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One of the most infamous rape scenes in film history comes from the 1972 erotic-drama Last Tango in Paris, in which Marlon Brando’s character uses a stick of butter to anally rape another character played by Maria Schneider. Prior to her death, Schneider had spoken out about how she felt “humiliated” and “a little raped” while filming the scene — which wasn’t in the original script — despite acknowledging what Brando “was doing wasn’t real.” Now the film’s controversial director, Bernardo Bertolucci, is admitting that he and Brando indeed conspired together to film the scene without Schneider’s consent. (At the time, Brando was 48, while Schneider was 19.) “The sequence of the butter is an idea that I had with Marlon in the morning before shooting,” Bertulocci said in a newly resurfaced video recorded at La Cinémathèque Française in Paris. While Bertulocci said he felt horrible “in a way” for his treatment of Schneider, he still didn’t “regret” the way he directed the scene, and justified the decision because he “wanted her reaction as a girl, not as an actress.”
Schneider had previously said how the two men only told her about the scene mere moments before it was shot, and expressed regret over not calling an agent or lawyer, because she “didn’t know” that “you can’t force someone to do something that isn’t in the script.”
“I wanted her to react humiliated,” Bertolucci explained at La Cinémathèque Française. “I think she hated me and also Marlon because we didn’t tell her … to obtain something I think you have to be completely free. I didn’t want Maria to act her humiliation, her rage, I wanted her to Maria to feel … the rage and humiliation. Then she hated me for all of her life.” After shooting the film, Schneider detailed how she fell into a deep depression and refused to do nude scenes again.
This post has been briefly updated with additional information.