One of the most infamous rape scenes of Hollywood was actually non-consensual, according to the movie’s director, who is receiving criticism for his role in it.
The 1973’s “Last Tango in Paris” featured then-19-year-old Maria Schneider, who was involved in a simulated rape scene, but it turns out, much of her performance was not an act.
Director Bernardo Bertolucci admitted in a recently unearthed 2013 interview that he and actor Marlon Brando decided not to tell Schneider of their plans to use a stick of butter during the simulated rape scene — an idea they came up with during breakfast that same day — because he wanted her to feel “the rage and the humiliation.”
The butter was used as a lubricant in the scene.
Bertolucci admitted he recognized that he “had been, in a way, horrible to Maria because I didn’t tell her what was going on,” but he carried on with his idea anyway because he wanted to see Schneider’s “reaction as a girl, not as an actress.”
Bertolucci stated he lost contact with Schneider after the movie was released because she “was hating” him, and although he felt a little “guilty” he never regretted his choice — while leaving Schneider with none at all.
“To obtain something I think you have to be completely free,” said Bertolucci, who didn’t sound like he was at all remorseful. “I didn’t want Maria to act her humiliation, her rage; I wanted her to Maria to feel, not to act, the rage and humiliation. Then she hated me for all of her life.”
The French actress, who died in 2011, spoke about the controversial scene a number of times and even said once that she “felt a little raped” by the co-star and director.
“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,” she said in a 2007 Daily Mail interview.
Yet, at that time, nobody actually took her seriously or criticized Bertolucci for his reprehensible behavior.
When Maria Schneider said she was raped in that scene everybody wrote her off as crazy or as some eccentric liar. #lasttangoinparis— Xan Kenyatta (@gildedregale) December 4, 2016
Maria Schneider called Bertolucci & Brando out on this years ago yet few took notice until 'confirmed' by the director. #lasttangoinparis— Danielle Smith (@sitdownwoman) December 4, 2016
This is horrible. Even worse no one believed Maria when she tried to tell people she was violated. #LastTangoInParis— Amanda Devaus (@AmandaDevaus) December 5, 2016
The actress lapsed into obscurity in the United States after she was treated as a sex symbol because of the film rather than a professional actor. Afterwards, she struggled with depression and suicidal behavior and did not consent to another nude scene ever again.
Meanwhile, Bertolucci and Brando won award nominations and positive recognition and enjoyed thriving careers.
Schneider's accusations about the rape scene never got much notice, but after Bertolucci’s own “confirmation,” everyone is all ears.
Actors have also taken to social media to voice their disgust for the director.
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. https://t.co/qVDom2gYf6— Jessica Chastain (@jes_chastain) December 3, 2016
Wow. I will never look at this film, Bertolucci or Brando the same way again. This is beyond disgusting. I feel rage https://t.co/uvaLogvv7I— Chris Evans (@ChrisEvans) December 3, 2016
Inexcusable. As a director, I can barely fathom this. As a woman, I am horrified, disgusted and enraged by it. https://t.co/voGRhafy9K— Ava DuVernay (@ava) December 4, 2016
The fact that Bertolucci felt confident enough to confess his deplorable act on television is proof rape culture and male supremacy is rampant in the society we live in. The director spoke up on television because he knew he would face no significant repercussions and hence further enabled the rape culture that places no merit on a woman’s word and lets a man get away with anything — even rape.
Perhaps this is the reason why so many sexual assault victims choose to stay silent.