Amid new outrage over ‘Last Tango,’ Bernardo Bertolucci says the rape was scripted — the butter wasn’t
Hollywood types including Jessica Chastain, Chris Evans and Evan Rachel Wood were aghast over the weekend after reading that “Last Tango in Paris” director Bernardo Bertolucci and the late Marlon Brando conspired to shoot the movie’s notorious “butter scene” without actress Maria Schneider’s knowledge of or consent to what was about to be filmed.
On Monday, however, Bertolucci issued a statement clarifying what he meant in a 2013 interview that had resurfaced and set off the A-list outrage, and denying allegations of springing a simulated rape on an unsuspecting leading lady.
The statement couldn’t erase days of outrage from the creative community.
“To all the people that love this film - you’re watching a 19yr old get raped by a 48yr old man. The director planned her attack. I feel sick,” Chastain tweeted in the wee hours Saturday morning, responding to an Elle story about the recently resurfaced interview.
“I second that. This is heartbreaking and outrageous. The 2 of them are very sick individuals to think that was ok,” “Westworld” star Wood said.
“Wow. I will never look at this film, Bertolucci or Brando the same way again. This is beyond disgusting. I feel rage,” Evans said.
Zelda Williams, daughter of the late Robin Williams, tweeted Saturday that “if you’re a director who can’t DIRECT actors to get what you want, you’re a [lousy] director or you didn’t cast for what you needed. End.”
But Bertolucci said Monday that Schneider did know about the planned violence. She just didn’t know about the butter, which was used as a lubricant.
“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],” the director said in Italian in a statement obtained and translated by Variety. “That is where the misunderstanding lies.”
He added: “Maria knew everything because she had read the script, where it was all described.”
“They only told me about it before we had to film the scene, and I was so angry,” Schneider told the Daily Mail in 2007. “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.”
After “Tango,” Schneider never went nude in a film again, she said. She got into drugs as an escape from the spotlight and attempted suicide a couple of times, but got clean in 1980. Her family said in 2011 that she died after a long illness.
Anna Kendrick brought up the late actress’ story in a reply to Evans’ tweet. “Ms Schneider stated this several years ago,” she said. “I used to get eye-rolls when I brought it up to people (aka dudes).”
"[H]ad no idea,” Evans replied . “Woulda felt rage then too. They should be in jail.”
Said Kendrick, “I don’t doubt it. It wasn’t treated like a big story then (shocker). Glad at least it will be taken seriously now.”
Some celebs were taking it quite seriously, calling for drastic measures.
“All copies of this film should be destroyed immediately,” said Jenna Fischer of “The Office.” “It contains an actual rape and sexual assault. #disgusting #disgrace.”
Paul Stanley of KISS labeled Brando and Bertolucci as rapists. “So heinous & ugly,” the musician tweeted Sunday. “Rape is rape and can NEVER be justified or rationalized. Another victim and 2 rapists unpunished,” he tweeted Sunday.
According to Schneider, who was 19 at the time “Last Tango” was filmed, the sex scenes in the movie were not real. “Not at all,” she told the Daily Mail. But Bertolucci’s manipulation of her and Brando, who died in 2004, was absolutely real, she said.
“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 Brando and by Bertolucci. After the scene, Marlon didn’t console me or apologize. Thankfully, there was just one take.”
In his 2013 interview, Bertolucci owned up to the kind of manipulation Schneider had described in 2007.
“I’ve been in a way horrible to Maria, because I didn’t tell her what was going on, because I wanted her reaction as a girl, not as an actress,” the director said. “I wanted her to react and she felt humiliated … she’d shout, ‘no, no.’”
“I still feel very guilty for that ...,” he told the interviewer. “I feel guilty but I do not regret. You know, to make movies, sometimes, to obtain something, I think that we have to be completely freed. I didn’t want Maria to ‘act’ her humiliation, her rage. I wanted Maria to feel, not to act, the rage and humiliation.
“Then she hated me for all life.”
Follow Christie D’Zurilla on Twitter @theCDZ.
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