×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Bernardo Bertolucci Responds to ‘Last Tango in Paris’ Backlash Over Rape Scene

ROME — Reacting to outrage over reports he and Marlon Brando conspired against actress Maria Schneider while filming a notorious rape scene in “Last Tango in Paris,” Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci said Monday that the outcry was based on a “ridiculous misunderstanding” of what actually happened.

In Monday’s statement, issued in Italian, Bertolucci said: “I would like, for the last time, to clear up a ridiculous misunderstanding that continues to generate press reports about ‘Last Tango in Paris’ around the world.”

“Several years ago at the Cinemathèque Francaise someone asked me for details on the famous “butter scene.

“I specified, but perhaps I was not clear, that I decided with Marlon Brando not to inform Maria that we would have used butter,” he noted. “We wanted her spontaneous reaction to that improper use [of the butter]. That is where the misunderstanding lies.

“Somebody thought, and thinks, that Maria had not been informed about the violence on her. That is false!”

Bertolucci added that “Maria knew everything because she had read the script, where it was all described. The only novelty was the idea of the butter.

“And that, as I learned many years later, offended Maria. Not the violence that she is subjected to in the scene, which was written in the screenplay,” Bertolucci added.

Reports over the weekend centered on a resurfaced video of a 2013 masterclass given by Bertolucci in Paris. In the video, the Oscar-winning auteur talks about the scene in his 1972 film in which Brando’s character uses a stick of butter as a lubricant to simulate sex with Schneider, who was 19 at the time. “I had been, in a way, horrible to Maria because I didn’t tell her what was going on,” Bertolucci says on the tape.

Several celebrities reacted angrily to Bertolucci’s comments, including actress Jessica Chastain, who called the scene a planned sexual attack on a 19-year-old young woman. “I feel sick,” Chastain tweeted. Others called for Bertolucci to be stripped of his awards.

Schneider died in 2011, at age 58, reportedly of cancer.

Before her death, she had spoken out about the scene, including in an interview with the Daily Mail in which she said, “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 apologize. Thankfully, there was just one take.”

In an interview with Italian news agency ANSA when Schneider died, Bertolucci said: “Her death came too soon, before I could tenderly hug her again, tell her that I felt close to her like the first day, and at least once, say I was sorry.”

“The strong creative rapport we had during the ‘Last Tango’ shoot had been poisoned with the passing of time,” he added to ANSA.

“Maria accused me of having robbed her of her youth and only today I wonder whether there wasn’t some truth to that.

“In truth she was too young to sustain the impact with the unpredictable and brutal success of that film.”

More Film

  • Sundance Film Festival Placeholder

    A Changing Film Market Raises the Pressure for Sundance Indies to Succeed (Column)

    Regretfully, I never go to the Sundance Film Festival anymore because I need to mind the editorial store back home, knowing that our crack team of reporters and critics will be filing great scoops and reviews while freezing their butts off (sorry!). I have lots of fond memories from the days when I frequented Park [...]

  • Jimmy Kimmel Oscars

    Will the Oscars Be a Hot Mess Without a Host?

    Who will host this year’s Oscars? With one month left until the telecast on Feb. 24, there’s still no definitive answer. Insiders tell Variety that the ceremony will likely buck the tradition of having a master of ceremonies. Instead, organizers have chosen to patch together a host-less show. That could mean a lot of airtime [...]

  • 2018 Sundance Film Festival - Egyptian

    Sundance Preview: Expect Political Moments and Few Costly Deals at 2019 Festival

    Zac Efron underwent a grueling physical transformation to play serial killer Ted Bundy in “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,” a drama premiering at the Sundance Film Festival this week. “I lost 13 pounds,” Efron says. To prepare for the biographical role, he rode a stationary bike for an hour in the mornings while binge-watching [...]

  • Mindy Kaling photographed by Victoria Stevens

    Mindy Kaling Created Her Own Opportunities (and Doesn't Plan on Stopping)

    Over the course of two hit sitcoms, a couple of best-selling books and some scene-stealing turns in Hollywood blockbusters such as “Ocean’s 8” and “Inside Out,” Mindy Kaling has cultivated an image as a kinder, gentler and more relatable star than most. On Instagram or Twitter, where she routinely shares parenting anecdotes and restaurant recommendations, [...]

  • Jimi Hendrix sound check Monterey Pop

    Film Constellation Adds ‘Show Me the Picture’ to Berlin Market Slate (EXCLUSIVE)

    London-based sales and financing house Film Constellation has added Alfred George Bailey’s feature documentary “Show Me the Picture: The Story of Jim Marshall” to its Berlin market slate, ahead of the film’s SXSW premiere. Submarine Entertainment is handling distribution in North America. The film charts the life of American photographer James Joseph Marshall, whose work [...]

  • 'Sink or Swim,' 'Custody' Lead Race

    'Sink or Swim,' 'Custody' Lead Race for France's Cesar Awards

    French actor-turned-director Gilles Lellouche’s “Sink or Swim” and Xavier Legrand’s feature debut “Custody” lead the race for this year’s Cesar Awards, France’s equivalent of the Oscars, with 10 nominations each, including best picture and best director. “Sink or Swim” (“Le Grand Bain” in France), a star-driven dramedy about a men’s synchronized swimming team, world-premiered at [...]

  • Face to Face with German Films

    Face to Face with German Films Unveils the Six ‘Faces’ of 2019 (EXCLUSIVE)

    Teutonic promotional organization German Films has announced that its annual initiative supporting German filmmaking internationally, Face to Face With German Films, will focus on actors and actresses as the campaign enters its fourth year. Six of Germany’s leading thesps – Maria Dragus, Christian Friedel, Luise Heyer, Jonas Nay, Jördis Triebel and Fahri Yardim – will [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content