Tessa Charlotte Rampling is an English actress, model and singer, known for her work in European arthouse films in English, French, and Italian. An icon of the Swinging Sixties, she began her career as a model and later became a fashion icon and muse.
She was cast in the role of Meredith in the 1966 film Georgy Girl, which starred Lynn Redgrave. She soon began making French and Italian arthouse films, most notably during this time in Luchino Visconti's The Damned and Liliana Cavani's The Night Porter. She went on to star in Zardoz, Farewell, My Lovely, Woody Allen's Stardust Memories, opposite Paul Newman in The Verdict, Long Live Life, Max, Mon Amour, Angel Heart and The Wings of the Dove. In 2002 she released an album of recordings in the style of cabaret, titled As A Woman.
In the 2000s, she became the muse of French director François Ozon, appearing in his films Under the Sand, Swimming Pool and Angel. On television, she is known for her role as Evelyn Vogel in Dexter. In 2012 she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award, both for her performance in the miniseries Restless. Other television roles include work in Broadchurch and London Spy, for the latter of which she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award. For her performance in the 2015 film 45 Years, she won the Berlin Film Festival Award for Best Actress, the European Film Award for Best Actress, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. In 2017, she won the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the 74th Venice International Film Festival for Hannah.
A four-time César Award nominee, she received an Honorary César in 2001 and France's Legion of Honour in 2002. She was made an OBE in 2000 for her services to the arts, and received the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award from the European Film Awards. In 2015, she released her autobiography, which she wrote in French, titled Qui Je Suis, or Who I Am. She later worked on an English translation, which was published in March 2017.
Early life and familyRampling was born in Sturmer, Essex, the daughter of Isabel Anne, a painter, and Godfrey Rampling, an Olympic gold medalist and British Army officer. She spent most of her childhood in Gibraltar, France and Spain, before she returned to the UK in 1964.
She attended Académie Jeanne d'Arc in Versailles and St Hilda's School, a boarding school in Bushey, Hertfordshire, England. She had one sister, Sarah, who committed suicide in 1966, aged 23. She and Sarah had had a close relationship, and they had performed in a cabaret act together during their teenage years.
1960s: Modelling career, starting as actressShe began her career as a model and first appeared in a Cadbury advertisement. She was working as a secretary when she was noticed by a casting agent in the same building. Her first screen appearance, which was uncredited, was as a water skier in Richard Lester's film The Knack...and How to Get It. She also appeared as an extra in Lester's next directorial outing, the Beatles film A Hard Day's Night. In 1965, she was cast in the role of Meredith in the film Georgy Girl and was given a role by John Boulting in the comedy Rotten to the Core. In 1967, she starred opposite Yul Brynner in the adventure film The Long Duel. She also appeared alongside Franco Nero in the Italian film Sardinia Kidnapped , directed by Gianfranco Mingozzi.
On television, Rampling played the gunfighter Hana Wilde in "The Superlative Seven," a 1967 episode of The Avengers. In 1969, she starred opposite Sam Waterston in the romance-drama Three, and in 1972, she starred opposite Robert Blake in the drama Corky and portrayed Anne Boleyn in the costume drama Henry VIII and His Six Wives. After this, her acting career blossomed in both English and French cinema.
Despite an early flurry of success, she told The Independent: "We weren't happy. It was a nightmare, breaking the rules and all that. Everyone seemed to be having fun, but they were taking so many drugs they wouldn't know it anyway."
Rampling has performed controversial roles. In 1969, in Luchino Visconti's The Damned, she played a young wife sent to a Nazi concentration camp. Critics praised her performance, and it cast her in a whole new image: mysterious, sensitive, and ultimately tragic. "The Look," as her co-star Dirk Bogarde called it, became her trademark.
1970–Early 1980s: Transition to adult roles, Hollywood and Italian cinemaShe appeared naked in the cult classic Vanishing Point, in a scene deleted from the U.S. theatrical release. Lead actor Barry Newman remarked that the scene was of aid in the allegorical lilt of the film.
