Last Tango in Paris director Bernardo Bertolucci called the renewed outrage over the 1972 film’s rape scene between Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider a “ridiculous misunderstanding” in a statement responding to the controversy on Monday, December 5.
“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,” the 76-year-old Italian director said in a statement, which was written in Italian and was obtained and translated by Variety. “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.”
“Somebody thought, and thinks, that Maria had not been informed about the violence on her. That is false!” the statement continued. “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.”
As previously reported, a 2013 interview of Bertolucci admitting that he and Brando conspired to spring the disturbing scene on a 19-year-old Schneider sparked a backlash against the director after it resurfaced online over the weekend. In the video, the two-time Oscar winner admits that he “didn’t tell [Schneider] what was going on” when he and Brando decided to use butter as a sexual lubricant during an infamous rape scene in the film. In the interview, Bertolucci also said he felt “very guilty” for not telling Schneider about the last-minute detail.
In a 2007 interview with the Daily Mail, Schneider, who died in 2011, said she “felt humiliated” and “felt a little raped, both by Marlon and by Bertolucci” after the incident. She also noted that she wasn’t actually raped and that the scene “wasn’t real.”
“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 that time, I didn’t know that,” she explained.
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