Video from a 2013 interview with Bernardo Bertolucci resurfaced last week, in which the Last Tango In Paris director discussed the film’s infamous butter rape scene. Specifically, Bertolucci said that while he felt “guilty” about putting his lead actress Maria Schneider, who was 19 when the film was shot in 1972, through such an ordeal, he didn’t regret it. “It’s an idea that I had with Marlon [Brando], in the morning, before shooting it,” Bertolucci told his interviewer. The director wanted Schneider to feel humiliated as “a girl” and not “an actress,” which sounds just as objectionable in Italian as it does in English.
The late Schneider told the Daily Mail in 2007 that she felt “humiliated and raped” by Brando and Bertolucci even though the act was simulated, so Bertolucci’s 2013 comments seemed especially callous and the filming of the scene non-consensual. The director was called out for his actions when the video began making the rounds again three years later, which he now says have been misunderstood. In a statement obtained by Variety, Bertolucci claims there’s been a “ridiculous misunderstanding” of what transpired on set in 1972. The director says the only thing about that scene that was sprung on Schneider the morning of was the stick of butter as lubricant, which he learned “many years later” was what had disturbed Schneider. The statement is in its entirety below (but not the bleach you’ll need to scrub your brain after reading through all this).
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.
Somebody thought, and thinks, that Maria had not been informed about the violence on her. That is false! 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.