Last Tango in Paris director Bernardo Bertolucci has responded to the recent backlash over his comments about a controversial rape scene from the 1972 movie.
Just a few days ago, a video from 2013 surfaced, which saw the 76-year-old filmmaker state that he and Marlon Brando had decided to adapt the scene to involve Brando’s character anally raping his teenage lover with a stick of butter – and that they made the script alteration without informing actor Maria Schneider (then 19) about it, or asking for her consent.
“The sequence of the butter is an idea that I had with Marlon in the morning before shooting,” he said, adding: “I’d been, in a way, horrible to Maria, because I didn’t tell her what was going on.”
He continued: “I wanted her reaction as a girl, not as an actress. I wanted her to react humiliated. I think she hated me and also Marlon because we didn't tell her.”
However, in a statement released on Monday 5 December, Bertolucci has insisted that the backlash he has received over his comments is entirely unjustified – and is all down to a “ridiculous misunderstanding”.
Writing in his native Italian, he said: “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 Cinemathèque Francaise 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.”
Bertolucci continued: “Somebody thought, and thinks, that Maria had not been informed about the violence on her. That is false!”
The director added that “Maria knew everything because she had read the script, where it was all described. The only novelty was the idea of the butter.
“And that, as I learned many years later, offended Maria. Not the violence that she is subjected to in the scene, which was written in the screenplay.”
It is worth stressing again that this ‘novelty’ described by Bertolucci was, in fact, the use of butter to anally rape a young girl – and that, while she had consented to film a rape scene, she had not been informed about this added element.
The dictionary definition of rape is the “unlawful sexual intercourse or any other sexual penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth of another person”.
This can be done “with or without force by a sex organ, other body part, or foreign object, without the consent of the victim”.
And it is worth pointing out that Schneider herself described the incident as a form of rape.
Schneider, who died in 2011, spoke about the scene in a 2007 interview with the Daily Mail, claiming she felt “a little raped” after it was filmed.
“I was so angry,” she said. “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.
“Marlon said to me: ‘Maria, don’t worry, it’s just a movie.’”
She added that neither Brando nor Bertolucci had attempted to apologise to her for the scene – and that she never performed nude again afterwards.