Actors and other public figures are responding with outrage at recently surfaced news that Last Tango In Paris director Bernardo Bertolucci, in a three year old video that only came to light this week, confirmed what co-star Maria Schneider has long said about the film’s most controversial moment: the brutal rape scene was shot without her full consent.
The scene in question featured Brando’s character raping Schneider’s character using a stick of butter as lubricant. It was a shock to audiences in 1972 and as Schneider, who died following a battle with cancer in 2011, said herself years later, a shock to her as well. In a 2007 interview with The Daily Mail, Schneider was blunt, revealing at the time that Brando and Bertolucci came up with the idea without her, and heavily pressured her to do it when she showed up for work.
“I should have called my agent or had my lawyer come to the set because you can’t force someone to do something that isn’t in the script, but at the time, I didn’t know that. Marlon said to me: ‘Maria, don’t worry, it’s just a movie,’ but during the scene, even though what Marlon was doing wasn’t real, I was crying real tears. I felt humiliated and to be honest, I felt a little raped, both by Marlon and by Bertolucci. After the scene, Marlon didn’t console me or apologise. Thankfully, there was just one take.”
Bertolucci largely confirmed Schneider’s account in the video, filmed
during a 2013 Q&A at La Cinémathèque française in Paris. He also provided the added detail that they didn’t tell Schneider about the butter before filming. “We were having, with Marlon [Brando], breakfast on the floor of the flat where I was shooting. There was a baguette, there was butter and we looked at each other and, without saying anything, we knew what we wanted,” the director said.
“I had been, in a way, horrible to Maria because I didn’t tell her what was going on,” said Bertolucci. However, he insisted he doesn’t regret the film, and defended the approach to the scene because he “wanted her reaction as a girl, not as an actress. I wanted her to react humiliated.”
As the news spread, several actors and public figures shared their dismay and disgust about the admission on social media.
“I think she hated me and also Marlon because we didn’t tell her,” said Bertolucci, who apparently had not been informed of Schneider’s prior comments on the film. He was as it turns out partly correct. “I think Bertolucci is over-rated,” Schneider said to The daily Mail in 2007. “And he never really made anything after Last Tango that had the same impact.”
Schneider had even harsher words for Bertolucci. “He was fat and sweaty and very manipulative, both of Marlon and myself, and would do certain things to get a reaction from me. Some mornings on set he would be very nice and say hello and on other days, he wouldn’t say anything at all. I was too young to know better. Marlon later said that he felt manipulated, and he was Marlon Brando, so you can imagine how I felt. People thought I was like the girl in the movie, but that wasn’t me.”