That Famous Rape Scene In 'Last Tango In Paris' Was In Fact Not Consensual, Director Says

We'll never watch this film again.
Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider in "Last Tango in Paris."
Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider in "Last Tango in Paris."
Silver Screen Collection via Getty Images

“Last Tango In Paris” is one of those movies your parents warned you about.

Praised by critics as high art and considered controversial by some because of its infamous X rating, the 1972 film, helmed by famed Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci, is best remembered for an explicit rape scene.

After starting an anonymous sexual relationship earlier in the film, Paul (Marlon Brando) uses butter as a lubricant to sodomize Jeanne (Maria Schneider). (The entire disturbing scene is available on YouTube, but we’re not going to link to it.)

Brando and Bertolucci both went on to receive nominations for the film, while Schneider, who was only 19 years old at the time she filmed the scene with a 48-year-old Brando, was traumatized by the experience.

In a recently surfaced video, Bertolucci indicates the film is even more disturbing than previously thought. The director admits that he and Brando planned to film the rape scene without telling Schneider the full details of it.

“The sequence of the butter is an idea that I had with Marlon in the morning before shooting it,” Bertolucci said during the 2013 interview at La Cinémathèque Française in Paris.

“I’d been, in a way, horrible to Maria, because I didn’t tell her what was going on,” he said, because “I wanted her reaction as a girl, not as an actress.”

“I wanted her to react humiliated,” Bertolucci said. “I think she hated me and also Marlon because we didn’t tell her.”

The director continued that he felt “very guilty” but ultimately did not regret his decision.

“To obtain something I think you have to be completely free,” he said. “I didn’t want Maria to act her humiliation, her rage, I wanted Maria to feel ... the rage and humiliation. Then she hated me for all [of her] life.”

Before Schneider died in 2011, the French actress revealed that the scene made her feel “humiliated” and “a little raped.” It wasn’t in the script, she claimed, and neither Bertolucci nor Brando apologized after filming.

“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 Marlon and Bertolucci,” she said in a 2007 Daily Mail interview. “After the scene, Marlon didn’t console me or apologize. Thankfully, there was just one take.”

“I was so young and relatively inexperienced and I didn’t understand all of the film’s sexual content,” she continued. “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.”

Watch a clip from Bertolucci’s interview below:

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotlineor visit the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline operated by RAINN. For more resources, visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.

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