When Charlotte Rampling, 75, shot to stardom after appearing in the 1966 film Georgy Girl, she perfectly understood the power of her sexuality: “I didn’t have to wait for the boys to come – I had it, I didn’t have to flaunt it.” Then her older sister killed herself at the age of 23, two months after giving birth prematurely, she tells Simon Hattenstone in The Guardian. “I couldn’t be happy any more.” Done with “fun films”, Rampling turned instead to roles that exploited her sexuality in darker ways. In The Night Porter she has a sadomasochistic relationship with her Nazi torturer, and in Max Mon Amour she has an affair with a chimpanzee.
Her personal life raised eyebrows too. By the 1970s she was living in a menage à trois with her agent, Bryan Southcombe, and model Randall Laurence. She married Southcombe in 1972. How did she choose? “I chose Bryan because I got pregnant. And you will say, how did you know it was his? I won’t go any further. But I chose Bryan, and Bryan is Barnaby’s father.” That marriage lasted until she met the French composer Jean-Michel Jarre at a dinner party in 1976 – she ran away with him days afterwards. They married and had a son, but the marriage ended 19 years later, when she read about Jarre’s philandering in the papers. After that she began a long, happy relationship with the French journalist Jean-Noël Tassez, which lasted until his death from cancer in 2015.
Rampling was depressed and far from herself a few months later, when she called the #OscarsSoWhite campaign to boycott the 2016 Academy Awards “racist to whites”. She quickly clarified that she advocated equal opportunities for all performers, but the damage was done: “I knew I’d blown it straight away.” She was up for an Oscar that year for 45 Years – her first nomination. She thinks her statement cost her the award. “But that’s life, isn’t it?”