In 1974's The Night Porter, in which she again appears alongside Dirk Bogarde, she plays a former concentration camp inmate who, after World War II, reunites with a former camp guard with whom she had had an ambiguous relationship. Their relationship resumes, and she becomes his mistress and torture toy once again. In Max mon amour, she played a woman who fell in love with a chimpanzee. In 1974, she posed nude for Playboy. In 1976 she co-presented for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration Award with Anthony Hopkins at the 48th Academy Awards.
In 1974, Rampling starred in John Boorman's science-fiction film Zardoz opposite Sean Connery. She also starred with Peter O'Toole in Foxtrot and with Richard Harris in Orca. She gained recognition from American audiences in a remake of Raymond Chandler's detective story Farewell, My Lovely and later with Woody Allen's Stardust Memories, and particularly in The Verdict, an acclaimed drama directed by Sidney Lumet that starred Paul Newman.
The middle 1980s and the 1990sRampling starred in Claude Lelouch's 1984 film Viva la vie, before going on to star in the cult-film Max, Mon Amour, and appear in the thriller Angel Heart. For a decade she withdrew from the public eye due to depression. In the late 1990s, she appeared in The Wings of the Dove, played Miss Havisham in a BBC television adaptation of Great Expectations, and starred in the film adaptation of The Cherry Orchard, directed by Michael Cacoyannis.. In 1997, she was a member of jury at the 54th Venice International Film Festival.
The 2000sRampling credits François Ozon with drawing her back to film in the 2000s, a period when she came to terms with the death of her elder sister Sarah who, after giving birth prematurely in 1966, committed suicide at 23. "I thought that after such a long time of not letting her be with me," she told The Guardian, "I would like to bring her back into my life." The character she played in Ozon's Swimming Pool, Sarah Morton, was named in her sister's honour.
For most of Rampling's life, she would say only that her sister had died of a brain haemorrhage; when she and her father heard the news, they agreed they would never let her mother know the truth. They kept their secret until Rampling's mother died in 2001.
Rampling appeared in Tony Scott's Spy Game, and she earned César Award nominations for Under the Sand, Swimming Pool, and Lemming. At 59, she appeared in Laurent Cantet's Heading South, a 2005 film about sexual tourism. She appeared as Ellen, a professor of French literature and single Englishwoman, who holidays in 1970s Haiti to get the sexual attention she does not get at home.
On her choice of roles, Rampling said, "I generally don't 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 it's certainly a big part of sex. To discover what normal means, you have to surf a tide of weirdness."
The actress has continued to work in sexually provocative films, such as Basic Instinct 2. In 2008, she portrayed Countess Spencer, the mother of Keira Knightley's title character, in The Duchess and played the High Priestess in post-apocalyptic thriller Babylon A.D.. In 2002, she recorded an album titled Comme Une Femme, or As A Woman. It is in both French and English, and includes passages that are spoken word as well as selections which Rampling sang.. In February 2006, Rampling was named as the jury president at the 56th Berlin International Film Festival.
She has been seen on the covers of Vogue, Interview, and Elle Magazines and . In 2009, she posed nude in front of the Mona Lisa for Juergen Teller. In 2009, Rampling appeared in Todd Solondz's Life During Wartime.
2010sIn 2010, she completed filming Cleanskin, a terrorist thriller, and played Miss Emily in the dystopian romantic fantasy Never Let Me Go. She also appeared as Helena in the dance drama StreetDance 3D and the nun Mary in The Mill and the Cross with Michael York and Rutger Hauer. In 2011, she appeared in Lars Von Trier's Melancholia. For her role in the 2012 miniseries Restless, Rampling was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award. In 2013, she appeared as Dr. Evelyn Vogel in the final season of Dexter. Rampling also appeared as Alice in the drama Jeune et Jolie and the elderly Adriana do Prado in Night Train to Lisbon. Other television roles include the ITV drama Broadchurch and the BBC drama London Spy. In 2014, she was named the new face of NARS Cosmetics to launch their new lipstick campaign.
In 2015, Rampling starred opposite Tom Courtenay in Andrew Haigh's 45 Years. The film is about a couple preparing to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary when new information regarding the husband's missing previous lover arises. 45 Years was screened in the main competition section of the 65th Berlin International Film Festival. She won the Silver Bear for Best Actress and Tom Courtenay won the Silver Bear for Best Actor. For this role, she also won the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress, the European Film Award for Best Actress, was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress, and also received nominations for the BIFA Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a British Independent Film and the Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Actress.
