting opposite Sean Connery in John Boorman’s “Zardoz” and Paul Newman in “The Verdict” to playing a woman who falls in love with a monkey in “Max My Love,” she’s never been one to shy away from risk.
This year, she continues her run with two Oscar-worthy performances. In Francois Ozon’s “Swimming Pool,” she put in a commanding lead perf as an on-edge British writer; in Norman Jewison’s “The Statement,” she steals scenes as the browbeaten wife of a Nazi sympathizer on the run (Michael Caine).
In the sexy yet sophisticated “Swimming Pool,” Rampling’s uptight British novelist blossoms and loses her inhibitions as her crime fiction and reality merge while she’s writing her next book at a French country house. It’s the second film she’s worked on with Ozon (after 2000’s “Under the Sand”) and again — like Rampling’s co-star and another Ozon regular, Ludivine Sagnier — she very much took on the role of the muse.
“He came to me with an idea and we discussed how it could be explored before he went off to write the script,” Rampling remembers. The film itself explores the theme of the creator and muse, a process where, according to Rampling, “mutual trust is very important. Sometimes in your work, you find those rare people who are like a mirror of yourself and where you can feel safe enough to explore different avenues of yourself.”
Ozon wanted a real crime writer to be involved in the creation of Rampling’s character and wrote a letter to Ruth Rendell.
“She wasn’t at all pleased about that. She didn’t want anything to do with it!” Rampling laughs, though she adds that her character was based on solid research into this peculiar breed of scribes.
What made “The Statement” an interesting undertaking for Rampling, who lives in Paris, was “the challenge of that one moment, the powerful scene between my character and Michael Caine — I just wanted to play that. I wanted to catch that moment.”
Currently, Rampling is acting on the Paris stage in a play by Eric Emmanuel Schmitt and is soon to be seen in Mike Hodges’ “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” and Gianni Amelio’s “Le chiavi di casa.”
She emphasizes that with any choice of role she makes, she is “committed to a way of life and a way of being that’s a very personal one. I’ve done some very dangerous and odd films, but they always touch a vibration somewhere inside me. I’m never defrauding the audience.”
Coming attractions: “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead,” “Le chiavi di casa”