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10 “I’ve had very, very bad trips on LSD.” The cult interview with Charlotte Rampling

“I’ve had very, very bad trips on LSD.” The cult interview with Charlotte Rampling


Over a glass of white wine and a packet of cigarettes, Charlotte Rampling, the world’s most hauntingly chic actress, explains how an aversion to George W., the tabloids, plastic surgery, blind ambition, Hollywood publicists, ridiculous witch-hunts and other such bad trips have enabled her to age so gracefully. Memories of the cult interview with Charlotte Rampling.

Charlotte Rampling by David Bailey. Charlotte Rampling by David Bailey.
Charlotte Rampling by David Bailey.


You once said that you saw interviews as a form of therapy. Hit the couch, then, Charlotte, and tell me about your childhood.

I grew up in different places; my father was in the army. We spent a couple of years in Wales, before moving to Norfolk, and then Fontainebleau. My childhood was alright. It wasn’t unhappy. 


As a teenager, were you already the picture of decorum that you are today? 

I was quite a fiery teenager; rather rebellious. My sister and I began earning a living very young, and both went off and did our own thing. It was the beginning of the sixties in London: there were jobs for everybody, and it was very easy to do a bit of modelling, get a flat and get going. It was an easy time for young people then.


Just how psychedelic were your swinging sixties?

I dabbled with drugs, although I’m fortunate enough not to have an addictive nature, so I never fell into anything too heavily.


What was the designer drug of choice?

Mostly LSD, which really trips you out. Badly out. You just sit there in your own psychedelic trip. For a hypersensitive person like myself, it could all turn rather nasty: I’ve had very, very bad trips on LSD. Having said that, at least it wasn’t as pernicious as drugs are today, which give you the impression that you can control them when, of course, you can’t.

Clearly smoking is a bad habit you still haven’t kicked.

Nor do I intend to. I don’t agree with the anti-smoking laws in New York: it’s like the Prohibition. It’s one thing if the laws apply to confined public spaces where smoking is totally overbearing, or to places that need to be kept clean. I originally thought it was a good idea, because it made people attentive to what they were doing. But then suddenly, in restaurants and bars, it blew into a ridiculous witch-hunt. Which only served to remind me why I didn’t like America.


What is it about America?

I wouldn’t know, I’m not American. I’ve driven across America, lived in New York and Los Angeles, made films in Colorado and Salt Lake City, and spent a long time in San Francisco. But I have only ever seen America for what it is, from a European viewpoint. I consciously choose not to live and work there. I feel much freer here. I actually feel quite threatened in America. New York is a world of its own, and Los Angeles is movie world, but as for the rest of America... Well, I’m afraid I don’t really understand it.

“45 ans” d’Andrew Haigh avec Charlotte Rampling.

You’ve certainly always steered clear of Hollywood.

Absolutely. I did do Orca, as a means of being part of the system for a while and going over there to smell things out.


What made you wake up and smell the coffee?
I would have needed to whet my claws and bare my fangs, and actually want to succeed over there in a way that was just not me. In a certain way, I’m too easy-going. I’m not ambitious in that way. This isn’t Who Wants to be a Millionaire?


What do you want then, Charlotte Rampling?
I want to make films like the films I’ve made: small films, art-house films, films that really make me think, films that make the spectator think, films that move people in a more, I would say, intelligent way. My two latest projects [Under the Sand and Swimming Pool] with [director] François Ozon have enabled me to age gracefully, to mature in a glamorous way. I say glamorous because I feel they’re attractive films, even if, as actors, we don’t necessarily come to be attractive in them. Rather, I was made to feel beautiful as an ageing woman coming to terms with how to be still part of the world – the essential world, the sexual world – without actually having to make a big deal out of it.


You serial stripped for Helmut Newton between 1973 and 2001. How obscenely chic!
I’ve always liked people who were able to provoke glamour, and Helmut was a master at that. As for the nudity, if it suits the way I fundamentally feel about images, then it’s OK.


I’m surprised your publicist didn’t have you arrested.
In my day, the film industry wasn’t run by agents and publicists. And as far as I’m concerned, it never will be. Whole retinues are now deployed to ‘surround’ artists...whatever that means. I’ve always been a one-man-show. I call the shots. What I do is who I am, and that’s nobody’s business but my own.


Why are movie stars increasingly becoming walking, talking billboards for Botox?
It’s quite an alarming trend. Some people can’t bear their faces, so they change them. I happen to like mine. I’ve always seen it as a reference: a sort of face value that I could always relate to, however puckered and strange it may be. In the end, it’s all you’ve got, because you’re alone a lot of the time.


Why be alone when you could always be surrounded?
Again, I don’t like an entourage. I’m mostly on my own, even when I’m with people. That’s just the way I am. Age teaches you not to try and change your true nature, and just to go with it. So I spend a lot of time going down under, to find my own personal integrity within myself.


What do you make of the your former husband Jean-Michel Jarre and actress Isabelle Adjani’s current mud-slinging contest in the French tabloids?
They obviously both needed to go through with it, because the tabloids are only there for those who choose to be in them. Personally, I’d rather not. In France you have the law on your side, unlike in England where the papers can really come into your life and shatter it.


If the French law were truly dissuasive, surely nationwide newsstands this summer would have been spared Catherine Deneuve beached poolside in a polka-dot bikini.
She either wanted those pictures to be published – because, again, most ‘stolen’ pictures are actually staged –, or she’ll slam them with a lawsuit and laugh her way to the bank. Not that Voici cares, because by the time the suit hits them, they’ll have sold millions of copies.


Were you ever framed?
When I split from Jean-Michel, they said this, and they said that... They mentioned that I was seeing somebody. Nothing bad. Nothing horrible. Nothing but the truth.


[Archives Numero 58, november 2004.]