In 2016, Rampling accused those boycotting that year's Academy Awards ceremony of hostility towards Caucasians. Her comments were called "offensive, outrageous and ignorant" by Chelsea Clinton, while they were defended by Clint Eastwood. Rampling later apologised for her comments and expressed regret that her statements were misinterpreted. That same year, Rampling backed children's fairytales app, GivingTales in aid of UNICEF together with Roger Moore, Stephen Fry, Ewan McGregor, Joan Collins, Joanna Lumley, Michael Caine, David Walliams, Paul McKenna and Michael Ball.
In 2017, Rampling co-starred as Veronica Ford with Jim Broadbent and Emily Mortimer in The Sense of an Ending, which was based on the novel by Julian Barnes. It had its world premiere at the Palm Springs International Film Festival in January 2017. Her next film was in Andrea Pallaoro's Hannah, where she portrayed the title role
of the wife of a man imprisoned on uncertain charges. For her role, she was awarded the Volpi Cup for Best Actress award at the 74th Venice International Film Festival.
Upcoming projectsRampling is set to star as Lady Denham in the film adaptation of Jane Austen's unfinished novel Sanditon, which is to be directed by Jim O'Hanlon for Fluidity Pictures.
Rampling will also co-star alongside Josh Hartnett and John Rhys-Davies in the sci-fi film Valley of the Gods, directed by Lech Majewski. Rampling is also attached to star opposite Alicia Vikander and Eva Green in Euphoria, directed by Lisa Langseth. In January 2019, Rampling was cast as Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam in the upcoming Denis Villeneuve adaptation of Dune alongside Timothée Chalamet in the leading role.
Personal lifeIn 1972, Rampling married New Zealand actor and publicist Bryan Southcombe and had a son, Barnaby, before divorcing in 1976. The couple was reported to have been living in a ménage à trois with a male model, Randall Laurence, and in 1974, Rampling was quoted by the syndicated columnist Earl Wilson as saying: "There are so many misunderstandings in life. I once caused a scandal by saying I lived with two men I didn't mean it in a sexual sense We were just like any people sharing an apartment."
In 1978, Rampling married French composer Jean-Michel Jarre and had a second son, David Jarre, who became a musician and singer. She raised her stepdaughter Émilie Jarre, who became a fashion designer. The marriage was publicly dissolved in 1997, when Rampling learned from tabloid newspaper stories about Jarre's affairs with other women, and had a nervous breakdown.
She was engaged to Jean-Noël Tassez, a French journalist and businessman, from 1998 until his death in 2015. Rampling lives in Paris. She also suffered from depression.
Screen and stage
- Georgy Girl
- The Long Duel
- Sardinia Kidnapped
- The Damned
- 'Tis Pity She's a Whore
- Vanishing Point
- The Night Porter
- Caravan to Vaccarès
- La Chair de l'orchidée
- Farewell, My Lovely
- Sherlock Holmes in New York
- Stardust Memories
- The Verdict
- Angel Heart
- Asphalt Tango
- Under the Sand
- Swimming Pool
- Heading South
- Basic Instinct 2
- Babylon A.D.
- The Duchess
- The Eye of the Storm
- The Mill and the Cross
- I, Anna
- Night Train to Lisbon
- 45 Years
- Assassin's Creed
- The Sense of an Ending
- Red Sparrow
Roles originally offered to Rampling
- Roman Polanski wanted Rampling to be cast in Cul-de-sac and her agent turned it down. Jacqueline Bisset later took the role.
- She was also considered for a role in The Thief Who Came to Dinner with Ryan O'Neal. She later turned it down and Jacqueline Bisset took the role instead.
- Director Tim Burstall met her for a title role in Eliza Fraser, but she did not feel as though she could consider herself a comedy actress, and later turned it down. Susannah York later took the role.
- She was considered for a role as Sarah Woodruff in The French Lieutenant's Woman, but John Fowles was not happy about her acting in the 1974 film The Night Porter. She later turned down the role.