Last Tango in Paris director Bernardo Bertolucci is speaking out amid the recent backlash over a controversial rape scene in the 1973 film.
Late last week, a clip from a 2013 interview with Last Tango in Paris director Bernardo Bertolucci made waves online. The Italian director‘s comments about the infamous rape scene in the 1972 drama drew such ire because, according to him, Bertolucci and actor Marlon Brando kept details of the scene, in which butter was used as lubricant during anal rape, from then 19-year-old actress Maria Schneider. ”I didn’t want Maria to act her humiliation, her rage,” the director said in the interview. “I wanted Maria to feel, not to act, the rage and humiliation.”
Hollywood was quick to respond once the news broke; actors from Jessica Chastian to Chris Evans and director Ava DuVernay expressed their outrage over the treatment of Schneider, as The Washington Post reports.
Anna Kendrick also voiced her disgust that the incident had only recently become news, though Schneider had discussed the incident in interviews years earlier in an interview with The Daily Mail. “I felt humiliated and to be honest, I felt a little raped, both by Marlon and by Bertolucci,” Schneider said in 2007.
Now Bertolucci has spoken out once again to clarify the details of his remarks from that 2013 interview which he called a “ridiculous misunderstanding.” The director issued a statement on Monday in which he said that the men had kept the detail of using the butter from the actress, not the rape scene itself, as Refinery 29 points out.
“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 Cinematèque Francais 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! Maria knew everything because she had read the script, where it was all described. The only novelty was the idea of the butter.”
Sadly, Maria Schneider passed away in 2011 after years of struggling with depression and drug abuse. But before her death she spoke about the scene in question, stating that it wasn’t in the original script of Last Tango in Paris and that Brando was the one who conceived it. “They only told me about it before we had to film the scene, and I was so angry,” she told The Daily Mail.
Rather than write this matter off as a misunderstanding, we hope Hollywood will learn from this and increase transparency and communication between actors and directors when dealing with such violent and triggering subjects on set. No matter what the circumstances, consent should always, always be given.