WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling might be cinematic contemporaries in our popular imagination, but they were near strangers when they began work on the marital drama "45 Years." Still, you wouldn't know it from the film, or their cheeky, sarcastic in-person banter.
"45 Years," out Dec. 23 and directed by Andrew Haigh, tells the story of a quiet couple planning their 45th anniversary party whose lives are upended when the husband Geoff (Courtenay) receives notice that the body of an old girlfriend has been found. She fell into a glacial fissure while hiking nearly 50 years prior, and all of this had happened before he met his wife Kate (Rampling).
The memory and jealousy eat away at Geoff and Kate as the party nears.
Courtenay, 78, and Rampling, 69, sat down with The Associated Press to discuss the film, their careers and the utility of telling stories for every stage of life.
AP: Were you excited to work together?
COURTENAY: That her ladyship was in it made some sort of sense to me.
RAMPLING: It was a hurdle you had to jump.
COURTENAY: I wouldn't have minded someone a bit younger.
RAMPLING: He's a devilish boy.
AP: Did you relate to your characters?
COURTENAY: My wife says I'm always sitting and dreaming about what might have been. She thinks it is very much the story of our lives. She knows I have a past. She's read about it in the papers.
RAMPLING: It relates to couples. Younger couples, middle aged couples, older couples. We yearn to be coupled as human beings.
COURTENAY: It gives it universality.
AP: Kate's jealousy of a woman who has been dead 50 years is very irrational but also very real.
RAMPLING: It's so irrational! But it still brings out all these slumbering difficulties that we carry along with us. People are people, whatever age you are. If you're talking about relationships, there's no age.
AP: Is it difficult to find good roles at this stage in your careers and life?
RAMPLING: It's always that way. Spectators see actors doing these wonderful roles, but they are few and far between.
COURTENAY: Laurence Olivier said you needed one good part every 10 years.
COURTENAY: I get a little bit fed up when people say, "oh, I loved you in 'Billy Liar' or in 'Long Distance Runner'." I've done other things. But that's fine. You should be thankful they remember. One shouldn't be irritated they think that's all you've done. What's it matter...
RAMPLING: In the end, yeah. We do sort of think that, but it doesn't matter.
COURTENAY: When you've got a film that's good, that perks you up a bit.
RAMPLING: If you get one every 10 years, that's fantastic. It's usually not more than that, except for the very happy few at the top of the...
COURTENAY: They have a price to pay, I'm sure.
AP: Have films changed much since you started out?
RAMPLING: There is still some great storytelling, still some great films, still some silly films, still some big finance films, small finance films. People want stories, people need stories. We have to be informed through that medium and not just through CNN. We need other ways of seeing the world, so we can see ourselves through those stories — like in our film. They see themselves in this film. They start to think about themselves and their relationships. And what else are we going to do in our spare time? We've got books and we've got films.
COURTENAY: I have a dog.
RAMPLING: Well how much can you walk your dog?
COURTENAY: Sometimes twice a day.
RAMPLING: Yes, but that only takes an hour.
COURTENAY: Sometimes I talk to him.
RAMPLING: But you're not going to talk all night with him! You need something else to do.
COURTENAY: How do you know I don't talk all night?
RAMPLING: All right, you're a strange person.
AP: Do you think the movies are getting better at telling stories about people in the later stages of life?
COURTENAY: When I first started coming to America, there was one man who had grey hair. He was called David Susskind. He was a reporter and he had grey hair. He was the only one in the whole of New York of any prominence with grey hair. So you don't grow old. That's the first thing you don't do. And of course that's the first thing we all do. It's good that people are more accepting now.
RAMPLING: That's what people are! Have you seen the people out at our age in life now? It's incredible. There is an incredible youth market in older people. They want to see these types of films. They want to see films about themselves. They don't want to see kooky archetype films about getting older. It's about life until we (expletive) die. And we're out here. We're still out here.