With his controversial comments regarding the rape scene in Last Tango in Paris recirculating over the weekend, director Bernardo Bertolucci has released a statement claiming that actress Maria Schneider—contrary to reports—was informed about the film’s rape scene in advance.
During a 2013 television appearance, Bertolucci implied that the scene—which involved Marlon Brando’s character pinning Schneider’s to the floor, using butter as a lubricant, then raping her—was not filmed with Schneider’s consent.
“I’ve been, in a way, horrible to Maria, because I didn’t tell her what was going on,” he said on the Dutch TV show College Tour. “Because I wanted her reaction as a girl, not as an actress. I wanted her to react humiliated.”
Now Bertolucci states that Schneider always knew about the rape scene, it was just the use of butter that he and Brando surprised her with:
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...We wanted her spontaneous reaction to that improper use [of the butter]. That is where the misunderstanding lies.
The statement continues:
Somebody thought, and thinks, that Maria had not been informed about the violence on her. That is false!
...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.
Schneider, who died from cancer in 2011, held a lifelong resentment for Bertolucci and Brando because of the rape scene.
As previously reported by Jezebel, Schneider once told the Daily Mail:
That scene wasn’t in the original script. The truth is it was Marlon who came up with the idea…They only told me about it before we had to film the scene and I was so angry. 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 apologize. Thankfully, there was just one take.
In this situation, “I felt a little raped, both by Marlon and by Bertolucci” really ought to be the only statement that matters.