French actress Maria Schneider, who caused a furor as Marlon Brando’s teenaged co-star in the steamy 1972 film “Last Tango in Paris,” died Thursday in Paris at 58. Her death came “following a long illness,” a representative of the Act 1 talent agency said, and she was said to have been battling cancer.
Just 19 when she starred opposite Brando in Bernardo Bertolucci’s iconic film, which garnered Oscar noms for Brando and Bertolucci, she played Jeanne, a young Parisian woman who takes up with a middle-aged American businessman.
Though Schneider appeared in more than two dozen films throughout her career, none would bring her even a fraction of the success of “Last Tango.”
With its X rating and large-scale release, “Last Tango” kicked off a trend for more graphic material in films. But its release spurred bomb threats and protests, and Bertolucci was convicted of obscenity in Italy.
Bertolucci told Italy’s ANSA news agency that he wished he could have apologized to her. “Maria accused me of having robbed her of her youth and only today am I wondering whether there wasn’t some truth to that,” he said.
During the 1970s, she battled drug addiction, overdoses and a suicide attempt. She refused to do nude scenes again and checked herself into a mental hospital while shooting “Caligula” rather than perform in what she saw as an obscene film.
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She told the U.K.’s Daily Mail that in 1980 she met someone who helped her stop doing drugs but wouldn’t specify whether it was a man or a woman. “I call this person my angel, and we’ve been together ever since,” she said.
In the same interview, she seemed to regret her most well-known role, saying, “To be honest, I felt a little raped, both by Marlon and by Bertolucci.”
She starred opposite Jack Nicholson in Michelangelo Antonioni’s existential 1975 drama “The Passenger” and appeared in Franco Zeffirelli’s “Jane Eyre.”
The daughter of actor Daniel Gelin and Romanian-born Marie-Christine Schneider, she had her first major role in Alain Delon’s “Madly” in 1969.
She continued working in mostly minor French films and TV shows, appearing in “Savage Nights,” the TV series “Maigret” and her last film, Josiane Balasko’s 2009 “Cliente.”
(Elsa Keslassy contributed to this report.)