The light is fading over Central Park as hurricane-strength winds pound the corner windows of Geraldine Chaplin's hotel room.

Seated cross-legged in a chair, Chaplin glows as she recounts her first day on the set of "Chaplin," the film biography about her father in which she plays her own grandmother.The movie's star, Robert Downey Jr., made up as Charlie Chaplin, came toward her.

"He gave me this big hug. And he's this gorgeous looking young kid. I thought, how Freudian. Here I am in my father's arms. It was every girl's dream. Daddy as a young boy. Robert was shaking. I was shaking."

Outside, Manhattan is shaking. It's the worst storm in the city since 1953. Rain-soaked visitors to Chaplin's suite carry the carcasses of umbrellas and the air of bewilderment.

Only Chaplin, still waifish at 48, wearing velvet leggings, a pink tunic sweater and long, black hair in a braid, is the calm in the eye of the fierce Nor'easter.

"Don't get blown away!" Chaplin hollers cheerfully to each as they leave.

It's a warning Chaplin has taken to heart in her own stormy life - the legacy of tempests that both pummeled and propelled her parents, Charlie and Oona O'Neill Chaplin, and her grandparents.

"Passion. Everything in my father's life, in my family's life, was passion," says Chaplin.

She has survived her father's towering legend with a body of work that includes 70 films. They range from her debut in her father's 1952 film, "Limelight," in which she had one line, to "Dr. Zhivago" and "Nashville."

Chaplin's grandmother, Hannah Chaplin, raised her two sons, Charlie and Sydney, alone during a descent into madness. When Hannah spent periods in asylums, her boys lived in workhouses.

"It was hard to capture that insanity," says Chaplin of her portrayal of Hannah Chaplin. "She wasn't a raving lunatic. It's a soft kind of insanity."

After Hannah's two sons achieved fame and fortune, they brought their mother to America. But not always lucid, she was haunted by years of hardship in London when she often couldn't feed her family.

"They (Charlie and Sydney) would take her out to tea in California and suddenly she'd take the biscuits from the table and put them in her bag," Chaplin recalls.

"They'd say, `Mother what are you doing?' She'd say, `They're for my boys.' Even though they were right in front of her, all grown up, she always had the ghosts of her hungry boys with her."

Chaplin pauses and smiles as the winds outside howl like ghosts of her own, responding on cue.

"I felt awfully sorry for her, especially when I saw her up on the screen in the film," Chaplin said. "The worst thing in the world is having your children taken away from you."

Charlie Chaplin escaped his Dickensian childhood and was a world-famous millionaire in America at 25. But he was dogged by scandal and melodrama his entire life.

Oona O'Neill escaped the morose shadow of her father, playwright Eugene O'Neill, when she married Charlie Chaplin at 18. He was 54. But she suffered more than most when her husband died in 1977.

"Mummy died of a broken heart. That's what was so terrible about the age difference. He died on her. She was enraged. She tried to get on with her life. But nothing took."

Given her history, Geraldine Chaplin could be troubled or tortured. But brisk and upbeat, she tells one extraordinary story about her family after another in a matter-of-fact tone.

"It was so great in a way," says Chaplin of her life as the eldest of eight Chaplin children. "Everywhere we went we were privileged. He was the most important man in the world. I loved the attention and spoiling."

Chaplin glosses over rockier times in her childhood. She was kicked out of the house by her father when she refused to go to college and told him she wanted to be a dancer.

Her brother, Michael, ran away from home, went on welfare in London and was arrested for stealing pennies from the fountain in Trafalgar Square.

Another Chaplin sibling, Victoria, ran away to meet a man who had written a letter to her. They met at a train station for five minutes, ran off three days later and have been married 22 years.

Chaplin insists that most of the children rebelled against their father but none of the estrangements lasted long. The glue in the family, she said, was their mother.

"My mother was so incredible," she says. "She and my father were only apart two days in their lives. They were passionate together, they were flirtatious together. When he finished his work, he'd show it to her. She had a brilliant mind."

Chaplin has been with two men for 14 years each. Her first lover was Spanish director Carlos Saura, with whom she has a son, Shane, 17. In the high drama that has colored her family's life, Saura left her and married the 17-year-old baby sitter.

Chaplin now lives with Chilean cinematographer Patricio Castilla in Madrid with their 6-year-old daughter, Oona.

She says a day rarely goes by when she doesn't talk to one of her seven siblings. She and several Chaplin children plan to move back to Switzerland where they grew up.

She began work on "Chaplin" a month after her mother's death in 1991.

"I miss her dreadfully," she says. "I still pick up the phone to call her and I stop dialing midway when I remember she's gone."

Chaplin's parents are buried together in Switzerland. Chaplin's body was stolen after his death. After Geraldine negotiated with the kidnappers for the body's return (they threatened to shoot her son in the knees), Chaplin was buried under thief-proof cement.

"After my mother died, they kept her in a room with some sort of machine to keep her fresh while they pried open the cement above my father's grave," Chaplin recalls. "Then they were able to bury her with him."

Her mother may have died of a broken heart; her father, she says, died when he no longer could work. No company would insure him for a script he had called "The Freak" so he set about scoring his own films. When he had scored them all, "he started to die."

"He had to work, it was like a hunger. It was like he was always hungry. Work gave him his dignity."

Dignity was the key to Charlie Chaplin's life, she says, and the key to his alter ego.

The roaring gales outside subside for a moment as Chaplin sits up in her chair. With her head cocked, her back unnaturally straight, she suddenly turns into the Little Tramp. It's a scene from one of her favorite films of her father's.

"At the end of `City Lights' he's in such rags and tatters," says Chaplin, her hands moving in pantomime. "But he picks up these gloves and puts them on as if they were the best ones in the world. He's this silly, silly man with this huge dignity."