Bernardo Bertolucci has released a statement in response to widespread anger over an interview where he claimed to have conspired against a female actor in the filming of a rape scene in 1972 drama Last Tango in Paris.
The 76-year-old Italian film-maker has been criticized for his comments in a 2013 video where he discussed a graphic scene which involved Marlon Brando’s character using a stick of butter to anally rape his lover, played by 19-year-old Maria Schneider.
“The sequence of the butter is an idea that I had with Marlon in the morning before shooting,” he said before adding that he “wanted her reaction as a girl, not as an actress”.
The resurfaced interview has led to an angry response from many Hollywood stars with some suggesting his awards should be taken away from him. In a statement, released in Italian, the Oscar-winning director of The Last Emperor claimed that the reports were based on “a ridiculous misunderstanding”.
It reads: “Several years ago at the Cinémathèque Française 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!”
Bertolucci also went on to add: “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.”
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.’”
Bertolucci’s original comments have sparked fury from many, including Jessica Chastain who tweeted to say she felt “sick” and Chris Evans who called it “beyond disgusting”.