LOS ANGELES — “Last Tango in Paris” is making headlines again 44 years after the controversial film came out. A recently unearthed video interview with Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci from 2013 has renewed interest, and outrage, over what happened to actress Maria Schneider on set during the infamous butter rape scene.
Bertolucci said that neither he nor Marlon Brando told Schneider of their plans to use the stick of butter during the simulated rape scene — a concept they came up with the morning of the shoot — because he wanted her to react “as a girl not as an actress.” He wanted her, he said, to feel “the rage and the humiliation.”
Schneider, who died in 2011 at age 58 after a lengthy illness, spoke a number of times about the scene between her, then aged 19, and Marlon Brando, then 48, even saying in a 2007 Daily Mail interview that she “felt a little raped” by her co-star and director.
“They only told me about it before we had to film the scene, and I was so angry,” Schneider said. “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.”
But despite Schneider’s past comments, the video interview with Bertolucci struck a chord this weekend as it circulated on social media that the director was admitting that the scene was non-consensual.
Actress Jessica Chastain wrote on Twitter that she felt “sick” over the revelation that “the director planned her attack.”
Filmmaker Ava DuVernay called it “inexcusable.”
“As a director, I can barely fathom this. As a woman, I am horrified, disgusted and enraged by it,” DuVernay wrote.
Chris Evans also expressed his rage and said it was “beyond disgusting,” while Anna Kendrick weighed in that she “used to get eye-rolls” when she brought the incident up to people previously and that she was “glad at least it will be taken seriously now.”
Some, like actress Jenna Fischer, took a more extreme stance, writing that “all copies of this film should be destroyed immediately.”
Schneider, a relative unknown when she was cast in the film, said that the “whole circus” of suddenly being famous made her turn to drugs and she even attempted suicide a few times. She stayed friends with Brando until his death in 2004, but she said that “for a while we couldn’t talk about the movie.”
Bertolucci, however, did not maintain a relationship with Schneider. He said he knew she hated him for life in that interview two years after her death. And while he doesn’t regret the scene, he said he does feel guilty about it.
Story: Lindsey Bahr